Asphalt over Gravel Driveways

Driveways are designed from a range of materials, the least costly being gravel. They are an essential part of the exterior of every home as they impact your home’s curb appeal.

Due to some reasons, lots of homeowners choose to build gravel driveways first, then install asphalt over the existing gravel later.

Is it possible to install asphalt over gravel driveways?

Yes, it’s possible to get your gravel driveway paved with asphalt. The process requires a few reasonably easy steps that need to implement to complete the paving project. You can pave straight over gravel or strip the gravel and start new based on the situation. Bear in mind, however, that this is not a DIY project as you will be needing expert paving contractor assistance.

So, gravel driveway vs. asphalt driveway, which is better? 

Paving driveways with asphalt or gravel has its unique advantages and disadvantages. It’s difficult to say gravel is better than asphalt or vice versa since the best products solely rely on your requirements, budgets, your property, etc. 

Why switch from gravel to an asphalt driveway?

While gravel is one of the most affordable options for paving, needing low maintenance, it can collapse due to various environmental and weather conditions, including rainwater, snow, etc.

Removing the snow can be challenging, and the much-used gravel parking lots and driveways are more likely to grow cracks, holes, and ruts. Besides, Dust, dirt, and debris can accumulate and contribute to the weathering process. 

The better choice is to turn to asphalt if you are having some common problems with your gravel driveway.

installing asphalt over the gravel driveway

Asphalt vs Gravel Driveways

Even if you choose to pave asphalt over gravel driveways, it is important to know what the two materials feature. When considering which sort of material to use when carrying out a driveway installation, there are several variables to consider.

Not only does the product used for your driveway have a big effect on how it looks, but it also impacts its longevity and performance. 

We want to closely compare gravel and asphalt to help carve down your choices and see which is better in various circumstances and their particular advantages and disadvantages.

Pros and cons of asphalt driveways

Asphalt, like gravel, is a cost-effective driveway surface option, although the price can change because the material is an oil-based product. An asphalt driveway that is properly paved will perform like a concrete surface but at a reduced cost. Also, asphalt is resilient since it is a petroleum product, making it less prone to changing temperatures and climatic conditions. The below pros and cons will help you to decide whether asphalt is the best option for you:


  • Longevity: An asphalt driveway will last as long as 12 to 35 years with adequate maintenance, depending on some factors, including climate, installation, usage, etc.
  • Low cost: Lots of homeowners prefer the elegant look of a driveway paved with asphalt at a cheaper price than gravel or other paver surfaces.
  • Flexible in extreme weather conditions: Asphalt is more flexible under harsh climatic conditions than gravel or other paving materials, and thus is less susceptible to cracking. Asphalt has a particular degree of flexibility before cracking, unlike gravel. Hence, installing asphalt over gravel driveways does not pose a serious threat to its strength and performance, irrespective of the weather condition.


  • Style limitations: If you so much give value to style and color for your outdoor landscape, a driveway paved with asphalt will show certain drawbacks.  Although it enhances the color and tone of most residences, black color is the only available option for asphalt installations.
  • Needed maintenance: As a homeowner, you are required to have your asphalt driveway cleaned with a power washer and broom at least two times every year to clear debris and dirt. In addition, it is also recommended that you seal coat it every two to five years, coupled with repairing of cracks and holes immediately when they are formed.
  • Can be degraded during extreme heat: Homes and businesses situated in warm climates may be prone to driveway damage triggered by temperature fluctuation-especially extreme heat. When asphalt gets heated up, it can become soft and malleable, causing indentations and marks
This is a gravel driveway with a concrete border

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Pros and Cons of Gravel Driveways

Gravel is a prevalent surface material across the United States for driveways. For most applications, the crushed stone used can be easily maintained and available in a different array of colors. It is recommended that you hand down your gravel driveway installation to an experienced grade operator to reduce maintenance. The following pros & cons provide additional variables to help you narrow down your options:


  • Cost-effective: When you talk of the most cost-effective surface material alternatives available, gravel takes the lead-particularly for commercial properties or homes with long driveways. Nonetheless, it is required that you top-dress the gravel material every few years.
  • Maintenance is easy: A gravel driveway is considered an easy-to-maintain surface by many homeowners. Hence, instead of laying asphalt over gravel driveways, many homeowners stick to gravel.
    Gravel is an environmentally friendly material that enables groundwater to be replenished because it is permeable.
  • Varied style: Gravel can usually bring out the aesthetic of your outdoor landscape more frequently than many other materials, based on the style of your home. So, whether you like a rustic or more current feel, gravel can be acquired in a variety of ways.
  • Quick to lay: Gravel is one of the simplest materials to install. It will require less than a week to install a gravel driveway and allow it to settle. You can make use of it immediately when it is installed.


