Read more about asphalt / tar:
- What is tar?
- Why choose tar?
- Benefits of tar
- The procedure
What is tar?
The Americans call it "Blacktop", we call it "Tar" or "Tarmac"
but Tar it is also known by other names - like asphalt, which
I will explain a little later.
Tar is a resin sourced predominantly from wood, from the roots
of trees or from organic matter. To produce the end product a
process of heating is needed. What results is pitch, or tar,
to drip away. What is left after this is charcoal, and this
will give you some idea of the temperatures needed to produce
Being fluid yet viscous, i.e. having a certain thickness, Tar
was first used as an ideal waterproofing medium for wooden
ships, staving off rot. With the advent of steel, Tar took a
back seat in this particular production.
Apart from paving ancient roads and wooden vessels, Tar
continued to be used as a water repellent on roofs, to the
exterior walls of log buildings and even on ship sails.
The process of producing Tar makes it a very eco-unfriendly!
Why choose tar?
Your driveway is usually the first thing people notice as they
approach your home and besides lending an aesthetic value to
your property your driveway needs to be durable and hard
wearing. The cost of paving or using brick pavers is often the
preferred material of choice, yet it is costly, so much so that
many people often need to take out an extra bond to cover the
expenses. Whereas Tar lends itself well to driveway
construction, is far less expensive and can be just as
Before you pull up your nose, consider that a driveway serves
more than just a functional aspect of your home; it leads people
into your home and tells them something about you before they
reach your front door. Your driveway can also affect the value
of your home! Even Tar can be designed and styled so that it
looks great. With the right setting, design and some
landscaping, you will be able to soften its lines giving
visitors the impression that your home is well planned. In
addition, the punishment Tar can withstand over the years will
mean that your home will continue to look well cared for over
A tarred driveway consists of a very hardwearing surface that
offers low maintenance and one that needs minimal cleaning. It
is easily applied and its attractive blue/black colour offsets
almost any facade, especially our more modern trends toward
Yet, Tar does have a downside. Having a high oil base makes it
susceptible to cracking and in the summer months can become a
sticky and soft, but there are more eco-friendly alternatives
that will eliminate both these problems.
Tar is probably better identified for use in large parking lots
and roads than personal driveways, and you certainly won't find
it being offered by paving companies either. You will need to
look for companies who specialise in it. Tar is a heavy duty
application which takes heavy duty machinery to lay down. Be
prepared for some rather large and noisy, hazardous even,
machinery around your home for a few days. Prepare yourself too
for a rather unpleasant smell for a while, at least.
Benefits of tar
Even though you are asking for tar for your driveway you
will most likely be getting an alternative such as
"Bitumen". Bitumen looks like tar but is sourced from
non-petroleum and renewable sources instead of organic
matter which makes it far more environmentally friendly.
Bitumen also absorbs less heat, stays cooler too which
alleviates that sticky problem during the hot months.
You may also hear the word "Asphalt" being used. Asphalt is
actually a great solution for homeowners as it is even more
environmentally friends than Bitumen. It is black and
viscous as is Tar and is perfectly suited for high volumes
To give you a quick guide to the costs of driveway materials
let's start with most expensive which is laying brick or
natural stone pavers in mortar. After this comes the same
materials laid dry (without mortar). Next, Travertine,
concrete pavers, poured concrete, tar or one of its
alternatives and finally lose stone. Of course this is
subjective and reliant on who you get to do your quotations.
A tarred driveway definitely has its advantages, one of the
first being that it is hardwearing, needs little maintenance
and is very cheap (when compared to other paving options).
Most companies offering tar surfaces are geared to large
projects. This is not to say that they cannot handle
residential projects, but they may charge a fixed rate
instead of a rate per metre.
Using environmentally friendly products such as a Tar
alternative is more than economical or user-friendly though,
it is smart!
Firstly your intended driveway will be cleared of weeds and
roots, levelled and a good drainage plan put down. The base
preparation is vitally important and needs to be strong,
have good edging and be well compacted.
Preparing the ground means digging out and removing top soil
and other rooted objects and this requires machinery, so
does the levelling and drainage installation. You should be
prepared for anything from manual picks, spades and
wheelbarrows right up to heavy duty graders, if needed. It
all depends on the size of your projects.
Gravel is laid down next, and once again compacted and
edging kerbs are laid down in order to support the final
layer of tar which should be laid to an average of around
30mm thickness after compaction.