Tarmac Driveway Costs: Full Resurfacing Guide – Pros, Cons & Price

Tarmac Driveway Costs: Full Resurfacing Guide – Pros, Cons & Price

Written by  John Davies
Last updated: July 5, 2023

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Tarmac Driveway?

Tarmac is a highly reliable substance suitable for the driveway in your home. This substance has been used in construction since 1901 and has been consistently and widely employed ever since.

The reason for its longevity in the business is simple. It works. When properly installed, you can expect a tarmac based driveway to last 15 or so before it requires redoing.

The prices for tarmac installation do not vary all that much. They reliably fall somewhere between £50 to £65 per square metre, including labour. As always, these estimates may change because of environmental and circumstantial factors. The most important variant is the condition of the foundation.

Tarmac Driveway Cost Calculator

Per SQM £

What is a Tarmac Driveway?

People often confuse tarmac with asphalt. Indeed, you will often hear individuals refer to them interchangeably. Although they look similar, there are significant differences between the two substances.

Tarmac is a natural tar-based material made by mixing natural tar with a layer of aggregate. Meanwhile, companies produce asphalt through the combination of aggregate with byproducts of petrol production.

How Do You Know When to Install a New Driveway?

As your driveway gets older, you will notice that every year more puddles appear on the surface. This symptom is a bad sign for your driveway on two levels. First, it indicates that it is no longer draining fluids properly. Second, it means that the driveway has become significantly uneven.

Once puddles appear, the state of your driveway will only deteriorate. The undrained water will increase the wear and tear on the surface. The damage done will further undermine the drainage capacity of the driveway. Therefore, if the puddles keep getting bigger, it is time to repave your driveway.

Another related but distinct problem is the appearance of cracks on the surface. Two elements cause these lines to appear. Changes in the weather and erosion through the leakage of corrosive auto fluids are the two major causes of this problem.

Small cracks are merely a cosmetic issue. It would be best to patch them up to avoid deterioration, but they are not a cause for re-pavement. However, large cracks indicate a structural issue and are a sure sign that you should repave the driveway.

The Pros of Installing a Tarmac Driveway

The main advantage of tarmac is its longevity and toughness. Airports all over the world have been using tarmac runways for generations. That means it can withstand aeroplanes’ massive weight and the punishment of regular landings and takeoffs. This is tough material.

In most cases, a well-installed and maintained tarmac installation will last 15 years or longer. Due to its endurance, tarmac also remains visually appealing for longer than most materials. It will look new and fresh for a considerable amount of time, thus increasing the visual appeal of your home. Maintaining that look will not require much more than the occasional patching up of cracks.

The endurance factor is a huge selling point for British homeowners. Tarmac is particularly suitable for the cold weather we experience. It also stands up well to the summer heat. The surface can also be hosed down and washed off easily and quickly.

Another significant advantage is the low cost of the material and its installation. Tarmac is a simple material to work with and can be installed quickly and painlessly. It is also readily available. Therefore, the cost is reasonable.

The only material carrying a significantly lower price tag is gravel. However, gravel is undoubtedly an inferior surface to the tarmac. Indeed, when you consider how often gravel needs to be replaced, tarmac is a more cost-effective alternative. The cost will be even lower if you require a resurfacing of an existing base rather than a full installation job.

The oil-based bitumen within tarmac gels and coalesces naturally. Therefore, when minor cracks and inconsistencies appear in the driveway surface, it will essentially heal itself and close the cracks. This process does not mend large and significant gaps.

Finally, tarmac is customizable. You can alter its colour by introducing different compounds to the mix. It is also easy to paint and mark, so the material is often used for roads and runways. Tarmac is also well suited to edging with any decorative barrier you chose. Therefore, many homeowners line it with stones and bricks.

tarmac sealant
A coat of sealant can do wonders to an aged driveway.

The Disadvantages of Installing a Tarmac Driveway

A tarmac driveway is not quite as smooth as those made of other materials because the aggregate pieces it contains are larger. Therefore, the driveways consistency can be more challenging for your tyres, as they will gain a less secure grip.

Tarmac is generally not a reusable material. Once it has worn out, it must be thoroughly disposed of—meanwhile, other materials such as asphalt can be scraped and repurposed for future use.

The repair of the tarmac is relatively inexpensive and straightforward. However, it isn’t easy to execute without leaving visible marks on the surface. Therefore, expect some level of deterioration in aesthetic appeal with each patching job.

The tarmac’s natural rubber component is more sensitive to petrol spills than many other surfaces. In particular, diesel spills will play havoc with a tarmac driveway and require a good deal of resurfacing work. However, it is quite resilient in the face of oil spills and handles them better than its concrete equivalent.

