What Kind of Paint to Use on Asphalt and Tarmac?

what paint to use on asphalt

Both asphalt and tarmac are used for pavement, driveways, and most commonly the surfaces of roads.

The difference between asphalt and tarmac is subtle, but important to understand.

While both substances are actually quite similar in composition, tarmac or tarmacadam and asphalt consists of crushed stones that is mixed with tar.

Asphalt uses fewer external or extraneous materials compared to tarmac which does affect its longevity and durability.

Another difference is that tarmac is not reusable. Which means that once it is removed, it tends to be destroyed or disposed.

Asphalt on the other hand can be reused which makes it more environmentally friendly.

Asphalt also tends to use larger stones or aggregate which makes it easier and cheaper to apply compared to tarmac.

For most people, asphalt tends to be used for driveways far more commonly compared to tarmac.

When it comes to painting your asphalt or tarmac driveways, its important that you know what are the different types of paints available for them, and how to choose them.

Understanding this will help you select the right types of paint and protection for your asphalt driveway or parking area.


Types of Paint to Use on Asphalt


Recently I have seen a family who enjoyed an added area – as a playground for their kids – to their asphalt driveway!

The area looked attractive, clean and well painted.

If you have an asphalt driveway to paint and use better, the first step in choosing the right paint starts with how much you are going to cover the asphalt.

From lines for parking to full coverage, this will help you determine what type of paint is needed.

Keep in mind that asphalt is a flexible material which is not conducive to allowing paint to stick to the surface.

The wrong type of paint will peel away quickly, especially after being exposed to the elements.

The types of paint which will work with asphalt include the following.

1- Acrylic

best paint for asphalt

This is a water-soluble paint that is polymer-based.

If you are painting lines, the acrylic is flexible enough to move with the asphalt, allowing you to paint using a roller, brush, or sprayer.

Another advantage is the water-based paint will not cause damage to the asphalt itself either on the surface or underneath.

Acrylic is a popular choice for asphalt as it is easy to apply, long-lasting, and comes in many different colors.

Although the most common is yellow for painting lines in a parking lot, you can also choose different colors for painting lines to basketball courts or covering the entire surface if you desire. 

2- Coal Tar

This type of paint is cheaper compared to acrylic, but it does contain some caustic elements that you will need to be aware.

This means that when you are applying the paint to the surface, you will need to wear a mask, goggles, gloves, and other protective gear.

The reason why coal tar is popular despite its caustic properties is that it is made with polymers that resist the ultraviolet or UV rays of the sun and can withstand the erosive forces of precipitation.

Although it can be used to paint lines, most people will cover the entire surface with coal tar paint for maximum protection.

3- Oil-based or Water Based

In general, there are two basic types of paints that can be used with asphalt, oil-based and water-based.

Oil-based paint comes in many different colors and is quite resistant to traffic.

However, the downside is that oil-based paint for asphalt is not flexible which means at some point it will crack.

Water-based latex on the other hand uses a special formula that is well-suited for asphalt. It also comes in many different colors as well.

However, before it can be used, the asphalt must be sealed with another type of paint, usually coal tar.

Once the coal tar has been applied and properly dried, the water-based latex can cover the surface.

The advantage being that this type of latex dries quickly, often in just three hours.


How to Choose the Right Paint for Asphalt?


So, now that you know what types of paint work best with asphalt, its time to know which one is right for your needs?

The answer starts with the paints themselves and the instructions found on the side of a paint can.

The type of paint needed will have “traffic paint” written somewhere on the can.

This is crucial because paint that is not suited for traffic will not last long.

You want to avoid any paint that is not formulated to handle vehicular traffic.

Otherwise, it will start to peel and fade quickly meaning you have wasted your time and effort.

Other important (yet optional) thing to consider is the color choice.

A traditional asphalt driveway is colored black or gray.

However, with a high-quality paint (that is meant for asphalt and is available in different colors) you can change the boring appearance to something more appealing.

Which means by picking colors like green, red, blue, etc you can fashion your asphalt driveway in different patterns.

What brand of paint for asphalt?

There are tons of manufacturers out there who manufacture unbeatable high-quality paints for asphalt and tarmac.

A few of the brand names you can trust include Rust-Oleum, Blackfriar, Coo-Var, Watco, ColorPave, and Bitumen.

I have personally tried my hands-on Rust-Oleum and I admit it works really well when it comes to best paint for asphalt.

best paint for asphalt driveway

How to Clean and Paint Your Asphalt Driveway?


You know what to do, but how to do it takes a little preparation. The more you can plan ahead, the better the results will be.

Once you have selected the type of paint you want, you will need to prepare the surface before applying the product.

This is especially true when you are repainting parking lines.

A good way to clean the surface is using a power washer that can rip away the dirt and debris while leaving the asphalt intact.

Otherwise, you will have to brush and then scrub the surface to ensure that it is free of dirt and debris.

