When driving down a highway, on a surfacing that appears black like “Tar”, there’s a possibility that the surfacing material is tarmac. And while there are different types of road surfacing and paving materials, tarmac is by far one of the most commonly used. Not only is tarmac used for road constructions, many homes in the UK are seen having tarmac driveways installed in their property, and for good reason. Vehicles need surfaces to drive on or to be parked on, pedestrians require paving surfaces to walk on and generally for other aesthetic purposes, the world depends on paved surfaces.


If your driveway is worn out from obvious wear and tear, it can easily ruin the kerb appeal of your home. For some a simple fix could do the trick but for others, you may need a completely new driveway resurfacing. If, for some reason, you are considering tarmac resurfacing, read on to find out all you need to know about tarmac driveways. This article will cover every minute detail from cost of tarmac to tarmac driveway ideas uk, to help you make better informed decisions.

What are Tarmac Driveways?

Tarmac is short for tarmacadam, the resulting mixture when crushed stone or aggregate of even size is combined with tar (or sometimes bitumen) and sand. It is a surfacing material that is widely associated with airport and runways, road construction, driveways and pathways.

Legend has it that tarmac was invented in 1902 by Edgar Purnell Hooley, a surveyor who patented the process of heating tar, adding broken stones and slag to the mix to form a smooth road surface. It was said that he visited a tar factory where he discovered an unintentional resurfacing which birthed an idea in his mind, creating a solution to the problems associated with macadam roads of the past.

Although several improvements have been made, tarmac driveways today are similarly built upon the same principle on which Edgar laid tarmac in the early 1900s. Tarmacadam is usually stone/crushed and then compacted with a vibrating roller to form a smooth surface.

Types of Tarmac Driveways

Essentially, there are different categories of tarmac used for driveway resurfacing or other surface installations. These include:

Open-graded tarmac

This type of tarmac driveway consists of open-graded aggregates, hence the name. What this means is that there are relatively few smaller particles within the mixture and these types of driveways are somewhat permeable tarmac driveways.

Close-Graded Tarmac:

The term close graded tarmac refers to when tarmac driveways are composed of a more dense type of tarmac (close-graded aggregate). Unlike open graded, this variety contains more of small aggregates which are generally three millimetres in size or smaller, providing a much less permeable surface. Since the surface is not permeable, water runs off on the surface as opposed to penetrating into the ground below.

Other types of tarmac include:

Cold lay tarmac and Hot mix tarmac. What does this mean and what is the difference? The table below will compare these tarmac types

Cold lay tarmac is ready to use tarmac for repair to pathways, patios and driveways. Hot mix tarmac is ready made tarmac, heated to high temperatures and poured, then allowed to cool down and solidify. It is similarly used for driveway, paths and patios.
Most suited for DIY quick fixes or repairs as its easily accessible in 25kg bags It is most suited for professional installation and makes the installation process faster
Competitive prices can be offered if you buy more, however its more expensive for smaller jobs More cheaper than cold mix tarmac as it is available in tonnes, costing on average £45 per tonne. A tonne can cover at least 8m2.
Because of temperature, it might not adhere to surfaces as well as hot mix tarmac Mixture comes heated and is a more preferred choice for installation

How about a Tarmac one coat render?

Tarmac one coat render is the use of a pre-blended render mix of tarmac for single coat application on a driveway or path. This type of tarmac is best suited for solid substrates such as concrete or block paving or brick work. All that is required is to add water to the pre blended mix and you will have a smooth finish. This is not the best product to use if you intend to install a long lasting driveway. However, if you’re wondering what a new driveway costs or what tarmac driveway near me costs, you will find answers within this article.

Benefits of Tarmac Driveway

  • Durability:

    Top on the list of things that makes tarmac one of the most preferred material choices for driveways and roads is its durable and long lasting nature. As a surfacing material, tarmac is exceptionally resilient to pressure and can withstand heavy vehicles. This is why it is commonly used for roads, parking lots and driveways. If you need a driveway that can entertain multiple cars daily or require heavy duty vehicles moving in and out, you’re going to need a material that won’t crack easily under pressure. Tarmac is definitely a strong and durable choice for you. Further, irrespective of weather conditions, tarmac is also a reliable choice - it holds its place whether in extremely cold conditions, hot summer or a lot of rain.

  • Easy installation:

    If you are worried about laying tarmac, it helps to know that you won’t spend weeks to months renovating or laying a completely new driveway. Tarmac driveway is very easy to install given its very simple processes. And a major advantage being that it can be installed/ laid directly onto previously existing surfaces, taking away time spent in cases where excavation or a full depth bedding layer may be required to be laid down before installation.

