Simple Driveway Restoration With Tar and Chips

Simple Driveway Restoration With Tar and Chips
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Dear James: We need an inexpensive way to resurface our driveway. Asphalt and concrete cost too much. Will a tar-and-chip type of driveway be much less expensive?—Dave B.
Dear Dave: A tar-and-chip driveway is an excellent option and can cost almost 50 percent less than having it resurfaced with conventional asphalt. This type of surface is very attractive and distinct from an asphalt or poured concrete driveway.

A tar-and-chip driveway is also called shoot and chip or seal chip in various areas of the country. This gives you much flexibility to vary the appearance of a tar-and-chip driveway by the selection of the color and sizes of the gravel (stone chips) that you select.

These driveways retain their attractive, colorful appearance without requiring treatment with sealers every two years like a black asphalt driveway does. This makes it even friendlier to your limited budget.

Tar and chip is an old technology that has been used for country roads, drives, and so on for many years. It’s similar to a typical black asphalt driveway in that it uses a combination of asphalt cement (binder) and gravel as the main structural component.

Standard asphalt (blacktop) is premixed at the manufacturer’s location and delivered to your home. Tar-and-chip driveway materials are delivered separately to your home and combined there. This is why you have complete flexibility over its final appearance.

Check with gravel dealers in your area. Gravel is available in many light and dark shades of browns, grays, and greens. A combination is often most attractive. Also, small, cubical gravel works best. The finished driveway surface is slightly rough, creating excellent tire traction in rain and snow.

Before you sign with a contractor and order the driveway, have your existing driveway inspected. It’s very important to have a good base on which to apply the tar-and-chip surface. The surface layer, whether tar and chip or standard asphalt, is strictly a surface finish, not a support base.

A tar-and-chip driveway is usually installed in the following way. The driveway contractor will spray hot liquid asphalt over your existing driveway or gravel base. One gallon of liquid asphalt per two square yards is a commonly used rate. Gravel (chips) is often laid at a rate of about 50 pounds per square yard.

Within minutes, while the asphalt is still hot and very sticky, the gravel is spread over the asphalt. So that the asphalt stays hot and sticky long enough for the gravel to be spread, it’s best to do this on a sunny spring or summer day.

Select a contractor who is familiar with and experienced at installing tar-and-chip surfaces. Also, inspect some previous jobs. If the contractor works too slowly, or uses too little asphalt, the gravel won’t adhere adequately. If he uses too much asphalt, it can come up through the gravel over time and diminish its unique, attractive appearance.

You can expect this tar-and-chip surface to last for about eight to 10 years. If you had to have your old driveway surface removed first, because it was in poor condition, consider having two coats of tar and chip done. This surface can last up to 14 years.

Even though a tar-and-chip driveway is less expensive than other types, it’s still a major investment. The Asphalt Institute (606-288-4960) is an excellent source of information to help you make a final decision. One of its more informative publications is ES-12, which you can order.

driveway resurface tip sheet
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Copyright 2021
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