Tar And Chip Driveway Pros And Cons 

Here we share our tar and chip driveway pros and cons guide including what it is, benefits and disadvantages, tips on colors, cost, repair, and differences from asphalt driveways.
Black house design with stone accent wall, pitched roof, and tar and chip drivewayRenovating your driveway is an exciting task as any home building project you may have. But this also means that you have a few decisions you need to make before getting your hands dirty and working on it. 

One of the decisions you have to make is the type of driveway to install in your home. And one of the choices for driveways is the tar and chip driveway.

While a tar and chip driveway may not be the most familiar and popular, it is a good consideration you might want to check out.


What Is A Tar And Chip Driveway?

Classic house design with garage, tar and chip driveway, pitched roof, dormers, and windowsA tarred driveway was first developed by Scottish engineer John Loudon McAdam, which is why it was first known as the Macadam surface. It started as water-bound, which means it had problems with dust. 

It evolves to its tar-based versions today, which is how the term “tarmacadam” came to be. This is actually where the term “tarmac” came from too. 

A tar and chip driveway consists of the following materials in compressed and successive layers over the surface:


Hot liquid asphalt

Loose stone

Tar or liquid asphalt is poured over a gravel base, which is what the “tar” part is. And since stone chips scattered on top is where the “chip” part came from. While it may look similar to asphalt, a tar and chip driveway is installed differently. 

Tar and chip driveway can be a good option because people find the stone chips on top appealing. These stones can also come in a particular color with the driveway’s layers highly customizable. 

Some of the colors you can easily identify tar and chip driveway with include beige, orange, tan, and gray.

Tar And Chip Driveway Pros

Classic house with garage, tar and chip driveway, pitched roof, and porch areaTar and chip driveway has a long history of being used and applied successfully, in different areas from parking lots to rural roads. If you happen to choose tar and chip driveway for your renovation project, here are the advantages you can expect to have. 

• More durable compared to gravel: Tar and chip driveways do not need layering or sealing and can last for 12 years even without them. 

• Low cost and affordable: While it may be more expensive than a gravel driveway, it is more affordable than most concrete materials, including asphalt driveways. And since tar and chip do not need layering and sealing, you get to save some money in the end. 

• Attractive in look with its natural aesthetics: This type of driveway is a good addition to your home and adds an earthy and natural vibe to it. 

• Delivers good tractions: When it comes to safety since the surface layer is rough and made from chip stones, tar and chip driveways have good traction capable of holding heavier loads. With this rough surface, expect a smooth and bump-free car ride. 

• Requires easy maintenance: You can easily maintain the driveway just by occasionally replacing displaced stones. You won’t even need sealing since small cracks can easily be hidden with crushed stones. 

Tar And Chip Driveway Cons

House design with log siding, pitched roof, tar and chip driveway, and garageNow that you know what benefits you might enjoy, you also need to consider the possible disadvantages you can encounter with tar and chip driveways. Here are just a few of them.

• Difficult to install and contractors for it are difficult to come by: Since installing a tar and chip driveway is a difficult task, you need professionals to accomplish this and they’re not easy to find. 

• Snows plows and removal can be an issue: Tar and chip driveways are easily damaged by snowplows and removing snow can be difficult since it results to surface damage.

Tar and chip driveway is vulnerable to snow that if you’re located where snow is a constant, this might now be a good idea. 

• Chip mess: The top layer of chip stones can turn messy over time with extensive use and in the process wear and tear of the materials. 

Tar And Chip Driveway Colors 

Garage with door, and colored tar and chip drivewayOne of the benefits you can get from a tar and chip driveway is the selection of colors you have. You can choose bold bright pink or a more subtle tan color, depending on the vibe you want your driveway to have. 

One thing you have to remember though is that the color options you can skim through depend on the contractor you choose to hire. Expect that your options will be limited based on what’s available with your contractor. 

If you choose to DIY though, you can have more color options. You can only be limited by the stores around you and the extent you are willing to take just to find the color you want your tar and chip driveway to have.

Tar And Chip Driveway Cost 

Tar and chip driveway leading to garage doorsAfter learning about the tar and chip driveway pros and cons, you need to consider now its cost. The tar and chip driveway costs twice as much as its gravel version but less than an asphalt one.

You need to prepare around $2 to $5 per square foot for its installation, excluding other important factors that can affect the cost including the following:

Size of your driveway

Average costs in your region

Labor costs in your community

In total though and depending on these factors, a tar and chip driveway can cost between $700 to $2,900. The good thing about this type of driveway is that it is low maintenance and so you won’t need money for repair and maintenance. 

How To Repair Tar And Chip Driveway 

Contractors repairing tar and chip driveway

Maintenance is among the factors that will affect these tar and chip driveway pros and cons. Maintaining this kind of driveway is an inexpensive task, especially since you don’t need to repeatedly seal the surface compared to asphalt types of driveways

Repair is also not frequently needed since small cracks tend to heal over time, especially during the hot season. You will need to renew the surface though every 10 years of optimal condition. 

One of the major factors that can damage a tar and chip driveway is snowplows. Snow stuck on the surface of the tar and chip driveway can be cleared by snowplows, which can damage the pavement because of too much pressure. With this, skip using snowplows and go for a snowblower or shovel instead. 

Can You Tar And Chip Over Asphalt 

Tar and chip driveway leading to house and garageA tar and chip driveway is different from an asphalt driveway, but you can apply tar and chip for resurfacing the asphalt pavement.

This can extend the lifespan of the asphalt driveway and transform it into tar and chip, making the maintenance and repair much less expensive. 

Asphalt Vs Chip Seal Driveway

Residential home with asphalt driveway surrounded with grass and trees An asphalt driveway is different from a chip and seal driveway because of several factors. The former is a more common option for many people while the latter is rarer. 

If you want to compare them with each other to have enough information to make a decision, here is the summary of their differences. 

Factors Asphalt Driveway Chip Seal Driveway
Color Sleek black Many color options
Durability Durable but vulnerable to hear Durable and weatherproof
Lifespan Up to 30 years 7 to 12 years
Load Support Supports heavy load Supports heavier load
Cost Cheaper compared to most concrete materials Cheaper compared to asphalt driveway
Cracking Less susceptible compared to tar and chip Less susceptible compared to concrete and more compared to asphalt
Contractor/Installation Easy to find contractors Trouble finding contractors
Possible Issue: Oil Leaks Dealing with oil is difficult, which is why it is a major consideration in the installation expense Oil leaks are easily hidden under the chip stones

If you are considering more than just tar and chip and asphalt, it is recommended that you compare them based on these factors and more if you find more. 

Using this comparison process, you will have it easier to decide on the ideal choice for you.

See more related content in our article about sealing asphalt driveway pros and cons on this page.

Avatar photo

Written by Matthew Sherborne

Matthew has been writing about interior design since 2015 when he founded He owns a design firm and enjoys working alongside interior designers and architects to share new and exciting design trends, picture galleries, and room layouts with his readers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One Cushion Sofa Pros and Cons

Types Of Garage Lighting (Ultimate Design Guide)