  • Simplicity:

    If simplicity is your ideal style of classic, tarmac driveways are a fantastic pick for you. You can install a simple and plain red tarmac driveway or grey tarmac driveway to complement your home exterior

  • Budget friendly:

    Tarmac driveways offer great value for money and will not cost an arm and a leg to install, unlike other driveway types. With a considerably reasonable budget, you can install a tarmac driveway that will instantly transform the outdoor space. While tarmac driveway cost may differ with respect to different factors, we will provide you with the average cost of tarmac driveway to expect within this article.

  • Easy to maintain:

    Another noteworthy benefit of tarmac driveways is how they are easy to maintain. Here’s what we mean; if there's wear and tear to the surface of your driveway, this can easily be fixed by you without the service of a professional. All you need is the right materials and proper guidelines. If you opt for a complete driveway resurfacing, you can lay the new driveway over the existing tarmac surface.

Disadvantages of Tarmac

No single surfacing option is flawless. Find some of the drawbacks that makes tarmac less appealing below:

  • Tarmac may be durable but there are much better and cheaper surfacing options like resin driveways that offer far better lifespan.
  • Traditional tarmac is easily damaged by gasoline and diesel fuel and that is why certain improvements have been made. For e.g the tar in tarmac today is mostly replaced with bitumen, which is a more resistant material.
  • Tarmac can also be degraded by UltraViolet light (for example, in hot conditions), causing the surface material to soften or go brittle, which eventually leads to cracks on the surface or causing potholes.
  • Weed growth, moss or algae is very common with tarmacadam surfacing. And while some professionals may lay claim to installing base materials that act as weed membranes to prevent weed from growing, the effect seen is mostly minimal.

Steps In Laying Tarmac Driveways

When tarmac is being installed, it is laid as hot liquid, which is further allowed to cool and particles bind together and solidify. However, there are several preparations and steps to laying tarmac driveway and they are as follows:

  1. Excavation

    Most often than not, excavation (demolition and removal of existing driveway surface) is required before tarmac can be installed. While it is possible to lay tarmac over pre-existing surfaces, it is important to seek professional advice to ascertain whether or not you will be needing to excavate the ground to formation level. Many professionals will usually advise excavation before tarmacing a driveway so that a suitable sub base can be installed that supports

  2. Edging

    Regardless of the size and shape of your tarmac driveway, edging is necessary to keep tarmac in place. This can be done with tarmac paving sand and cement base or other materials such as timber.

  3. Protection

    Next step in the process is to install a high-grade membrane, which would help to prevent weed growth, whilst strengthening the base of the driveway and minimize sinking. On top of the membrane, a sub base is laid down (for e.g crushed concrete) which is then compacted with heavy machinery until it reaches the depth to be used for the driveway.

  4. Drainage

    Drainage is very vital in the installation of tarmac driveways as the material “tarmacadam is not permeable to water”. The tradesman or professional you hire must install a drainage system at this point to ensure that excess water from the driveway goes somewhere for e.g an existing soakaway.

  5. Binding course

    This is the first layering of tarmac, where an aggregate of about 50mm is laid down and then compressed either manually depending on the size or with a roller or plate compacter.

  6. Apply Tarmac

    After the first layering, the second layering follows shortly after and this is a much smoother and finer tarmac. Once this the top coat is applied to the base coat, it is also compacted using a roller to achieve the best possible results - smooth and sleek final finish.

  7. Final touches

    Having laid the second tarmac completely, you can accelerate the rate at which the tarmac hardens by using a hose to spray the surface with water as this will help cool the tarmac down.


How long should you wait before using your new tarmac driveway?

As soon as installation is done and the tarmac is hardened, pedestrian traffic does not pose much threat of damage to the driveway. However, as a rule of thumb, it is safe to allow your tarmac driveway to sit for about 7 days for the surface to settle completely. Although vehicles can be parked on the space after 24 hours, our advice is to do this after 48 hours. While your final product may come out clean, how you maintain your driveway from the point of installation tells how durable it will be.

How to maintain a Tarmac Driveway?

To maintain your tarmac driveway and keep it looking new at all times, the following should be considered:

  • To keep your tarmac paving in good condition, you can sweep off debris and wash with water at low pressure. This is good practice. However, care must be taken to ensure you don’t damage your tarmac driveway while trying to clean it. You should never wash your driveway with a powerful jet washer as this could potentially damage the surface of your driveway, path or paving as loose stone chippings may be seen afterwards.
  • Chemical spillages or spill from oil compounds should be wiped off immediately to avoid damage to your driveway surface. If there is an oil spillage, it helps to soak up the oil with some material before attempting to clean the surface with sawdust or sand.
  • As with any other type of driveway surface, it is important to give ample time for your driveway to dry completely before getting on the surface. For tarmac driveways, it is usually suggested that you wait 3days before driving on or parking heavy vehicles on the surface.
  • Though tarmac is highly durable, in some extremely hot conditions, the surface may tend to soften and loosen a bit. What this could mean for tarmac driveways is that it will lose form or shape when heavy vehicles move on. It is therefore necessary - as a way of protecting your driveway - to spray cool water over the surface during extremely hot conditions.
  • If your tarmac looks very old from enduring years of heavy usage, you can get it back in great condition by using a tarmac restorer. An excellent tarmac restorer product can have your driveway looking as good as new.

