Coal Tar Vs. Asphalt Emulsion: What’s The Difference?

Coal Tar Vs. Asphalt Emulsion: What’s The Difference?

When choosing a blacktop sealer, the more choices there are, the greater confusion there will be for property managers and owners. So the best thing to do is evaluate all options and start shortlisting.

That way, you will make an informed decision that will better suit your needs and provide you with a greater return on investment. And considering the money that goes into pavement maintenance and repair projects, it is wiser to do your homework.

Are you looking for a professional paving firm that offers an expert asphalt sealcoating service? Resource Pavement Group offers commercial and residential asphalt maintenance and repair solutions in Tampa, FL. Click here to receive a free quote for your paving project now.

Let us make a choice easier for you. Instead of choosing between multiple options, just take your pick after evaluating two popular types of sealers – coal tar and asphalt emulsion.


Coal tar has been around for much longer than asphalt emulsion and still has managed to retain its place as the more durable sealer. Time and again, it has been proven that a coal tar sealer lasts longer than an asphalt emulsion that wears off. The only way an asphalt emulsion sealer can outlast a coal tar sealer, as proven in recent times, is when more additives are added to it.

Fuel Resistance

When it comes to gas, motor oil, kerosene, or any other type of fuel, coal tar is the better choice. Coal tar has a better fuel resistance than asphalt emulsions that allow the fuel to seep into the pavement and damage it. 

Water Reabsorption

Water reabsorption is another way to test the durability of a sealer. Water can damage a seal coat, causing re-emulsification, which leads to tracking. Coal tar has a lower rate of water reabsorption than asphalt emulsion.


Asphalt emulsion takes the cake here. After the sealant dries, an asphalt emulsion sealer produces no foul or irritant odors. However, on scorching summer days, a coal tar sealer will produce odors.


The color of an asphalt emulsion fades much quicker than that of coal tar, as coal tar takes longer to wear.


An asphalt emulsion sealer has a much smoother, refined, and uniform finish. On the other hand, coal tar has a more streaky look.

Flexibility and Cracking

Once dried, the coal tar forms a thick rigid, and inflexible coat that cannot expand and contract at the same rate as the asphalt pavement below it, making it more susceptible to cracking and weather damage. On the other hand, an asphalt emulsion sealer can easily match an active pavement’s movements, which is why it fares better when it comes to flexibility.

Health Risks

Correction: In recent years, many states in the U.S. have stopped using coal tar for blacktop sealcoating their pavement surfaces as the residue gets mixed into the air as the sealant wears and particles break off, which has shown to increase the risk of cancer amongst residents living nearby.


An asphalt emulsion sealant is much more forgiving to weather conditions and is easier and quicker to apply, which is why it requires much less manpower than if you decide to opt for coal tar sealcoating.


Asphalt emulsion sealers are much more health and environment-friendly than coal tar. The coal tar particles that are mixed in the air or are washed off during rainstorms are pollutants that can harm all forms of life.

Also, asphalt emulsion gives out lesser fumes than coal tar at the time of application, making it more environmentally friendly.

Resource Pavement Group offers commercial and residential asphalt maintenance and repair solutions in Tampa, FL. Click here if you want a free quote now.