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 tar.
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
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 appealing.
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 the years.
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 building design.
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 of traffic.
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.