Is a Tar and Chip Driveway Right for You?

Is a Tar and Chip Driveway Right for You?

When you think of “tar-and-chip,” the first thing that probably pops into your head is the work local municipalities do on roads to extend their life. What you may not consider is that tar-and-chip is a perfectly reliable method for driveways as well. This form of paving has been used for years, particularly in rural areas. Tar-and-chip is a great choice if you want to keep your costs in check.


Tar-and-chip paving looks very similar to standard asphalt. The key difference between the two is the process used during installation. Installation of tar-and-chip is a reasonably simple process. First, a gravel base is installed as is common on most driveways. Next, hot liquid asphalt is poured over the gravel. This is followed by applying a layer of loose stone that are tightly rolled into the bitumen to create the finished surface. This course of stone is where you can get creative. You can choose from various stone colors to create a unique look for your driveway.


A typical tar-and-chip driveway will run about twice as much as a gravel-only driveway and slightly less than a traditional asphalt driveway. Ballpark, expect to pay somewhere in the range of $2 to $5 per square foot. Contributing factors to this pricing will be material costs and labor. Another big contributor to the final cost, as in the case of asphalt driveways as well, will be the price of oil.

You’re the cheapest option for a driveway will always be straight gravel, but that comes at a price. Tar-and-chip provides a much harder and more durable surface that can last upwards of ten years when installed correctly by a trusted local contractor.


There is very little upkeep with a tar-and-chip driveway. Unlike asphalt, it does not need to be sealed, and small cracks tend to heal themselves. In addition, the surface can be renewed every ten years or so by simply applying additional hot bitumen and loose stone.

The rough surface texture of tar-and-chip driveways can be scraped by snowplows with little damage occurring. However, you will want to keep the blade slightly above the surface rather than constantly scrapping on it.


The course texture of tar-and-chip paving makes it far better at providing traction during wet or snowy conditions. Both asphalt and concrete are more slippery than tar-and-chip due to their smooth surfaces.


Tar-and-chip may be your best choice if you like the look of an informal paving material that blends in with your landscape. It is also an inexpensive option compared to other options. So if you want to explore the possibilities of a tar-and-chip driveway, give us a call. J. McDonald Contracting is a family-owned and operated business since 1989, and we know a thing or two about tar-and-chip driveways!