How much does it cost to Tarmac a Drive?

If you are thinking how much is tarmac per m2 or how much to tarmac a drive, we will break down costs, highlighting typical scenarios to help you understand the calculation better. First thing you need to know is, on average, tarmac driveway cost uk per m2 installation is around £40-£65.

Generally, this cost may vary depending on a number of factors including the size of the area to be installed, your location, the cost of materials used, preparatory work required before installation and the professional’s charge per hour. For larger driveways however, the cost of installing tarmac drive per m2 reduces. But with larger driveways you may tend to spend more on labour.

Conversely, for smaller projects, tarmac cost per m2 will most likely be a little higher but you end up spending less on labour. Here’s what we mean if a larger driveway cost £45 per m2, smaller driveways may cost around £55 per m2. However where you may require up to three or more technicians for larger driveways, you might be needing only two or even one technician for smaller installations.

Find below a table showing a rough estimate of tarmac cost per m2

Size of area Cost per m2 Total Cost
10m² £65 pm² £650
20m² £55 pm² £1100
30m² £50 pm² £1,500
40m² £45 pm² £1,800
50m² £40 pm² £1,800

The cost above is subject to change. As earlier stated, tarmac driveway prices may increase or decrease depending on a multitude of conditional factors. However it is important to note that the price of installing tarmac will reduce if you are laying tarmac over existing tarmac.

Additionally, the type of tarmac used also contributes to the overall cost e.g cold lay tarmac can cost as little as £7 per bag to £15 per bag, depending on the quantity supplied. Hot-mix tarmac on the other hand may cost around £45-£60 per tonne, keeping in mind that costs will lower with the size of driveway. This goes without saying that hot-mix tarmac is relatively cheaper compared to cold lay tarmac.

More so, most professionals will charge as low as £150 to as high as £250 per day. And for a small driveway installation that might take 1-2 days, requiring 2 specialists, you can expect to spend £600- £700 on labour. For larger driveways that will require more hands and extra hours, you should expect to spend an average of £1,200-£2,000 depending on the number of workers and maximum number of days of installation.


Here at your resin driveway, our prices are fixed and you can expect that the quote given to you will remain same throughout the period of installation irrespective of external factors such as weather conditions

NEED A QUOTE? Get in touch and our expert team will use a driveway cost calculator uk to workout an estimated budget for your project

What is the cost for removing a Tarmac Driveway?

Perhaps you have had a tarmac driveway installed and you wish to replace your existing driveway with a different surfacing material, there are two ways to go about removing your tarmac driveway. If you decide to DIY, which is highly possible as you don't need any specialist equipment, you will be spending a lot of time, energy as well as resources.

Conversely, if you do not wish to go through the hassle of removing the driveway yourself, you can hire professionals to handle the job. Usually you should expect to pay the same rate (£150-£250) it costs you to install the driveway and it could only take a day or maximum of two to complete. However, some professionals may charge far less.

Before you consider excavation or removing an existing tarmac driveway, it is important to seek professional help as there might be no need for that. This is especially when the new driveway material to be installed is resin. Resin bound can easily be installed onto existing surfaces like tarmac, asphalt, block paving and concrete producing exceptional results.

What are some of the best alternatives to a Tarmac Driveway?

Although tarmac is by far one of the cheapest driveway solutions out there with very humongous benefits, there are other driveway alternatives that may offer more in terms of cost, durability, flexibility of styles and complexity of designs. Without regard to order, some of the best alternatives to tarmac includes:

  • Gravel -

    Gravel is relatively cheaper than tarmac costing around £25 per m² but could cost more when preparations like digging of surfaces is required. In terms of design, gravel is a very attractive option and it neither sinks or cracks. Although it requires a lot of maintenance in the long run.

  • Block paving -

    When it comes to block paving, design possibilities are limitless. It is one of the most aesthetically pleasing options out there. And the good thing about block paving is its low maintenance - individual blocks can be removed and replaced if there happens to be any damage. However, block paving driveways can be really expensive when you consider factors like, foundation of sand is required for the blocks to rest on, sealant used to hold materials in place. However when you compare tarmac vs block paving (which is about £47 per m²), you may want to settle for the former which is the cheapest.

