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Tarmac Options for Your Driveway or Patio

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 29 Apr 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Driveway Drive Property Home Garden Road

Tarmac is generally considered to be the cheapest method of laying a hard surface. But it's a time-consuming job which requires specialist tools, machinery and, not least, knowledge. This means that it only becomes the cheapest method once the driveway is up to a suitable size, where the economies of scale kick in.

For these reasons, tarmac is not something that can reasonably be considered as a DIY job, unless you have friends or relatives in the trade who are going to help you out, particularly with the machinery. If you're going to Talk To Contractors, you'll need to know that tarmac is more properly called bitmac.

Bitmac or Tarmac?

The name tarmac was original derived from John MacAdam, who developed the process in the West. He used tar, which can be found naturally, to hold the small stones together, hence the name tar macadam, or tarmac for short. Nowadays, as the binding agent for the aggregates is bitumen, a by-product of the oil refining process, rather than tar, it is known as bitumen macadam, shortened in the trade to bitmac.

Consider Where you use Tarmac

You do need to think hard before deciding on tarmac for a driveway outside your home, particularly if you like to work on cars or motorcycles as a hobby. Petrol or diesel spills, or splashes of other solvents like penetrating oil, will break down the hardened top surface then eat their way through the lower layers. This process can't be reversed and soon the aggregates begin to spill out of the resulting hole every time a car tyre passes over it. The hole will grow, look very unsightly, and it can only be fixed by Patching, which doesn't look great.

You need to consider the affect on your neighbourhood area, too. If all the other drives in the street are tarmac, perhaps because they were all done in one go when the houses were built, then obviously it will fit in beautifully. But if that's not the case, and all the other drives in the street fit in with the period of the property, then yours will stick out like a sore thumb, and possibly make the house a little harder to sell. Your neighbours won’t thank you for putting down an eyesore either.

It's not really a good surface for a recreational patio or other garden area, as it's not that attractive and can get hot in summer, which is when you want to use that space. Having said that, you might want to have an area in the garden for kids to play ball sports or games on, if you have the space. If you're going to get a drive laid anyway, the extra cost of doing part of the garden won't be a great deal more, since the people, machinery and supplies will be coming to you anyway.

Tinker with the Size and Colour of your Driveway Materials

If you do decide to go for tarmac (or bitmac), it's worth knowing that there are many different types and even colours. This might make it a bit more palatable for a residential property or in a garden. The main differences are in the size and type of aggregate used, and the type of binding agent.

A different size of aggregate to that normally used for roads can do a lot to set your driveway apart from just another piece of road, and coloured aggregates are available that can help a driveway blend into its surroundings. Although the choice of binding agent is best left to the professionals, to be taken on functional grounds, there are coloured binders available. If they can be used in your situation and match, or get close, to the colour of the aggregate, then the effect can be very pleasing.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi Can you give me a quote on a Tarmac drive for 28 feet by 18 feet please.
niko - 29-Apr-17 @ 8:20 AM
Hi Can you give me a quote on a Tarmac drive for 28feet by 18 feet please.
mike - 29-Apr-17 @ 8:18 AM
Looking for a quote for 2 driveways and sharing path
Arnie - 26-Mar-17 @ 3:41 PM
I am looking for a quote to get my patio and driveway tarred.
Farrah Kauser - 14-Feb-17 @ 3:37 PM
Hi, We have a tarmac drive that is possibly 15-20 years old. If I don't put a moss killer on it, which I have stopped doing, the algae/moss is coming up almost all over it. I am guessing that it was not a decent job in the first place.We do want to replace the driveway and block paving probably isn't suitable as we have two older vehicles that leak / drip a little bit. Would replacing the tarmac (digging it up and removing some layers) be the best option - and it wouldn't show any oil drips? We do need to find a reputable contractor and it would help if we knew exactly what we would like them to do before we get some quotes. If there is another suitable covering, perhaps resin, could you advise? Many thanks.
JANE DOS - 11-Feb-17 @ 5:05 PM
Gaz - Your Question:
I have a large existing drive at the front of my house that is over 20 years old and is partly tarmacadam surfaced and partly permeable shingle surfaced. I am considering altering the drive by increasing the area of tarmacadam in one part and replacing the tarmacadam with permeable shingle in another part thereby making no overall increase in the area of the impermeable tarmac surfacing. Do I require planning permission if I am making no overall increase to the existing total area of tarmacadam surfacing?

