Tar-and-Chip Driveway Review – Pros and Cons


Although “tar-and chip” may not sound familiar, it is almost certain that you have seen driveways or roads constructed in this manner. Or maybe you know it by one of its other names: chip-and-seal, seal chip, macadam, or liquid-asphalt-and-stone. It doesn’t matter what name it is, asphalt, concrete, gravel, pavers and asphalt are all common choices for paving.

What is a Tar-and-Chip Driveway and How Does It Work?

Tar-and-chip pavers look similar to asphalt, but use a different installation method. The surface is then compressed with successive layers of gravel, hot liquidbitumen asphalt and more loose stones.

You’ve probably driven miles of tar-and chip roads and parking lots. This type of paving is a popular choice, especially in rural areas. It’s also a great choice for anyone looking to lower their driveway costs.

  • Low cost
  • Good traction
  • Simple maintenance
  • Durabler than gravel

Durabler than gravel

  • Limitated lifespan
  • It is difficult to find contractors
  • Snowplows can easily damage these structures

It is difficult to find contractors

Snowplows can easily damage these structures

Tar-and-Chip Driveway Cost

It is made primarily of asphalt and gravel so it is helpful to compare the cost of a surface with tar-and chip to other options. A tar-and chip driveway will usually cost twice as much as a gravel driveway, and slightly less than an asphalt driveway. You can expect to pay between $2 and $5 per square foot. The exact cost will depend on where you live and how labor costs are in your area. The installation cost is heavily influenced by the oil costs. These driveways are likely to cost more if oil prices rise.

Gravel is a more affordable driveway surface. Tar-and-chip, however, creates a stronger, more durable surface that lasts longer than concrete. Tar-and-chip pavers can last up to 10 years, compared with 40 years for concrete.


You can increase the longevity of your driveway by layering it with a thin concrete under-layer.

Maintenance and Repair

Tar-and-chip driveways require very little upkeep. It doesn’t require repeated sealing like asphalt. Small cracks will heal themselves. You can renew the surface every 10 years by adding hot bitumen or loose stone.

Snowplows that use too much pressure can scrape the rough surfaces of tar-and chip paving. Use a snowplow to scrape the surface. A shovel or snow blower may be better.


Tar-and chip driveways have a rustic appearance. These driveways are best suited for rural areas or informal settings. Tar-and-chip is a great paving material for long driveways because they are inexpensive.

Tar-and-Chip Driveway Installation

It is very simple to build a tar-and chip driveway. As with all driveway materials, the gravel base must first be installed. Next, hot liquid asphalt will be poured on top of the gravel. The final step is to apply a layer of loose stones that are then rolled into bitumen. The final look of your driveway will depend on the choice you make in selecting the top layer of stones. To create an individual and appealing surface, you can choose from a variety of colors.

Tar-and-chip can also be used over existing driveway materials provided that they are in good condition.

You may not find a company that is skilled in installing tar-and chip driveways, unlike asphalt paving. This is not an easy project to do yourself. Do some internet research before you commit to using tar-and chip on your driveway.

Convenience and Comfort

Tar-and-chip pavers have a texture that makes it easier to grip when the surface has been wet or covered with snow. Concrete and asphalt are both more slippery than tar&chip.

Top Brands

You can search for asphalt companies to find a contractor to install your tar-and chip driveway. Some of these businesses will also install it. You won’t find a national brand for this material so make sure you do your research on local contractors and check their reputations before hiring them.

Tar-and-Chip vs. Asphalt

Most tar-and chip paving today is made up of liquid asphalt, also known as bitumen. Both are a sticky liquid or semiliquid form of petroleum. Bitumen/asphalt, unlike tar, is a natural substance.

Asphalt is a mix of asphalt and aggregate used for hard paving. Tar-and-chip is different from asphalt paving in that the petroleum-based liquid as well as the aggregate are applied in separate layers. Asphalt, however, is a premixed mixture of bitumen, gravel and hot asphalt. It is then packed and flattened to form an asphalt surface.

Tar-and-chip pavers have a more casual look than asphalt and are also less costly and less durable. You may find it difficult to find contractors who are experienced in tar-and chip paving. Asphalt installation is, however, very simple.

Are Tar-and-Chip Driveways Right for You?

If you are looking for a low-cost, informal paving material, tar-and-chip pavers may be the best option. You might find ordinances and covenants that prohibit the use of this informal material in driveways in some urban areas or suburbs.


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