After completing works we recently talked about in Ordsall, Salford, we found ourselves asking why pattern imprinted concrete seems to be so underused when compared to tarmac. The popularity of pattern imprinted or stamped concrete has risen dramatically when we look in the domestic sector, home owners understand the benefits, and therefore chose this method of surfacing over tarmac. Other than financial restraints, why is it that local councils, developers, and designers use tarmac over pattern imprinted concrete. The picture above shows a section of the roadway we recently completed, and we think its fair to say – that the results are fantasitc, especially compared to tarmac surfaces.

We hope that the rise in the appearance of pattern imprinted concrete within the commercial sector continues, and inspires you to transform the space outside of your home.  There are a number of different options available to those who are looking to solve their driveway problems by investing in a long term addition to their property. Usually, however, this choice – which can be a difficult one – boils down to choosing between two of the most common hard-surfacing materials: tarmacadam (or “bitmac / tarmac”) and concrete.

Along with the obvious difference in composition between the two materials, there are a number of other distinguishing features which should be taken into account when choosing between the two options.

For domestic applications like driveway design, both concrete and tarmac require certain additions before setting, in order to increase their workability. For tarmac, this is known as “cutback”; it’s the addition of a solvent. This solvent stops the tarmac setting in order to increase the amount of time it can be worked and shaped. This solvent has to evaporate out of the tarmac before the setting process can be completed. Although this does allow greater flexibility in working the unset tarmac, it can backfire, meaning that the surface of the tarmac will stay soft and sticky for weeks of even months after it should’ve set. Concrete is not affected by its admixtures in this way.

There are a number of other issues affecting tarmac which a concrete driveway will not suffer from. Soft, badly set tarmac, can, for example, be scuffed by the wheels of cars with power-steering turning “on the spot”. This can make it unsuitable for driveways in which some tight reversing and turning is necessary.

Tarmac, even well installed and properly set, is much more susceptible to chemical solvents than concrete. A spillage of vehicular oil on tarmac will eat through the surfacing and spread through the surrounding tarmac. There’s no way to salvage tarmac which has been exposed to such solvents; any affected patches must be cut out of the driveway and patched up with new tarmac.

Although tarmac driveways may have a lower initial price than concrete driveways, you should remember that the difference in price is indicative of a difference in quality. To use an old but accurate cliché, you get what you pay for.