  • It can form ruts and sinkholes: Gravel driveways with a high level of use may be susceptible to ruts being created.  Ruts are surface gaps or holes that will have to be filled in order to keep the area looking great and smooth.
  • It can get dirty: When you drive down a gravel driveway, particularly during the summer months, all the accumulated debris, dust, and dirt will start flying around. This can make your vehicles, home, and business look dirty on the outside and can be an uncomfortable experience for clients or tenants. 
  • Removing ice and snow can disrupt rocks: The problem presented by snow and ice removal is a significant con to opting for a gravel driveway surface. Snow removal can be challenging during the winter months. Sometimes, the only way to keep the surface slip-free could be to use sand or salt over the snow & gravel.
The new asphalt over the gravel driveway

Why you may want to switch to an asphalt surface

Below are some of the top reasons that many homeowners may want to switch to an asphalt surface:

  • Gravel driveways need more maintenance
  • An asphalt driveway is aesthetically pleasing
  • Removing snow and ice becomes easier
  • Switching to asphalt surface increases the resale value
  • The asphalt driveway is cleaner.

Many homeowners consider laying asphalt over gravel driveways irrespective of the many benefits of gravel. Gravel is cheap and it can withstand a beating, making it a great option for rugged applications. Nevertheless, gravel also has many big disadvantages.

Gravel driveways need more maintenance

Paved driveways are considerably simpler to maintain compared to gravel. Although gravel is constantly shifting, developing divots, hills, and gaps, an asphalt driveway is nearly entirely problem-free. You only need to seal coat the driveway every 2-5 years and clean it two times a year.

Asphalt driveways are aesthetically Pleasing

Gravel can appear cluttered and uncompleted because it is loosely packed and shifting always.  A paved driveway provides clean lines that add a sense of style and elegance to complement almost every home.

Removing snow and ice becomes easier

If you have snow and ice to deal with during the dead of the winter months, a paved driveway is a smart option for you. Snow appears to accumulate between bits of gravel in all the holes and openings, making it incredibly difficult to clear. 

Also, you will possibly dig deep holes and ruts in the gravel that will require filling if you attempt to remove ice and snow. This is one of the reasons many homeowners prefer paving asphalt over gravel driveways.

Switching to asphalt surface increases the resale value

If you are considering selling your home soon, upgrading your driveway to a nice, new asphalt can significantly boost the curb appeal, making it much easier for you to sell your home, and even maximizing the price you can anticipate.

Asphalt is cleaner

Driving over a gravel driveway can trigger dirt, clouds of rocks, debris, and dust to fly around. This is particularly evident during the winter months but can also cause mud to develop during the rainy season. Conversely, a paved driveway lets dirt and dust settle. You are most unlikely to need a car wash each time you drive along an asphalt driveway, even on the driest days.

A worker installing asphalt over gravel on a driveway

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How asphalt is installed over gravel

The process of installing asphalt over gravel is very straightforward. But note that this is not a DIY project, so ensure you call in a professional to handle it. It would also be best if you make your choice as per customer feedback and reviews, coupled with the contractor’s expertise and experience. The steps are highlighted below:

Step 1. Make sure you clear the driveway of debris, dust, dirt, leaves, broken branches, and any debris that can interfere with the chip-seal paving process. Also, ensure you have any low areas with gravel filled up. This is because gravel must be even dept across the driveway surface.

Step 2. Make sure the gravel across the driveway surface is leveled in line with its slope. Also, occasionally check for depth with a measuring tape or yardstick. 

The goal of this step is to ensure the gravel’s depth is as even as possible across its surface; so, ensure this is properly looked into so that when you pave asphalt over gravel driveways, you won’t have to be concerned about any issue in the long run

Step 3. Spray a thin layer of heated asphalt over the gravel driveway’s surface. To do this, you would have to hire someone or rent a seal-coating skid sprayer from any rental home.

