Differences between Bitumen and Tar

Ripon Chandra Malo  - Founder & Editor
3 Min Read

Bitumen and tar are two materials that are commonly used in construction, particularly for road construction and waterproofing. While they may appear similar, they have distinct differences in terms of composition, properties, and applications. In this blog post, we will delve into the differences between bitumen and tar, and provide a comparison table to highlight the key contrasts between these two materials.

What is Bitumen?

bitumen vs tar

Bitumen is a dark, viscous, and sticky substance derived from crude oil through a refining process. It is a hydrocarbon, which means it is composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Bitumen is widely used in road construction as a binder for aggregates (stones and sand) to create asphalt concrete. It is also utilized for waterproofing purposes, such as in roofing felt and damp-proof courses.

What is  Tar?


Tar, on the other hand, is a byproduct of the destructive distillation of organic materials like coal, wood, or peat. It is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons and other compounds. Tar was traditionally used for road construction and waterproofing before the widespread use of bitumen. Nowadays, tar is less common due to environmental concerns and the availability of better-performing alternatives like bitumen.

Comparison Table: Bitumen vs. Tar

Property Bitumen Tar
Source Crude oil Coal, wood, or peat
Composition Hydrocarbon (mainly composed of carbon and hydrogen) Complex mixture of hydrocarbons and other compounds
Color Black or dark brown Black or dark brown
Viscosity Viscous and sticky Viscous and sticky
Odor Mild odor Strong, pungent odor
Temperature Resistance Good (typically remains stable up to 60°C) Poor (susceptible to temperature changes)
Water Resistance Excellent Good, but not as effective as bitumen
Environmental Impact Moderate (depends on the refining process) Higher (due to toxic and carcinogenic components)
Applications Road construction, waterproofing, roofing Traditional road construction, waterproofing


Understanding the differences between bitumen and tar is essential when selecting the right material for your construction projects. While both substances are dark, viscous, and sticky, their composition, properties, and environmental impact set them apart. Bitumen, derived from crude oil, has become the preferred choice for road construction and waterproofing due to its better performance and lower environmental impact compared to tar. Tar, produced from coal, wood, or peat, has a stronger odor and is less resistant to temperature changes, making it less desirable for modern applications.


Cite This Article :

Malo,R.C.(September 25, 2023) Differences between Bitumen and Tar.Howtocivil. Retrieved from https://www.howtocivil.com/difference-between-bitumen-and-tar/.
Ripon Chandra Malo "Differences between Bitumen and Tar." Howtocivil - September 25, 2023, https://www.howtocivil.com/difference-between-bitumen-and-tar/
Malo,R.C.(April 29, 2023) Differences between Bitumen and Tar. Howtocivil,Available at: https://www.howtocivil.com/difference-between-bitumen-and-tar/(Accessed: September 25, 2023).
Malo,R.C. Differences between Bitumen and Tar. [Internet]. [Accessed September 25, 2023]. Available from: https://www.howtocivil.com/difference-between-bitumen-and-tar/
Ripon Chandra Malo "Differences between Bitumen and Tar." Howtocivil - Accessed September 25, 2023. https://www.howtocivil.com/difference-between-bitumen-and-tar/
Malo,R.C. "Differences between Bitumen and Tar." Howtocivil [Online]. Available: https://www.howtocivil.com/difference-between-bitumen-and-tar/. [Accessed: September 25, 2023]

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By Ripon Chandra Malo Founder & Editor
Hi there! My name is Ripon Chandra Malo. I am a Civil(Geotechnical) Engineer. I always love to learn new things and want to share what I learned. Also , I am a part-time blogger and freelancer. I will try to share my knowledge in the different fields of civil engineering. If you have any questions to ask then please contact with me.
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