driveway tarmac

How Much Does It Cost To Tarmac A Driveway?

Tarmacing is one of the cheapest and best driveway surfaces when compared with other more labour intensive surfaces such as driveway paving stones driveway paving slabs, and the more traditional concrete driveway.

What are the different surfaces available?

To the untrained eye Tarmac and asphalt seem to be the same, but in fact, asphalt is made from crushed gravel and bitumen (from the oil industry) whereas Tarmac used natural tar. These days asphalt is more commonly used than Tarmac but generally, most people use the terms interchangeably.

What is the Size of the area?

How long is a piece of string? Really the only person who can answer this is you. It will depend on how much land you own and how far onto your land you wish the driveway to reach. Remember that the size of the drive will depend on how many cars are owned by the household, whether you wish to have a turning area, whether you wish not only access but also a parking area as well. It also depends on whether you want enough room for a pedestrian, wheelchair and pram access from the road to the house.

Using a piece of string or rope, lay out the proposed boundary of the driveway, ensuring its width is big enough for an average car (say about 2m). Remember that if the driveway is alongside a boundary fence or established foliage you will need room to open the car doors. Wheelchair access needs to be at least 700mm but preferably more like 1m. Once you have laid out the approximate area, mark the edge permanently, transfer the dimensions to a sketch on paper and start your excavation. The paper sketch will help decide how much material is needed as well as showing the contractor exactly what you want to be built and where.

Tarmac Driveways Cost Breakdown

Apart from gravel, Tarmac or asphalt driveways cost less to install and are easier to maintain than the other usual driveway surface materials: concrete, pavers and brick. So how do Tarmac costs compare to other surfacing methods anyway?

  • Gravel. Gravel is about as cheap as Tarmac but tends to move about too much, needs more maintenance and if not laid properly provides a foothold for weeds to grow.
  • Concrete. Because laying concrete requires more skill than laying tarmac, concrete driveway costs are more expensive than tarmac or asphalt but less expensive than the other surfacing Concrete is harder to install than tarmac but lasts longer, is harder to repair but needs less maintenance.
  • Cement. Cement driveway costs are approximately the same as concrete. The main difference is the size of the aggregate.
  • Paving. Driveway paving costs approximately six times the cost of laying Tarmac. It is more labour intensive and requires more maintenance than Tarmac. It does, however, look far more attractive than Tarmac.
  • Brick. Laying a brick driveway costs approximately the same as paving slabs and also looks far more attractive than Tarmac.
Type Cost per m2
Gravel £35
Tarmac/Asphalt £35
Concrete/Cement £70
Brick/paving slabs £210

Don’t forget that as well as the costs of the surface finish, there are also the costs involved in excavating the driveway and laying the foundations. The method of laying the foundations is pretty much the same for all types of surfaces, so there isn’t really any way to differentiate in costs unless you do this part of the driveway yourself as a DIY project. It isn’t difficult to do as long as you don’t try to rush it.

Operation Costs (approx.)
Mini digger hire £150 per week
Skip hire £30 to £80 per weekend.
Weed mat underlay £40 per m2
Stone or gravel hardcore base 200mm thick £40 to £70 per tonne
Compaction plate hire £20 to £35 per day

Remember that unless you do it yourself, you will have to pay for any labour on top of these basic costs.

How long does it last?

The lifetime of a Tarmac or asphalt driveway will depend a lot on the climate, how often it is used, how well it has been maintained but most of all it will depend on the quality of installation. Once you are satisfied with how well it has been laid then try to keep it maintained properly. Luckily because it is based on bitumen it is flexible so it won’t usually crack like concrete, and if it develops any holes or dents these are easily repaired.

Get a Fixed Driveway Quote

OK, so you have decided to have a new driveway laid but first, you need to know how much each one will cost depending on your situation. Approach a contractor to ask for a quote for laying a tarmac driveway to the size that you have decided upon. Get him to look at the place where you want it and show him your sketch. While you are at it you may as well ask for a driveway paving cost estimate as well as one for using driveway bricks. You never know, the driveway paving estimate may be within your budget.

Once you have asked for these make sure that the quotation is fixed. Any reputable contractor should know within £50 how much the total labour and materials will be so a fixed quote shouldn’t be a problem. What you don’t want is for the cost to spiral out of control once the project has started. Another thing to watch is that you do not pay too much money upfront. It is acceptable for the contractor to ask for 10% of the total cost upfront to prove the customer’s commitment and to help with his cash flow. Do not however pay the balance until you are happy with the finished job.

Obviously, you cannot be watching over the contractor all day long so it is wise to ask him to take photos at specified stages.

  • At the start of excavation.
  • After excavation.
  • Laying hardcore.
  • Compacting the hardcore(show the depth with a tape measure).
  • Laying the underlay.
  • Laying the top finished surface.

These will form part of your guarantee to prove that the driveway was constructed to your requirements and in compliance with Industry Best Practice.

It is important to always get the work done by a reputable firm who has been trading in your area for a number of years. Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous workmen who will gladly install a substandard Tarmac driveway for you, charge you many thousands of pounds more than they should, offer a discount for being paid in cash, and disappear afterwards with no forwarding address.

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