Driveway materials

saypoint(6b CT)October 5, 2005

I'm going to have to think about replacing my poorly installed gravel driveway sometime in the near future, and need to figure out which way to go.

I e-mailed a local contractor who does StreetPrint stamped asphalt as well as Oil and Chip to get an idea of the cost, and also to ask if there are some finished installations in the neighborhood I can look at up close. I'd assume he also does straight asphalt.

Real stone or brick is going to be too expensive. Stamped concrete makes me nervous due to cracking problems, though I'm told that a properly installed concrete drive over 6" of compacted base material should hold up well.

I also saw some pictures of Oil and Chip drives, which are apparently stones pressed into asphalt to give the look of gravel.

I don't mind my old crushed stone drive, except that I don't think it was properly installed, and I think the stone was put on too thickly, because it shifts around. Picking it out of the lawn and beds is not too much of a problem, but snow removal is a pain, as is keeping it free of weeds and accumulating debris. Otherwise, it has a charming, if messy, look, and a satisfying crunch when I walk on it. My neighbor, the landscape contractor, says he can pull off the crushed stone, re-do the base, and reapply the stone properly for a reasonable sum.

Any advice or experience to share would be appreciated. House and garage are old brick.


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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

The current drive just sounds like gravel to me. It's not really an installation issue, so much as the nature of the beast. If there really is a way to keep gravel in place, and weed and dirt free, inquiring minds very much want to know. There is a reason I hate the stuff.

Something to keep in mind, is that if the driveway receives any sun at all, the black asphalt is a powerful snow removal tool. Where you are, it may only need real clearing after a major snowstorm. The half an inch here and there stuff just vanishes.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2005 at 6:13PM
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Odie99(z7a NJ)


Sounds like a matter of desire and budget. What would you like it to look like and how much are you willing to spend?

Your right, all concrete cracks. That is the purpose of the grooves and expansion joints to direct and hide the cracking. An alternative would be pavers. They are easier to maintain, are snow plowable when installed properly, extremely durable and repairable. Around here installations are around $12-$16 per square foot. That all depends on materials, access and ability of the installation crew.

Asphalt is truly a ribbon of black oil and has a very distinct character. Usually one of the less expensive solutions and when installed properly will last a long time. Tar and chip isn't popular here yet, so I can't comment on that method. I know Miss Rumphius is seeking an installer as we speak, will little success.

I love a stone driveway. but there is a correct way to install one that will last and look good with minimal maintenance. When I spec an installation, the base is the key and the stone is just the top dressing. An excavation of 6"-8" inches is filled with recycled asphalt or crushed concrete and compacted, and compacted and compacted again. If the client is patient, I like to leave the base as the usuable drive for a time to allow settling and weather to further compress the substrate. Then a 2" layer of 3/8" stone is placed on top and raked smooth. The thin layer of 3/8" stone compacts well, is easily walked on and doesn't shift around like the larger rock. You may have to rake the stone a couple of times a year to redistribute the stone that gets washed down or where constant wheel turning creates ridges. If your drive is large, a landscape rake towed behind a tractor or a 3 point hitch makes quick work of the redistribution. 3/4" stone works, but not as well as the 3/8', you need to be a bit thicker, so there is more movement and it is tough to walk on with bare feet. As far as snow plowing, well that takes skill with gravel, or at least a good set of skids on the plow. I prefer to use a tracked type snow blower, where the intake can be adjusted to ride over top of the gravel and throw the snow away from the driveway, plantings and walkways.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2005 at 7:36AM
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I have yet to see a stamped asphault that I think looks good. I have seen, like most of you, every range of gravel driveway from great to junk. It is all how it is constructed. There are good chip coats and bad ones, too.

The trick is to get someone who you know does a good job.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2005 at 7:54PM
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treebeard(z5 MA)

Although it might be on the more expensive end of the scale, you might look into exposed aggregate concrete for your driveway. In most instances, there is a wide variety of aggregate that can be used for the exposed surface, ranging in color and size. It looks like stone (sort of) and it stays in place.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2005 at 9:38PM
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miss_rumphius_rules(z6 NJ)

I'm working on a project right now that has a driveway renovation component. We looked at 4 options and decided on tar & chip. Very few people install tar & chip these days and it was difficult to find a paver w/experience and appropriate machinery. There was also the chip component--which kind? It wasn't my first choice, but the client want it, so the client will get it.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2005 at 9:48PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

this website is a contractor in my area. There are some photos of the different paving they install. I have never been crazy about asphalt, but in comparing the appearance of the homes in the photos, the asphalt tends to disappear, where the other surfaces are more in-your-face.

I don't think I'd want to make my driveway that prominent a feature, and actually like the look of the asphalt better, as it just disappears and lets you focus on the house and front yard. Hmmm, something to think about.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   October 6, 2005 at 9:57PM
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Exposed aggregate? Not in my neighborhood. It just does not fit the context.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2005 at 10:07PM
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Timing is everything. Today I went to a small design job that I have been working on. I did the layout for the driveway and marked it out on the site. I made recommendations for the surface. Well, I about dropped a twinkie when I got there and found an exposed aggregate driveway today. I'm speechless ..... for once.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 9:10PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

Hmmm. Interesting. What did you recommend for the surface, gravel?

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 9:24PM
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They were thinking of stamped concrete. I told them that it was out of place on Cape Cod. I suggested a chip seal of 3/8" native gravel over a bituminous concrete surface. Short of that, I would have gone with a basic bit. conc. (black top) driveway because of the curve and slope.

My hope is that the contractor did not misinterpret their description of my recommendation.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2005 at 8:33AM
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Here's some information on my experience with tarring and chipping my driveway:

(So far, we're very happy with the results.)

Here is a link that might be useful: a tar and chip driveway experience

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 4:55PM
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Here is a chip seal picture that was taken 3 years after it was done with a nice 3/8" pea stone.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 7:39AM
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Maybe this will work

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 7:41AM
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saypoint(6b CT)

Nice. To update my original post here, we had to replace our septic system this past fall, and part of the driveway had to be taken up anyway to run pipes. The contractor redistributed the old stone and brought in additional crushed stone with a less uniform size to topdress it. It looks much better than it did, and doesn't seem to shift as much.

I think the old gravel was a bit large and too uniform in size to compact well.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 8:02AM
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Nell Jean

In 2004, we had 600 running feet (6000 sq ft) of asphalt driveways installed over clay/sand base. The quoted price for concrete from the same paving company was exactly twice the price.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 8:31AM
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We are interested in a tar & chip driveway. We drove around to look at examples of work done by 2 different contractors. They looked like a little bit of stone with asphalt underneath. We are interested in more of a gravel look - like the photo shown above. Is there a way to achieve that by using more stone?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 7:11PM
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You need a contractor who has the knowledge, skill, and experience to do it. I don't know how difficult it is or what special products may or may not be needed. I don't know that many are doing it exactly like this, but that particular contractor does a heck of a good job with it. I would think there are others out there as well.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 8:50PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

A business in my town just did a major expansion project, and used the tar and chip for their whole parking area. The new buildings could be mistaken for historic buildings if they were not quite so level and plumb, and the paving suits it perfectly.

Depending on where you live, it may or may not be popular, which would affect your ability to find a local installer.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 9:12PM
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Any luck finding a contractor in Bucks County? We love the look but are having a tough time locating someone. Can tar and chip only be done on a flat surface? Thanks for any help!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 8:25AM
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What is the better base for an asphalt limestone or gravel?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 5:49PM
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