Keep in mind that while tarmac is a highly durable material, there are options with more longevity available. Notably, concrete is significantly more durable. After 15 years, a tarmac driveway will likely have a significant pothole and weed problem and require replacing. Meanwhile, concrete driveways have been known to last up to 50 years.

Tarmac is a customizable material, and you can alter its color. However, other materials are far easier to colour and use creatively. Both resin and concrete are better surfaces for aesthetic manipulation. However, tarmac is cheaper than either of those options.

Another problem is that weeds can find a comfortable breeding ground in the shaded areas of the tarmac. The problem is that the material requires steady sunlight to dry out. When it doesn’t, vegetation begins to emerge on the surface. Many contractors install geotextile fabrics as an underlay, but this precaution does not always work. You will most likely find yourself spraying wide repellent on the driveway and tearing the vegetation out by hand.

You can resolve most of the problems mentioned above with regular resealing of the surface. We recommend that you reseal six months after installation to ensure longevity. After that, you will want to repeat the process every 3-5 years.

How Much Does it Cost to Install a Tarmac Driveway?

Tarmac is one of the cheaper and more cost-effective substances usable for the pavement of driveways. The materials cost around £45 per square metre not counting labour costs. The price is about the same as asphalt, compares favourably with resin and cement, and costs far less than brick.

That is the estimated cost for the surface. It does not take the condition of the foundation into account. Therefore, in most cases, you will end up paying a significantly larger amount. If your foundation needs extra work, the costs could easily double.

Why is the foundation so important? The installation of the tarmac requires the removal of at least 180mm of topsoil. It could be more depending on the type of soil and the slope of the driveway.

There are other things to keep in mind when calculating the price of the job. Unfortunately, contractor jobs tend to cost significantly more in London and the surrounding areas. Besides, contractors usually do not include Value Added Tax in their estimates. Therefore, inquire on this point. VAT will add about 20% to the overall cost.

How Long Does it Take to Install a Tarmac Driveway?

Tarmac is an easy substance to apply. Furthermore, construction companies have been using it for years and are very experienced at laying it in driveways and elsewhere. Therefore, the installation of a surface coating of tarmac should not take more than one day. However, the foundations may complicate the job. The removal of a previous driveway and installation of a foundation coating could take a day or two.

A fresh tarmac installation takes a significant amount of time, so take into account that you may not be able to use it for several days. On average, in our climate, you should be able to drive your vehicle on the surface within three days.

If the installation was only surface deep, the driveway could be ready for use within a day. However, in some cases, it can take up to seven days to set. Make sure to consult your contractor before use.

In sum, the installation can take anywhere between a day and three, depending on your foundation’s condition.

Is the Installation of a Tarmac Driveway a DIY Job?

Tarmac is simpler to install than some other surfaces such as resin. Therefore, avid DIY’ers may try to install it on their own. In our opinion, you should not do so unless you have a strong background in construction.

A lot can go wrong in installing a driveway, and there are many factors to take into account. Perhaps the trickiest part is taking into account the condition of the previous driveway. Sometimes the older driveway will require an excavation process. It takes a professional to determine when this is needed and to perform it.

The other tricky element is assuring that the driveway can drain fluids properly. Unless your contractor understands drainage dynamics, fluid can accumulate underneath the driveway. In the long-term, lack of proper drainage will lead to cracks in the surface and the emergence of a weed problem above it. In more extreme cases, the driveway could collapse or heave from the excess fluid.

If you plan to DIY the job, you will have to rent or buy the relevant machinery. The job requires a twin drum roller to compact the ground. You will then need a heavy roller to compress the tarmac.

In the final analysis, please do not attempt this job unless you are confident that you have the skills and experience to complete it successfully.

How to Pick a Professional for Tarmac Installation

Tarmac installation has a long history in this country, and there are relevant credentials, unions, and guilds. Make sure to pick tradespeople with the proper training and certification. It is always best to hire contractors with a valid membership in the Mastic Asphalt Council.

Not all contractors own the necessary machinery to install a tarmac driveway. It is always better to hire a company that does. If a contractor does not own the equipment, that could be a bad sign twice over. First, it may mean they do not have enough relevant experience. Second, they may use equipment rental as an excuse to overcharge you.

The installation itself is not complicated and can be easily achieved by most competent contractors. However, the job is not unproblematic. As we have discussed above, dealing with the remnants of the previous driveway requires judgement and skill.

Good contractors will also pay close attention to the drainage capabilities of the driveway. Therefore, make sure they test it using a hosepipe. If the driveway does not handle fluid properly, you should demand that they fix the problem before leaving.

As with any other job, make sure to check the contractors’ history and reputation before hiring them. There is an abundance of reviews and testimonials online. If you have many choices, there is no reason not to pick a company with many positive reviews.

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