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Tar and Chip Driveway Costs
Here are some average costs per square foot for a tar and chip driveway.
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What is a tar and chip driveway?
Tar and chip driveways are a cheaper version of asphalt. Tar and chip is a blend of hot liquid asphalt and stone chips, a notch up from loose gravel but not in the same league or cost as asphalt. Tar and chip can also be referred to as chip and seal, tar and chippings, tar and stone, seal chip or asphalt and stone – they are all the same thing.
The process involves creating a thin asphalt foundation by pouring hot tar over a gravel base then compacting layers of loose stones above it. Stone aggregate is spread over a sticky, molten asphalt and then a heavy roller is used to press the pieces of stone firmly into the bitumen base. The finished product has a roughened texture which provides excellent grip and traction, but you won’t feel that in a car. The stones can be customised to a degree to suit householder preference in terms of shape, size and colour.
If tar and chip sounds familiar, then that is because this surface has been used on UK roads for a long time and almost everyone has driven past roadworks where they have been demonstrating just this very process to resurface the carriageway. It used to be quite commonplace that road workers would offer excess surface to houses nearby if the lorries had to be emptied at the end of the day and there was some left over. Chip and tar driveways are more popular nowadays and so cost of tar and chip driveway costs are higher.
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Factors that affect the cost of a tar and chip driveway
- The size of the surface area
- Whether the driveway is to be laid on an existing surface or are excavations required and a sub-base
- Access to the site
- An unusual or complex design
- Is planning permission required and are there professional fees to pay for an architect or planning consultant?
- Equipment hire – a skip to dispose of either soil or waste from an old driveway
- Your postcode – where you live can impact pricing quite significantly and in almost all cases, driveway work is more expensive in London and the Southeast
The advantages of tar and chip as a driveway material
Chip and Tar driveway costs are cheaper than asphalt, so they are pretty popular plus they avoid the need to resort to using loose gravel which doesn’t suit everyone. Maintenance costs are quite low, and they offer good traction because the top layer is made from separate stones, so this is ideal for grip and non-slip particularly in bad weather.
Many people prefer tar and chip to asphalt as it has a more natural look. Maintenance is minimal and there is no requirement for regular sealing. There is always an element of cracking but during hot weather, the tar will soften and fill small cracks which the stones then move into naturally, sealing up the gaps.
Tar and chip driveways offer good traction for footfall as well as cars so there is less risk of slipping and falling if you have elderly people in the household or small children. Tar and chips is less slippery than concrete and asphalt.
Tar and chip will withstand higher temperatures better than asphalt, a real concern now that the UK has broken all previous records during the heatwave of 2022. Asphalt can become sticky and molten in very hot weather and damage the cars sitting on it too.
Longevity is reasonable with this driveway material, plan for around ten years. This is not as long as a good asphalt driveway, but the installation cost of tar and chip driveways are cheaper. Tar and chip driveways can be installed directly over the top of an existing driveway providing it is in good condition.
The disadvantages of a tar and chip driveway
It can be hard to find an installer with the right expertise as tar and chip is a surface more commonly associated with road laying rather than for driveways at private homes.
There will be an additional drainage requirement with a tar and chip driveway as the surface is not permeable. This is for your own peace of mind to avoid flooding in bad weather and is also a new requirement under building regulations following severe flooding in the early years of the 21st century.
How to find the right driveway installer
Tar and chip driveways are probably a bit less common than some other types of surface materials and it is really important to ensure you can find a contractor who has the right specialism and has done this work before.
Ask around friends, family or neighbours or put a post on social media. Community or local groups in your area are a great way to look for suggestions but always filter the results quite carefully as often the recommendations will be made by people you don’t actually know. They could suggest a driveway contractor who has worked for them but installed a completely different surface to tar and chip.
Trader platforms are a way of finding tradespeople and are growing in popularity. Just key in some basic contact information and your area before describing what you are looking for. If you have the surface area of the driveway that’s a great help and also mention whether or not there is an existing driveway which you intend to use as a base or if excavation is required because the project is completely fresh.
Local contractors who are able to do the work will drop quotes into your inbox and save you all the time and inconvenience of trawling the internet and phoning or emailing lots of different companies.