  • Resin-

    Benefits of using resin driveways easily outweigh the downsides as resin driveways are becoming a more preferred choice in the industry. Resin is much more compact and sturdy, highly durable (lasting 10 -21 years and requiring little to no maintenance), allows for incredible design ideas, highly resistant to crack, and has a porous surface permeable to water. It offers great value for money with an average cost of £40 per m².

  • Concrete -

    Concrete is one of the most expensive options out there, if you need something that offers lasting values at relatively affordable price, resin is your best bet. The average cost of concrete is around £85 per m². However, it does have a lifespan of 40 years if maintained properly. One major downside is that it is prone to cracking.

Tarmac vs asphalt

Because of the obvious similitude between tarmac and asphalt (both are black and just look like tar); most people can’t tell the difference. But each is made with a unique material and cost of tarmac also differs from that of asphalt

Tarmac Asphalt
Tarmac in most cases is simply a mixture of stone or aggregates, sand, and tar. Asphalt is a mixture of several types of fillers and binders, properly sized aggregate including crushed rock, sand, gravel or slags.
Tar used for tarmac can also be produced from organic matter like wood. Asphalt is produced from other petroleum products directly.
Tarmac is more budget friendly and may last as long as asphalt Asphalt installation generally is more expensive
Tarmac may begin to wear away with the presence of some chemicals. Asphalt has better endurance for different chemicals and stains

N/B: Tarmac and asphalt considered individually, are tough enough to stand up to very heavy vehicles and large loads.

Need to install a Driveway?

Are you interested in a new driveway and tarmac seems like the right material for you? We can help. Need advice on the best alternative options like resin or imprinted concrete driveway? Feel free to contact us and our expert driveway technicians will be on hand to provide you with necessary expert advice in making an informed decision.


Are Tarmac driveways any good?

Tarmac, as a surfacing material, is an ideal choice for driveway installation owing to the fact that it is hard wearing and can live up to heavy usage. This is why it is seen to be used in runways in airports and in many road construction projects.

Is tarmac cheaper than block paving?

Yes, tarmac is usually a more cost effective and pocket-friendly option than block paving. Although the cost of materials used in laying tarmac plays a key role in reduced costs, another major factor is time of installation. While block paving installation could take several days, translating to extra cost incurred, tarmac driveways can easily be laid in one day. This is highly probable when there is an existing surface on which the new driveway can be laid on to.

Can I tarmac my driveway myself?

Yes but our advice is that you leave tarmac paving installation to the professionals. While there might be lots of resources online suggesting DIY tarmac ideas that are quite basic and not seeming over complicated, you may end up buying or hiring each item required for installation where you may incur more cost overtime.

With hot-mix tarmac types, increased temperatures may lead to tarmac being extremely hot and hazardous to your health if you don't know what you are doing. However, if you just require minor repairs to certain areas on your driveway, DIY is rather practical as cold lay tarmac is readily available from all good DIY stockists. But you should expect to spend as much as £75 per m². This is why it makes sense to simply let professionals do the job as it would cost you way less.

How long does a tarmac driveway last?

Tarmac driveways, when installed properly, could typically last anywhere around 10 - 20 years. However, this is largely dependent on a number of factors including the quality of sub base installed, driveway usage and maintenance over time. A poor installation is often the root cause of cracks or puddles seen on tarmac driveways. To ensure your driveway serves you longer, it is important to engage professionals for installation and also play your part also by maintaining your driveway.

Can you lay a new tarmac driveway over existing tarmac?

Yes it is very possible to lay new tarmac over old tarmac. Whether the goal is to extend your driveway to accommodate more cars or lay an entirely new layer of tarmac as a result of wear and tear you can do so. And while this presents a cheap option if you are looking to cut costs, it is imperative that you have your property surveyed to ensure your existing base can provide the much needed support for installation.

Is tarmac driveway cheaper than resin?

The answer to the question of whether or not tarmac is more expensive than resin will depend on a number of factors. Usually, tarmac and resin are quite comparable when it comes to cost of materials. But when you consider the conditions for installation, for example - the surface on which the new driveway is to be laid on and nature of groundwork needed, resin driveways are a preferred choice. This is because resin driveways can be installed on any solid surface, saving you the cost of unnecessary excavation.

Should you pressure wash tarmac?

No, but if you must use a pressure washer on your tarmac pathway, paving or driveway, as part of your maintenance activities, low pressure is advised. What we advise is that you avoid jet washing at all costs. Even the use of certain chemicals on your driveway for the purpose of cleaning are not advised. As opposed to fixing or keeping clean, these chemicals may cause further damage.

Do I need planning permission for a tarmac driveway?

Yes you will, if you plan on laying tarmac on a surface that is over five square metres. In the UK, planning permission is required for laying driveways - whether new or replacement - that do not meet the SuDS standard i.e having a permeable/ porous surface that allows water drainage.