Is a Tar and Chip Driveway Right for Your Home?

tar and chip driveway

There’s a good chance that you haven’t really heard of a tar and chip driveway.

But there is also a good chance that you’ve seen them on a daily basis.

You can find this type of driveway in most parking lots and even some roadways. It’s safe to say, you probably have friends with tar and chip driveways.

Tar and chip driveways make a beautiful, low-maintenance and affordable addition to your home. The benefits of this type of payment greatly outweigh those of asphalt, loose gravel, concrete, and blacktop.

If you’re thinking about doing some home improvements, you should consider adding this unique type of driveway to your remodeling plans.  

Read on to learn more about tar and chipping.

What is a Tar and Chip Driveway?

A tar and chip driveway is an alternative to asphalt. It’s much cheaper, easier to maintain and it offers a more solid surface. It’s also referred to as a chip seal driveway, estate paving, tarmac, or Macadam. (Macadam was the Scottish engineer who created tar and chipping). 

Tar and chip paving is made up of hot liquid asphalt cement and gravel. The liquid asphalt cement being the binding property and the gravel being the structural component. These components create a rough texture which is less slippery during inclement weather. 

The “tar” and the “chips” are mixed on the job site, unlike asphalt which comes premixed. The tar is laid out first and then the gravel on top. It is then steamed rolled to smooth out the surface.

In addition to the cheaper cost, a notable selling point for these types of driveways is their aesthetics. Many people will choose the color and type of gravel that they want, which adds to the overall aesthetics of their homes.

They may just be your best driveway option!

How to Maintain a Tar and Chip Driveway

There is little to no maintenance for these driveways. They don’t need to be sealed regularly as asphalt does. Although, you may notice some displaced pieces of gravel from time to time.

They tend to last from seven to ten years, which is a good amount of time. When they begin to show signs of wear, you can add another layer of tar and gravel. (It doesn’t have to be dug up).  

You may run into some trouble, however, during heavy snowfall. If you use a snow plow to clear the surfaces around your home, you’ll want to make sure that the bottom of the plow doesn’t drag along the driveway. Otherwise, it could damage your tar and chip pavement.

Using a snow shovel or snow blower to finish the plow job won’t cause any damages. 

You must also consider heavier vehicles—if your contractor doesn’t apply the tar and chip pavement correctly, it could crack or sink under the weight of larger vehicles. 

Other than that, you just have to make sure that your contractor knows what they are doing. Any cracks that form in weak spots will allow weeds to grow through.

These are worst-case-scenarios, however, it is safe to say that this is not a do-it-yourself type of project!

How Much do Tar and Chip Driveways Cost?

The materials and installation for this driveway will cost twice as much as gravel, but about half the price of asphalt. In both the long and short run, it’s the most cost-worthy option.

You can expect to pay up to $5 per square foot. The exact cost will vary depending on your contractor, your location and the cost of the oil used in the tar mix. The average costs for whole driveways are between $1,800 and $3,000.

Since you won’t have to reseal your driveway frequently, you don’t have to put out any real maintenance costs in addition to your initial investment. (Other than resurfacing your driveway in ten years).

The only other unforeseen costs would be from damage caused by poor quality installation which would leave your driveway vulnerable to the elements, heavy vehicles, or surface cracks. That, and heavy machinery.

Other Benefits of Tar and Chip Driveways

We’ve already gone through the obvious advantages of a chip seal driveway—they’re cost-effective, they’re durable, they require little to no maintenance, and they’re customizable to fit the aesthetics of your home.

But they do have a few other unique features. 

For one, they can “heal themselves”. In other words, if a small crack develops, they can fill themselves with their own tar. This only happens during hot seasons when the tar mixture is more malleable. 

They provide good traction since the top layer is composed of individual pieces of gravel. That means you won’t have to worry about slipping and falling in the rain or snow. The texture also makes for better driving conditions on the roads.

They’ll hide your oil and gas stains much better than asphalt. Of course, this goes more for the darker colored driveways. But aside from staining and cleaning, engine oil and gasoline cause asphalt to deteriorate over time. The chip seal driveways do not.

Is a Tar and Chip Driveway Right for Your Home?

One of the biggest questions is “if this type of driveway is so great, why doesn’t everyone have one?”

The easy answer is, it depends on each persons’ individual taste. 

Also, if you come up short when searching “tar and chip paving near me”, it’s because there aren’t that many tar and chip specialists around. If there were, then it’s quite possible that everyone would choose to have one of these driveways.

If you’re looking for a high quality paving contractor in the Fredericksburg area, we’ve got a dedicated team, competitive prices, and we guarantee the best results. Feel free to contact us for an estimate and check out our services.  

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