What is a tar and chip driveway?

installing a driveway

Learning about Tar and Chip

You’ve seen cement or concrete driveways, gravel driveways, probably even a bricked driveway. And you’ve probably seen a tar and chip driveway, you just may not have realized it. What is a tar and chip driveway?

A tar and chip driveway is made with an approximate 3/8” thick layer of hot liquid asphalt and crushed stone. The crushed stone is compacted while the asphalt is still pliable. This isn’t a DIY job and should only be installed by a professional that as the equipment and experience working with hot asphalt, which is around 300 degrees. 

Another name for tar and chip driveway is “Macadam”, named after the creator, John Loudon McAdam, a Scottish engineer. Originally the roads built in this manner were water-bound before the discovery that a tar-base was better. The tar version gave us the name, macadam, or tarmacadam. From that, it has evolved to ‘tarmac’ like at the airport. Runways today are engineered in a different process. 

So, what does a tar and chip driveway look like? Once the asphalt is poured and the gravel is dumped and spread, it look just like an asphalt driveway. Anyone that didn’t know how your driveway was installed probably won’t know the difference! 

How thick is a tar and chip driveway?

The thickness of the newly installed  tar and chip driveway should be a maximum of half an inch. It will wear down in approximately 10 years with moderate use, 7 with heavy use. Some homeowners are concerned that ½” thick isn’t going to be thick enough, but the thing to remember it is the gravel that is providing the protection and support. The asphalt is simply the holding material of the gravel. 

Is tar and chip good for a driveway?

Yes! A tar-andchip driveway provides superb traction because the aggregate, or gravel, is held in by the hot tar. This keeps the gravel from sticking tires so they can’t skid. A tar and chip driveway is a  multi-purpose solution for driveways that need repair too.  There are several other benefits to a tar and chip driveway: 

  • Aesthetically pleasing for any style of architecture.
  • They are less expensive to install than an asphalt driveway. 
  • They are durable.
  • They are a low-maintenance driveway that only require occasional gravel added. 
  • They have a rough surface that provides good traction.

Like any type of driveway material, a tar and chip driveway has a few downfalls too: 

  • Finding a tar and chip driveway experienced contractor can be challenging. 
  • Removing snow can be difficult, if not done carefully, it can damage the driveway surface. Easy repair is add more gravel. 

How long does tar and chip driveway last?

While a gravel driveway surface is cheaper than a tar and chip driveway, the tar and chip is a more durable and harder surface. A tar and chip driveway under normal use will last up to 10 years, perhaps longer. This is a downside when compared to a concrete driveway that has a lifespan of 40 years or longer. 

Can you seal coat tar and chip driveway?

You can, but there really isn’t any reason to. When it comes to various driveway materials, tar and chip driveways require the least amount of maintenance. As we stated earlier, removing snow can damage a tar and chip driveway, especially if you use a snowplow. 

Can you tar and chip a gravel driveway?

Yes, that is one of the positive sides of a tar and chip driveway, the process is  easy and simple. The contractor will check the existing gravel is in good condition then pour the hot asphalt over it, followed by new gravel. 

Okay, so how do you tar and chip your own driveway? Follow these 5 steps: 

  • Step 1: Select the gravel chips you want on the top. You can get this material in a variety of colors, and you’ll need approx. 2.5 tons  for every 100 square yards to be installed.
  • Step 2: Roll the bed where the tar and chip driveway will be installed. You want a compacted dirt roadbed for a thick layer of gravel poured along the road bed as a base. 
  • Step 3: Next, using an asphalt sprayer that s full of hot liquid asphalt, spray a layer of asphalt that is between 3/8 inch and 1/4-inch thick over the gravel base. This is usually around 50 gallons for a 100 square yards.
  • Step 4: Next, dump your gravel chips over the liquid asphalt and spread industrial rake, making a uniform thickness of one inch. If you can have a helper, they can spread the gravel while you dump. 
  • Step 5: Using an industrial roller machine, roll the gravel chips into the asphalt until it compacted. Wait 48 hours before using the tar and chip driveway.
asphalt driveway

A Few Last Words 

As we mentioned, it can be challenging finding an experienced contractor to install a tar and chip driveway. So, you may be wondering, “Can I tar and chip my own driveway?”, and the answer is … yes. If you have access to the right equipment and have knowledge how to use that equipment. Call 512-646-6069 today for your tar and chip driveway!