Step 1- Gather Equipment

Start by making sure that you have all the proper equipment to clean the asphalt.

It is recommended that you spray or power wash the asphalt first to remove all the loose debris.

But if you need to clean deeper before painting, then you will need to have the following additional materials.

  • Hard bristle brush
  • Cleaning solution
  • Eye goggles
  • Rain boots
  • Gloves
  • Overalls or older clothes
  • Mask (optional)

You can make a good cleaning solution by mixing two ounces of trisodium phosphate with one gallon of water. 

Dip a hard-bristle brush into the solution and scrub the surface once you have power washed the area.

Areas of the asphalt that are stained should receive extra attention.

Step 2- Rinse

Once you have scrubbed the surface with the solution, wash it away as the trisodium phosphate will damage the paint itself.

A regular water hose will work fine to rinse away the solution.

A power washer may actually force the phosphate into the asphalt itself, so just stick to the water hose.

Once you have rinsed away the cleaning solution, you can now use the power washer one more time to properly clean the asphalt.

Step 3- Let the Asphalt Dry

This may take a couple of hours or up to a few days depending on the weather conditions.

In most cases it will need to stay dry for at least 24 hours to ensure that all the water has evaporated from the surface.

This is the reason why most outdoor paint jobs happen in the summer when the hot sun can evaporate the water quickly.

Once dry, also check the weather forecast reports to ensure that no rain is expected for the next 24 hours after you clean the asphalt.

Step 4- Primer the Asphalt

If you are covering the entire area, then you should use an asphalt primer to help protect the surface.

A roller with extension is perfect to quickly cover the area.

Just be sure to let the primer dry first before applying the paint. On a hot day, this may only take a few hours to fully dry.

Step 5- Paint the Asphalt

You are now ready to paint the surface.

While oil-based paints are recommended, you may have to use a water-based paint instead depending on the rules and regulations that govern the use of paints in your area.

A brush or paint roller is perfect for smaller surfaces. This is particularly true if you are painting lines.

A sprayer may be best for larger areas since they can be covered quickly and evenly.

If you are painting parking lines, then you should use a striping machine.

These are devices that operate in a similar fashion to a lawn mower. Just fill up the paint bucket, turn on the machine, and paint the exact surface you want.

Once dry, you can add a second coat to cover the first. This will provide you with the best results.

Remember to allow enough time for the paint to fully dry before allowing any people or vehicles on the surface.


Tips for Painting Parking Lines on Asphalt


If you are painting lines in a parking lot, you will need to seal off the area (using a heavy-duty sealer) so that no one drives over the lines until the paint is fully dry.

For larger parking lots, you can paint the stripes in sections which allows some of the area to dry and be used while you paint the rest.

For smaller parking lots, you should choose a time when the businesses are closed so you can paint the entire lot and seal it until the businesses open again.

Plus, depending on the paint you are using the temperature should be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit for oil-based paints and 60 degrees Fahrenheit for water-based paints.

The instructions on the side of the can should tell you the minimum temperature needed before application.

Bonus Tip:

One way to improve visibility when painting parking lines is to add glass beads which will reflect in the sunlight.

This is optional and can add to the expense but may be worth it depending on your needs.

Remember that you will need to apply the beads when the paint is still wet on the surface.

remove paint from asphalt

Can You Remove Paint Lines from Asphalt and Tarmac?


Although tough, it’s not impossible to strip off the paint and paint lines from the asphalt driveway.

Overspray and spillage are common when painting – and you cannot avoid it 100%.

Since asphalt and tarmac are the porous materials, when you spill or overspray, it will get soaked and settle into the pores making it tough to remove.

You cannot simply wipe the paint to clean the surface, but you will need to use abrasive methods (a rotary tool with an abrasive brush) or chemical paint strippers (like thinner or acetone) to get the work done.

You can use these commonly used asphalt and tarmac paint removers to remove smaller drips and droplets in your driveway while painting.

However, if it’s a commercial space like streets, roads, parking structure, freeways or airport runway, other professional paint removing methods can be used which may include:

  • Sand blasting
  • Asphalt grinding
  • Pressure washing
  • Grey out or black out

Besides above, dry ice blasting, dustless blasting, water hydro blasting, and shot blasting are other methods that can be used to remove the paint at professional levels.

The size of the project, budget, type of paint (water-based, oil-based, stain, epoxy, etc) are typically the factors that will decide which removal option will suit best under specific conditions.

The Bottom Line

No matter you are planning to paint asphalt driveways, playgrounds, walkways, balconies, car parks, warehouse floors, or roads its important that you choose the paint that is tough enough and specially designed for your surface.

Follow the right steps while painting, and make sure that you let the surface of the asphalt dry properly before you apply the primer and paint.

All these efforts will hopefully help you provide long-term abrasion protection and good prevention from cracks and surface degradation.

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