Our Response:
In theory, no you shouldn't need planning permission but call your local planning office; they'll be able to tell you this without you having to submit an application.
DrivewayExpert - 21-Oct-16 @ 10:21 AM
I have a large existing drive at the front of my house that is over 20 years old and is partly tarmacadam surfaced and partly permeable shingle surfaced. I am considering altering the drive by increasing the area of tarmacadam in one part and replacing the tarmacadam with permeable shingle in another part thereby making no overall increase in the area of the impermeable tarmac surfacing. Do I require planning permission if I am making no overall increase to the existing total area of tarmacadam surfacing?
Gaz - 20-Oct-16 @ 9:46 AM
Was looking for price if anyone could help 8m 20 6m 30tarmac
Lew - 9-Aug-16 @ 8:57 PM
Hi, I wanted to find out the most cost effective way of reneing my driveway. I currently have tarmac with several potholes and loss of surface. I am happy to re-tarmac this but am a little unclear on cost. My drive is approx 10m by 5 m thanks Aman
Amang - 25-Jul-16 @ 4:28 PM
I seem to have tiny shards of glass appearing all over my tarmac driveway. It was only laid last summer. Is this normal?It's driving me mad as we're walking it into the house and I have a crawling 9 month old.
Janee01 - 16-Jun-16 @ 7:49 PM
Is it ever a good idea to resurface a drive with pot-holes with another layer of tarmac? Or should the original layer be removed first?
Gilly - 16-Apr-16 @ 11:04 AM
Could you give me a price to resurface our Tarmac drive 21ft X 17ft 6ins
Charlieboy - 11-Apr-16 @ 1:35 PM
Hi, Was wondering how sensible it would be to lay a wearing coat (top coat) of either bitmac or asphalt on top of the paving brick on my driveway,they are awful looking, if so what would be the recommend depth. Many thanks, M T K
Mac the nife - 7-Feb-16 @ 11:49 AM
Hi, Can you please give me an idea of how much it would cost to have tarmac laid at the back of our house. The area is approx 100m2.Once laid is it possible to enhance the area with additional paving? Thanks for your help. Fiona
Fi - 23-Jan-16 @ 4:41 PM
National Grid have dug up my recently renewed Ashphalt Driveway of 21 metres long by 3.25 M long, the trench width 430 mm. They are prepared to reinstate the ashphalt to the width of the trench, but will not lay 6mm. of ashphalt over the rest. Could you please give me an estimate of the cost of doing this remedial work. The building is a Grade II listed Water Mill, Located in Stamford, Lincolnshire. Thank you. Mrs Woods
Hudd's Mill Archite - 23-Jan-16 @ 3:50 PM
I am sorry but we don't have contacts with contractors who can quote for your drive.May we suggest you use Google or even better a recommendation from someone you know who might have had work done.Good luck.
Freddy - 6-Aug-15 @ 7:50 PM
Hi there please can you provide a quote for tarmac for a drive approx 92m2 Thanks
Lay - 6-Aug-15 @ 5:39 PM
Hi Can you give me a quote on a Tarmac drive for 13feet by 12 feet please.
Bob - 1-Aug-15 @ 12:47 PM
Hi can you give me a quote on a 21ft by 10ft drive please
stephanie - 23-Apr-15 @ 12:45 PM
@jilly. We don't do individual estimates as this site is just for information.You should ask for recommendations locally and get a few quotes. Alternatively maybe someone will be reading this...any other tarmac companies out there willing to give an idea here?
DrivewayExpert - 13-Apr-15 @ 12:05 PM
can you give me an estimate to lay Tarmac on a 12m2 area. It is a lawned area at the moment.
jilly - 10-Apr-15 @ 10:07 AM
We have a drive which is around 6m x 8m send looking for cheapest option to cover it. It is not viewable from the rd. roughly how much are we looking at for either Tarmac or concrete?
Drive - 22-Mar-15 @ 9:22 PM
hi I got my driveway renewed about a year agowith what was supposed to be a top layer of smaduring the next few months the top coat of [sma ] started to crumble and go into patchy shallow holes.I got in touch with the contractor who after an agreement said he would re top the driveway with another layer of sma , this coat is only down around 4 months and again it is starting to deteriorate and crumble, I am now wondering if the top coat is indeed SMA. Is there any way of telling if it is SMAI have my doubts. REGARDS ROD WELLS
rod. - 6-Mar-14 @ 1:59 PM
I have seen small stone laid on tarmac but cannot find information on budget cost per m2 - I have new build 200 m2 drive on a slope which has had 150 mm rolled crushed concrete laid 18 months ago. Thanks.
vincent - 13-Jun-11 @ 8:13 AM
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