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Can Gravel be Laid on Top of Tarmac?

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 12 Oct 2018 | comments*Discuss
Gravel Tarmac Driveway Bedding


Is it possible to lay a gravel driveway on top of an existing tarmac driveway, or do we have to take up the tarmac first?

(J.P, 8 July 2009)


Unfortunately, the answer is that you should really take the tarmac up first if you want to replace it with a gravel driveway. Gravel, being a 'soft' driveway medium, needs a soft bedding.

Health and Safety

The problem with laying gravel on any hard surface, such as Tarmac or Concrete, is that it will roll around. This is unsafe and also means that you'll lose the gravel quite quickly. As cars drive over it the gravel will be squeezed out to the sides and into whatever borders the driveway.

Obviously, we're not sure of the exact situation with your driveway, but if you are able to build border walls about 3-4in (8-10cm) high that retain the gravel, then it might stay in place. But car tyres would probably dig furrows quite quickly, so you'd have to regularly rake the gravel back in place.

You would also have to put down three or four times the amount of gravel than you would normally, so it would cost a lot more than an ordinary gravel drive. It would still have the potential to be unsafe for people walking on it too, so we must advise strongly against this course of action.

Removing Tarmac

Taking up the tarmac drive shouldn’t be that big a deal anyway. Unless you have a very long drive all you need to do is spend a Saturday with a strong pick, a shovel and a skip. Break the top layer up, being careful not to go down more than a few inches and, assuming the tarmac had proper foundations, you should be left with a reasonably good surface to lay gravel on.

Don't try to smooth the revealed foundation too much, as any undulations will help to keep the gravel in place. Depending on the surface that you reveal, you many even want to put down a layer of sharp sand to give something for the gravel to bed into.

Pick the Right Gravel

Of course, there are many different types of gravel. If you want to go for something that's a bit sharper, this will help the gravel bind together. Smooth, small, round stones can be a bit too keen to roll away to where they aren't wanted.

Gravel that's less 'finished' also has the benefit of generally being cheaper than smooth, round products. But if you go too far down that road you can end up with gravel that is painful to walk on. The best advice is try to get to see a lot of samples before you decide what to buy.

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Hello, I have a tarmacked drive which is 25 years old,the same age as the property, it is looking very tired, the drive drains off to the road. I wish to replace it with block paving keeping tothe same area the tarmac now covers, is it O.K. to drain off to road still ?.The property is in England. Thank you.
daveo - 12-Oct-18 @ 1:02 PM
I currently have 10mm gravel driveway which is looking thin, I intend to put 20mm shingle on top (same colour gravel). Will this be of or will the 10mm come to the top?
kahl - 21-Sep-17 @ 12:18 PM
Is it ok to share a soakaway in our front garden with our neighbour? We are having a new driveway laid and our neighbours are now thinking of having theirs done too. Their driveway slopes away from their house towards the pavement, ours is flat, and the road itself goes uphill. Our builder has told us that because of that they can't have their own soakaway (water can't be made to run uphill) and has asked us if we would be happy for them to share ours. Are there downsides to this arrangement? What sort of things could go wrong? Many thanks
DJ - 7-Mar-17 @ 3:36 PM
I'm having the whole front garden and drive redone. My drive was 2x3 concrete slabs with red chips interspersed between the slabs. Underneath there is a deep layer of type 2 substrate which has been there for 25yrs. My landscaper has said he is leaving it in place and not renewing with new stuff as it is really well compacted, he is going to put a top up layer on it and "whack" it down. Is this the correct way to go?
DaveyD - 18-Oct-16 @ 8:18 AM
I am considering having a Resin Bound finish to my driveway. All preparation, soak away drainage and m.o.t has been compressed and ready for the finish. Please advise which of the 2 Tarmac or Concrete Base would be best. I am being told different things by contractors. Many Thanks Anil Patel
Aniel - 19-Sep-16 @ 11:09 AM
Hi, I have moved to house with a large gravel driveway. I wish to replace the gravel completely with a smaller grade. The drainage seems reasonable with no significant pooling. Any suggestions you would make once I have cleared the top gravel.Re whackelate the surface and put weed barrier down? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Kind regards Mark
Bere regis Mark - 2-Mar-16 @ 7:18 PM
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