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You shall come across a variety of options when it comes to installing a new driveway. Some of the common choices for driveway materials are asphalt, gravel, concrete, and pavers — to name a few. However, there is another alternative — the tar and chip driveway — something, you may not be quite familiar with yet. Well, this is also quite a popular choice among homeowners and you might have often driven miles over it, even without realizing that it is a tar and chip surface. So, today, let’s see what does this type of driveway mean and what are the important attributes surrounding its concept.

What is a tar and chip driveway?

Tar and chip driveways — also called chip-and-seal, seal chip, macadam, or liquid-asphalt-and-stone driveways — are a low-cost alternative to asphalt. This blend of hot liquid asphalt and stone chips comes with a more solid surface than plain gravel. The process involves creating a thin asphalt foundation by pouring molten, hot tar over a gravel base. Then, layers of crushed, loose stones are compacted above it. Finally, what you get is a striking driveway, accompanied by a rough texture. Moreover, you can customize the crushed stones to match your surroundings. For example, a tan or brown shade is ideal for a desert landscape, whereas grey stones work wonders in a woody environment. The compacted stone surface also renders it stable, ensuring a smooth, bump-free ride.

How much does it cost to tar and chip a driveway?

Tar and chip driveways cost less than asphalt paving but more than a driveway paved with gravel. Usually, the cost ranges from $2 to $5 per square foot. Of course, the total price shall include the labor and material charges in your neighborhood. Moreover, if you consider long-term expenses, note that maintenance and replacement of chip seal driveways are much cheaper in comparison to asphalt or concrete.

chip seal drivewayPhoto by Forsaken Fotos on Flickr is licensed under CC-BY-2.0

How long does a chip seal road last?

Tar and chip driveways shall approximately last from 7 to 10 years. After this period, you will need to place an additional layer of tar and stones. This is because, the layer of crushed stones can wear down after repeated use, over the years. Therefore, if you wish to own a driveway that lasts longer than 10 years, it is is better to go with asphalt or concrete. However, do note that resurfacing a chip seal driveway is much cheaper than asphalt or concrete.

Is a full remodel what you are planning? See our ultimate guide on home improvement.

How to maintain a tar and chip driveway?

If you own a tar and chip driveway, you need to resort to minimal regular maintenance. For example, there is no frequent sealing required. However, issues may arise during the snowy, wintry months. When you use a snowplow to clear the driveway, it can cause damage to the stone top layer. In order to avoid this, ensure that the plow rides only just above the surface. You can then remove the remaining film with a shovel. The best way is to wait until the snow melts away by itself. Moreover, if you do the entire process using a shovel or a snow blower, you won’t face this problem at all.

What are the pros and cons of tar and chip driveways?

Like all other driveways, tar chip variants also have their own advantages and disadvantages. So, let’s check them out below:

The pros

Low cost: As we already mentioned, tar and chip driveways are more expensive than gravel and slightly cheaper than asphalt. Moreover, they come with lower maintenance costs, making them cost-effective in the long run.

Good traction: Tar-and-chip driveways ensure maximum traction because they come with an upper layer which is made of separate stones. Hence, the resultant rough surface makes it perfect for a non-slippery road.

Natural beauty: Since this category of roads is made from natural stones, it offers a nature-inspired, classic, and elegant look.

Low maintenance: Tar and chip driveways demand minimum maintenance as you don’t need to seal them regularly. Small cracks can usually get repaired on their own. During hot days, the tar melts and fills the cracks. After that, stones naturally seal up these gaps.

Longevity: Although a tar and chip driveway does not last as long as asphalt, it comes with a longevity of up to 10 years, which is good enough.

Simple, easy construction: It is quite simple to install a tar and chip driveway in your parking lot. You can also install it over existing driveway materials, provided they are in good shape.

The cons

Snow Removal: Without proper precautions, use of snow plows can damage the driveway surface.

Limited contractors: Installing any driveway is not a DIY project. And one of the major disadvantages while constructing a tar and chip driveways is that there are limited contractors who hold the required expertise to handle the job. Therefore, it is necessary that you look for the best contractors in your vicinity — who specialize in this type of project — before offloading your task.


After reading this article, you now know the basic aspects concerning a tar and chip driveway, if you were not previously familiar with this term. After checking all the attributes detailed above, decide if this option is better for you than an asphalt cement, asphalt driveway or a gravel driveway. If yes, then select a good contractor and go for it.

Tar and Chip Driveway: Everything You Need To Know was last modified: August 26th, 2019 by Anisha Dutta

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