When you think about installing a new driveway, you might not think there are very many choices. Everybody uses asphalt, right? It’s cheap, durable, flexible, and it generally looks great. Overall, asphalt is the most common form of pavement and represents the best value.

All of these things are basically true — asphalt is a great choice for your driveway. But is it the only choice? Not at all. Concrete is another popular choice, both for aesthetic and structural reasons. You may or may not know that concrete is actually stronger than asphalt, and can last a decade or more longer on average. It also has an appearance that’s distinct to that of asphalt. Concrete is much lighter in color, and the color itself can be more easily manipulated according to the preference of the customer.

But that’s not all — there are two other popular choices for driveway pavement: brick pavers and tar/chip paving. These are usually seen a stylistic and/or economical choice, since anyone who simply wants the most durable solution is liable to go with asphalt. When a homeowner or business owner choose tar and chip for their pavement, they usually have other reasons. So what is tar and chip paving, and what are the common reasons for choosing it over other kinds of pavement.

What is a tar and chip driveway?

When a contractor arrives on site to install pavement using the tar and chip method, what actually happens? First, a base will be established. Your contractor might create a gravel base — or they might use your existed, eroded driveway as a base for the tar and chip paving. This can be a good option if the existing driveway provides a good base, and if you want to save money you otherwise may have spent milling your old pavement and starting over completely.

When a base has been established, your contractor will then apply a mixture of hot liquid asphalt over the base layer. After that, at least one (sometimes two) coatings of crushed stone will go over the hot asphalted. This is where the name “tar and chip” comes from — the “tar” is the hot asphalt, while the “chip” aspect is the crushed stone laid on top of that asphalt. Once the chips have been laid over the tar, the installation is compacted using professional methods.

Why do people choose tar and chip pavement?

The visual affect of the tar and chip paving process is one reason — it looks unique, natural, and visually appealing. This is assuming, of course, that the installation was done to a high professional standard.

Aside from the aesthetic value, people are often drawn to the low cost of this type of pavement. You can usually have a tar and chip driveway installed for even less than the cost of an asphalt driveway. Other advantages include ease of use (many people don’t seal their tar and chip driveways at all, and in some cases, cracks in the pavement have been known to close up on their own). Tar and chip pavement also improves grip and traction for driving and walking.

Tar and chip pavement is certainly a worthwhile consideration for anyone considering a new driveway or walkway, but it’s important only to work with a true professional who has the experience and skill to leave you with a truly great result.