Step 4. You may use wooden lutes (long-handled rake-like tools) to spread crushed aggregate (half-inch to 1-inch) over the still-wet asphalt surface.

Step 5. The last step is to compact the asphalt surface using either a manual roller or a mechanical compressor to roll over the surface. If you are using a manual roller, you can fill it with water to add weight to help them compact the gravel chips into the surface that is seal-coated.

Cost of installing asphalt over gravel

You can possibly install asphalt over gravel or have the gravel removed and start new, depending on the situation and your needs. Driveway comes in many shapes and sizes, meaning a wide array of paving expenditures. 

With that said, the national estimated cost is between $1,500-$3,500, with some homeowners spending about $2,275 for a 2-car driveway designed with two layers of asphalt over an old gravel base. 

In a nutshell, the average cost to install asphalt over gravel driveways is between $2 and $6 per square foot.

The asphalt driveway is well maintained

2 Potential alternatives to installing asphalt over gravel

1. Tar and chip driveway

Many homeowners may find the tar and chip driveway a strange alternative. While it may seem strange to you, there is a high probability that you have driven your vehicle on a surface made this way.  

A tar and chip driveway is a relatively less costly option to asphalt but less common compared to pavers or concrete when it comes to choosing materials. It is composed of asphalt and stone, hence, the texture is a bit rougher

2. How tar and chip driveways are installed 

While it is recommended to hire a professional for your tar and chip driveways installation, if you are enthusiastic, you can independently complete the process yourself with the right tools and knowledge. The steps involved in this process are highlighted below:

Step 1

Choose the gravel chip color and design that will be mounted as the top layer of the surface of the tar and chip. Prior to laying the surface, order for the gravel to be supplied and gather the necessary equipment and materials at the worksite before starting the tar and chip operation

Step 2

Use a heavy machine roller to roll out a deeply compressed dirt roadbed for the driveway. After that, a thick layer of medium crush gravel should be installed along the driveway roadbed.

This layer will serve as a foundation for the tar and chip procedure and should be strong enough to withstand a vehicle’s weight. You may not need to add an initial layer of gravel if a previously built driveway surface, such as asphalt or concrete, is already in place. This step is also necessary when installing asphalt over gravel driveways. 

Step 3

Hire a liquid asphalt sprayer(loaded with hot liquid asphalt) from a nearby equipment rental provider. Then, spray a thick layer of liquid asphalt (3/8 inch to a 1/4-inch ) over the gravel foundation. 

Step 4

As the asphalt is still hot and sticky, offload the gravel chips onto the liquid asphalt. Use an industrial rake to spread the gravel to a homogenous thickness of approximately 1 inch. As you are installing the gravel chips, work forward so as to walk on the tarred region covered with chips.

Step 5

The final step here is to use an industrial roller machine to roll the gravel chips into the tar coating. Give the driveway time to set for a minimum of 48 hrs after the gravel chips have been compressed into the liquid asphalt before driving on the surface.

What is the cost of installing tar and chip driveways

Usually, a tar-and-chip driveway would cost almost double the cost of a gravel driveway and somewhat less than an asphalt driveway. 

The exact cost will differ based on your region and the cost of labor in your locality. 

However, you should expect to spend between $1 – $5 per square foot, with an average of $3 per square foot for most driveways.

Over the gravel driveway, a new asphalt layer was installed

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What is the service lifespan of a gravel driveway?

Even though some people think that paving asphalt over gravel driveways extends the service life, the truth is, your gravel driveway can last for as long as 100 years if it is properly maintained and cared for. 

One beautiful thing about gravel is that it can be continually repaired and replenished. Conversely, it is difficult to fix the wear and tear to asphalt and concrete driveways, and replacement is usually more budget-friendly than extensive repairs. 

Gravel is also less susceptible to damage from freezing and thawing weather cycles, or frost heave, that can trigger strong driveway materials to crack and settle significantly.


Gravel driveways are an incredibly inexpensive choice, while asphalt driveways provide a long-lasting, flat surface that is easy to shovel during the winter months and easy to park throughout the year. 

But before you make a choice about which material to choose, think about the benefits and drawbacks of each surface. 

It would be best if you call in a professional paving contractor to examine your driveway and advise you on which option is suitable for your particular needs.