The Affordable Alternative To Gravel Driveways – Low Cost, No Hassle, Tar And Chip

Gravel driveways are popular in rural areas and among property owners who have long driveways leading to their home. If you are considering installing a gravel driveway, your reasoning is probably motivated by one of two reasons:
  • Installation cost: Gravel is without question the least expensive paving material.

  • Appearance: Gravel and crushed granite have a rustic look and, depending on where you live, can come in a variety of colors. This look ties into certain landscape schemes and architectural types of homes.

Before you hire a Driveway Paving contractor or order the tons of gravel you’ll need, it’s a good idea to consider the experiences you are likely to have with your gravel drive over the long term. Here’s a short list of issues you may face:

  • Durability, Maintenance, and Maintenance Costs. Gravel advocates will say that gravel driveways will last a lifetime and that’s true, if you keep up with the need to “replenish” the drive with new gravel to replace the stone lost to scattering, washouts, snow plows, and gravel carried away in treads of tires. Gravel is cheap, but if you have to continuously invest time and treasure replenishing your driveway the overall cost effectiveness suffers.

  • Ruts. Gravel drives are porous. Rain seeps through the drive and percolates into the soil underneath. If you were to try to drive on your lawn after a good soaker, you most likely would get stuck in the mud. If you drive on your gravel drive, the weight of your car will push down on the soft, wet, soil underneath creating a rut. Sooner or later that rut will need to be fixed and that may require grading the area of the rut(s).

  • Dust. Every time a vehicle travels on your drive, it is crushing rock against rock and that creates dust. If you live in an area where the summers are dry, you can expect to generate a dust rooster tail every time you drive down your drive.

If you want to avoid these issues, but still retain the rustic look and have a life long cost that is affordable, there’s good news!

Tar And Chip Paving – The Affordable Alternative To Gravel


A hundred years ago, a paving process was developed that was fast, inexpensive, and ideal for providing solid surface roads in undeveloped areas. It’s called tar and chip, or chipseal, or macadam, or a half dozen other names depending where you live. What it is. Is a mix of chip stone (small gravel) and hot liquid asphalt (tar).

You’ve driven on it. It’s a favorite of road departments because it doesn’t require any heavy equipment, can be installed with a relatively small crew, and it’s significantly less expensive than asphalt. In a commercial or municipal application, it has a plain Jane dark appearance because of the traffic load it experiences.

As a residential Asphalt paving contractor, tar and chip can be a standout providing the same landscape enhancement characteristics as gravel. Here’s a quick rundown on how it works:

  • Installation. Tar and chip starts (ironically) with a layer of standard gravel to act as a subbase. This is followed by a thin application of liquid asphalt, followed by a thin layer of chip stone. A roller then compacts the drive bonding the chip stone to the “tar” and the tar to the gravel base. Then end result is a maintenance free, rock hard surface with a rustic pebbly surface. No dust, no washing out, no ruts, no grading. A second layer of tar and chip may be required if the homeowner will routinely drive heavy vehicles like horse trailers over it.

  • Appearance. Like gravel, the appearance of the surface of a tar and chip drive is determined by the color of the chip stone used. Chip stone can be a sandy yellow, a rustic burnt orange, a sun glinting white, or even a sea blue. Custom chip stone, like custom gravel, does drive the price up but it’s still less expensive than custom cement or paving stones.

Tar and chip provides a superior solid surface and is an inexpensive alternative to other paving materials, particularly for long drives. The biggest downside is finding an asphalt paving contractor that knows how to do it. Installing asphalt relies on automated equipment. Tar and chip requires a crew experienced in the process, As a result, not many contractors provide the service.