Chip and tar driveway cost questions to ask contractors
Always obtain at least three quotations on the cost of tar and chip driveways and never entertain a contractor who is not prepared to come out and take a look at the site. Their quotation cannot be accurate without actual measurements and the work is likely to be substandard and not last.
Here are some questions to put to individual contractors:-
- How much experience do you have with tar and chip driveways?
- Can you give me any examples of previous customers within a twenty mile radius who have had this type of driveway installed?
- Do you foresee any difficulties with access to the site?
- Is my old driveway sound enough for you to use it as a sub-base?
- Do I need planning permission?
- Are there any cost of tar and chip driveways which do not appear on your driveway quote like skip hire or a grab lorry for waste disposal?
- How long have you been in business for?
- Are you correctly licensed and insured?
- Do you offer any guarantees or warranties for the workmanship and the materials?
- How long will it take to install the driveway?
- What kind of drainage system will you install?
- How long do I need to wait before I can park vehicles on it?
- Is there a vehicle weight limit?
- Do you belong to any trade organisations?
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Installation of a tar and chip driveway
Installation typically takes a few days. The surface will be able to take foot traffic after 48 hours but will need a week to cure fully so you must find someone else to park for this time. Reasonably, allow around two weeks before a tar and chip driveway is ready for cars.
Maintaining a tar and chip driveway
A tar and chip driveway can be renewed every ten years by applying a fresh layer of bitumen and stone. Having the driveway cleaned professionally once a year will help extend its life and help you spot any areas which may need a patch repair. If you are laying the chip and tar driveway on a sub-base then adding a weed membrane before the surface goes down will reduce work later on. All the maintenance should be included in any calculations when researching the cost of tar and chip driveways compared to other driveway types.
Checkout this short video on how a tar and chip driveway is laid:
The surface will be able to take foot traffic after 48 hours but will need a week to cure fully so you must find someone else to park for this time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need drainage with tar and chip?
After serious flooding in 2007, legislation was introduced to make the provision of drainage mandatory for all new, impermeable driveways and patios. This is contained in modern building regulations. Tar and chip is a non-porous or impermeable surface so water will not drain through it. It will be necessary to provide ducts for surface water run-off, but this must not be to the public drain but to another point on the property like a lawn, flower bed or soakaway.
Can I choose the aggregate in my tar and chip driveway?
Most installers will have a few different types of aggregate that they use. Small, naturally smooth stones are popular, and these are commonly in shades of light brown and suit contemporary houses and also more traditional properties. As an alternative, you could pick grey granite, angular pieces of stone with flat, reflective surfaces which create a very striking appearance and work well with stone and slate houses as well as modernist dwellings.
How long do tar and chip driveways last?
Tar and chip driveways last on average for ten to fifteen years if they are professionally installed and well looked after.
Is there a certain type of property which tar and chip driveways suit?
Tar and chip driveways are popular in rural areas as they do have a rustic finish which works well with an older style or traditional property. Village or rural properties can also have very long driveways so tar and chip is a practical and affordable way to manage this. Their low maintenance profile is also very attractive for long driveways.
What is single chip and seal and double chip and seal?
Single chip and seal is one layer and double chip and seal is two. Double chip and seal is more durable and therefore more expensive. Expect to pay between £1.50 and £3 per square foot for single chip and seal and £1.50 to £4.50 per square foot for double chip and seal. These prices do include labour costs.
What other costs should I expect apart from the contractor’s quote?
Check carefully whether equipment hire and waste disposal is included in the price otherwise you will find yourself facing a separate invoice for the skip. There may be other equipment costs like a mini digger to excavate the foundation or a jackhammer to break up an old driveway surface. Professional fees for architects and planning consultants will always be additional if you have an extensive project on the go. The application fee for planning permission is just over £200.
Can I install a tar and chip driveway myself?
Despite the fact that it is a pretty simple concept, tar and chip is quite difficult for the average householder to do themselves. It requires specialist equipment, and a degree of knowledge and experience so is best left to the professionals. Tar and chip is less common as a driveway surface in urban areas so it can be hard to find a contractor who has the right amount of expertise.
Sources and References
I’m Mike – writer and part-time home improvement expert at Refurbb. Since owning and refurbishing my own property in 2018, I’ve since been developing rental properties, writing about my home improvement endeavours, sharing what I’ve learned and connecting readers to reputable tradespeople in the UK. I’m also head of marketing and technical at Raindancer Ltd