Have you heard of tar and chip paving? You probably have — but even if not, you’ve definitely seen tar and chip paving at some point. It’s fairly common out in the world, though not nearly as common as standard asphalt and concrete installations. Driveways in particular are an interesting place for tar and chip pavement, but the majority of homeowners never really consider this option — either because their pavement contractor never gave them the option, or because they assume the driveway must be either solid gray concrete or smooth dark asphalt.

Why should you consider tar and chip paving? Cost is one thing. We all know that asphalt is fairly cheap, especially for how long it lasts. That’s why most people choose asphalt or concrete. Asphalt can last twenty years or more with proper maintenance, while concrete routinely lasts about a decade longer than that. Asphalt is the cheaper of the two, and it truly represents an amazing value. Add in the fact that asphalt is an environmentally friendly choice, and you have a very compelling case.

But tar and chip is even cheaper than asphalt, and although it isn’t as long-lasting or durable, it adds a unique aesthetic, and represents one of the most economical values in terms of pavement.

So what is it, exactly?

Tar and chip pavement is a combination of liquid asphalt (tar) and stones (chip) mixed together and professionally installed. It provides a more solid and durable surface than regular gravel, and its textured surface is good for footing and traction. Compared to tar and chip pavement, concrete and asphalt can be very slippery — especially during the icy winter months.

How easy is it to maintain?

Unlike asphalt, tar and chip pavement doesn’t have to be sealcoated every two years in order to prevent moisture from entering into the structure of the pavement, and thus causing damage. Tar and chip pavement doesn’t need any sealcoating. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that using a shovel or plow on the surface of the pavement can be problematic. Asphalt and concrete are smoother surfaces, and snow removal is therefore easier. This is worth considering if you live in an area with snowy winters. Snowblowers work perfectly, however. And if your driveway is being plowed, the plow simply needs to be slightly raised off the surface of the pavement.

In terms of durability, tar and chip pavement can usually last up to a decade without any maintenance required. When the pavement starts to show signs of aging, your contractor can simply install a fresh layer of tar and chip pavement on top of your existing surface. This is very inexpensive and can extend the life of your pavement by many years.

The actual process of tar and chip paving involves pouring liquid, hot asphalt over a base of gravel. Once this is done, a layer of stones is poured over the surface, and is then rolled (using professional equipment) into place. Another great thing about this kidn of pavement is that you can pour it directly on top of your existing driveway, if you want to switch to tar and chip pavement and don’t want to tear up your old driveway.

Ask a reputable pavement specialist about tar and chip pavement — if you’re in the market for a new driveway, it’s worth your consideration!