tar and chip driveway last

Tar and Chip or T&C for short, is the most prevalent and top choice for contractors and local/state governments when it comes to surfacing roads in rural areas. Traditionally, you would only see tar-and-chip methods used in rural areas or when budgets are tight; but it’s now finding its way onto more properties and in less rural areas!

How long does a tar and chip driveway last?

If every proper step was taken to ensure the Tar and Chip driveway is designed, constructed, and maintained properly, a tar and chip driveway will last at least 7-10 years, before needing to be resurfaced.

It is important to understand that Tar and Chip driveways are completely different surfaces than concrete or say asphalt.

It is significantly cheaper to install a Tar & Chip driveway, versus paving an asphalt driveway of the same size. This is why budgets are usually a major factor in the selection of surface and why T & C is usually the choice. Most of the bad rumors and reputations about T & C being an “inferior” product are due to misinformation, improper installation\application, maintenance, or improper use.  The tar-and-chip application is a budget-friendly alternative to asphalt or concrete and is a huge improvement from a dirt or gravel drive

The newly installed asphalt over the gravel.

What Are Tar and Chip?

You can find this process referred to as macadam, chip-and-seal, or seal chip, and usually is a popular choice when you may want the aesthetics’ of your driveway aligned with the surrounding environment or countryside.  Even though it may be “cheaper” per square foot, than say asphalt or concrete, this doesn’t mean it is overall inferior; it’s  just a different product, with its own pro’s and con’s. 

Compared to other driveway surfaces’ and how they’re constructed, Tar and Chip driveways are simple and straight-forward. When a tar and chip driveway is being designed and built for the first time as a new installation, the base layer is prepped. Being its foundation and essentially the most vital part of the process, this is where it is important to ensure everything is done right. 

Consisting of compacted dirt or stone, that is graded level and densely compacted,  the process can begin. 

Fist, depending on the size of the driveway, either a machine or a worker with a wand-like sprayer, will apply the very hot liquid bitumen asphalt over the compacted surface. Once a small area has been covered by the hot liquid bitumen, the “chip” is applied to the surface.  The chip can consist of many different materials.  Usually for a standard Tar and Chip drive, the material is ground and chipped recycled asphalt\concrete called “filings”.

The material is thinly applied, according to the contractors and homeowners specifications. Normally, the thickness of the first “coat” is around a ½ inch thick. Once the stone or material is spread over the hot tar, it is then rolled over and compacted into the sticky, hot bitumen, by man or machine. 

Once, the “chip” is compacted, depending on the type of T&C application and specifications, another layer may be added.

A beautiful house with clean and smooth tar and chip driveway.

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Ensuring Your Project is Done Right The First Time

Finding a reputable contractor that is experienced in tar and chip applications is very important.  Get at least two estimates, three is better. By the third estimate, you should be able to see the scope of the job, understand the basics of what needs to be done, what will be done, what and how much materials you will need and about how much it should cost.

 A quality contractor may cost you a little bit more money but it is worth it in the long run. 

You want to ensure that all the steps of the process are done- correctly, so that your driveway will last you as long as possible and save you some headaches a couple months down the road.

If you are Tar & Chipping over an existing surface, for example, a cracking asphalt driveway, that is 15 years old, be ready for some additional expenses in prepping the old surface . Still,  it will be considerably less expensive than repaving or continuously repairing the old surface. A reputable company will be able to transform your driveway into your dream-way, in no-time.

Highlights of Tar and Chip Driveways

  • Not as expensive as other surface options
  • Good traction in inclimate weather
  • The chip or stone can be any different material that the homeowner may want. Different colors, sizes, etc. The possibilities are not endless, but there sure are a lot of choices
  • Additional layers can be added easily and relatively quick
  • Very easy to tar and chip over many different surfaces
  • Yes! You can tar and chip over an old driveway.  If paving over a different surface or that old, banged up driveway, it is important to find a reputable contractor so that they can repair all the weak and damaged areas before resurfacing

Downfalls of Tar and Chip Driveways

  • Requires more maintenance than most other surfaces, except dirt or gravel 
  • Must be resurfaced every 10 years or sooner (Deteriorates Quickly)
  • More overhead cost to maintain that asphalt or concrete.
A smooth tar and chip driveway surrounded by pants and grass.

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Now that we’ve answered your main question – How long does a tar and chip driveway last? It’s time to consider hiring a paver.

A big player in the factor of how much it is going to cost you to Tar and Chip your driveway has to do with commodity price of oil. Since the bitumen usually is the most expensive “material” in a T&C driveway application, unless an exotic stone is added. The bitumen is made of oil and  its price can vary significantly with the stock market.  You will find that these price changes may affect a smaller, local contractor more-so than a larger-scale operation. 

Even though a tar and chip driveway may not outlast other driveway surfaces, the money saved by choosing a basic tar and chip application will provide the opportunity to resurface it down the road when needed, more than likely, at least once, so talk with your contractor. Know your options. This “chipped” surface also provides good traction in snow, ice and rain; so if you live on a hill, mountainside or some steep area, this is a hidden bonus. But please remember, unlike concrete or asphalt, that will last 14+ years if maintained properly, tar and chip will need to be reapplied at least every 10 years, if not sooner. 

It will be cheaper up- front, but down the road, be ready for some maintenance costs.