What is a Bituminous Road?

Roads can be formed from various materials and this will primarily depend upon their intended as well as the type of vehicular traffic that can be expected. While asphalt is arguably the most well-known substance, another category is known as “bituminous road”.

road surfacing

Bitumen, used in bituminous roads, is derived from the distillation of crude oil. This process involves removing the lighter fractions, leaving the heavy, dense bitumen behind. What separates this formulation from other variants? Are these roads associated with any specific advantages? Let us take a quick look at this type of road in order to answer these interesting questions.

Bitumen Roads Defined

One lesser-known fact is that bitumen is actually a combination of naturally occurring substances known as hydrocarbons. It is largely comprised of asphalt cement, a refined residue from the distillation process of selected crude oils, in addition to other materials commonly known as aggregates. In the U.S., the phrases ‘liquid asphalt’, ‘asphalt binder’, or ‘asphalt cement’ are used to distinguish it from asphalt concrete.

In its natural form, bitumen is a viscous and sticky tar-like substance often occurring as a byproduct within the petroleum industry. Bitumen is used to bind aggregate particles like gravel, forming a substance referred to as asphalt concrete. The process of distilling crude oil involves removing the lighter fractions to obtain the heavy, dense bitumen. The main takeaway point is that (for the sake of argument) there are few physical and applied differences between bitumen and asphalt. So, why is this material sometimes preferred over other methods when performing road surfacing work?

Bituminous material is used in constructing layers and as part of maintenance methods to ensure the durability, strength, and waterproofing capabilities of the roads.

Are There any Unique Advantages of Bitumen for Roads?

As bitumen is a byproduct of the petroleum distillation process, it is one of the most economical substances to use within the road construction industry. Asphalt emulsion acts as a coating that protects streets and road surfaces from oxidation, increasing the durability of pavements. This is particularly beneficial when undertaking larger projects such as the re-surfacing of a major regional motorway for example.

The flexibility of this material from a construction perspective is also noteworthy. When used with substances such as aggregate, different formulations can be created which will be able to address various physical loads (such as a motorway that is associated with heavy vehicular traffic). Slurry sealing is often used in the maintenance of asphalt pavements, specifying suitable bitumen types for this type of road maintenance.

Bitumen emulsion is crucial in road maintenance, emphasizing the importance of setting time and its application in construction techniques for bituminous roads. Bitumen emulsions, composed of water, bitumen, and an emulsifier, impact traffic flow during road maintenance.

Cationic emulsions, with their quick-breaking properties due to positive and negative charge interactions, are suitable for specific road construction projects.

Sometimes referred to as a “thermoplastic”, bitumen will also expand and contract to a greater degree with temperature variations. This can help to avoid issues commonly associated with other surfaces such as cracking and the formation of potholes.

Bituminous road surfaces provide good skid resistance, improving traction for vehicles and minimizing accidents caused by slippery surfaces. Additionally, bituminous roads offer a smooth driving surface, which improves traction for vehicles and minimizes accidents caused by slippery surfaces.

While bitumen has existed for decades, its presence is expected to continue well into the future.

This is why the experts at Jordan Surfacing have included it within our range of specialities. If you would like to learn more about the beneficial properties of this humble material, feel free to give us a call.