Tarmacing a Driveway

Tarmacing your driveway - Is it right for you?

Tarmacadam, better known as tarmac, is a material used in paving or surfacing. It is commonly used in surfacing areas which are for vehicles such as driveways, car parks, roads and forecourts.

Laying out tarmac is something that should be done by professionals, and Whatprice can help you with this, take a look at our easy to fill in form which provides you with drive laying quotes from up to 5 trademen.  They will decide on the appropriate method of laying out the material especially on small spaces such as a private drive. That is because the techniques and tools that are required in this job is a little beyond the reach of DIY. Improperly laid out tarmac might result in plant life growing through the cracks, which can become rather unsightly.

So if you are planning to use tarmac for your driveway, let this article serve as a guideline to help you know what the contractors are talking about when they come to estimate the job and to know if they are doing it well once they have started.

What is tarmac?

John MacAdam was the one who developed this process, by using tar to hold the small broken stones together. It was then called "tar macadam," which then evolved to "tarmacadam" and eventually shortened to just "tarmac." In recent years, the tar binding agent has been replaced by bitumen, which is a by-product of the oil-refining process. This new mixture is called bitumen macadam, better known as bitmac.

Tarmac is made up of broken stone and tar, mixed and shaped during the process of laying it out on an area such as a driveway. During that process, it is evenly brushed then pressed down heavily by a steam roller or a similar machine.

Tarmac is a popular paving material as it is flexible, relatively inexpensive and requires very few techniques. Unfortunately, it is very utilitarian and quite uninteresting. However, if you are not too concerned about the aesthetics of your driveway, then tarmac would be a good choice of surfacing material.

Is tarmac right for your driveway?

Although tarmac is a popular material, it may not necessarily suit your needs. This is especially so if you like to tinker with cars or motorcycles on your driveway. Diesel or petrol spills, even splashes of engine oil or other solvents like paint thinner, may damage the tarmac. It will eat through the lower layers, once it had broken down the hardened top surface. Once this happens, the hole on your tarmac will only become larger and more unsightly as time and traffic will loosen the stones further. This damage is irreversible and can only be amended by patching, which is not attractive either as it will stick out like a sore thumb on your drive.

Consider the area of your house also. If your driveway is the only one made of tarmac in that area and it doesn't blend in, it might possibly reduce the value of your home. So have a look around first, before jumping in.

Using tarmac for a recreational area to play ball sports or other games on will only be good if you plan to get your driveway done anyway. This is because using the material is only practical when it is used on a bigger area.

Customizing the tarmac

Bland as tarmac may be, there are still a few types and colours to choose from. This may make the utilitarian area a bit more attractive that just using plain old tarmac. The differences in the types are usually the size and colour of the aggregate or stones to be used and its binding agent. You may want to choose an aggregate that will look distinctly different from the one used on the road, or an aggregate that will blend in to your property as much as possible. The choice of binder is best left to the professionals, though, but you may ask them if it is possible to get the colour to match the aggregate to make the tarmac a little attractive.

Get Tarmac with your neighbours

Although tarmac is relatively cheap for surfacing driveways, the estimate may become a lot cheaper if used on a bigger area. This is because bringing down and operating the machinery is costly. But since the contractors will be coming to your area anyway, all they need to do is bring more material in this even. So ask your neighbours if they would also like to get their driveways re-surfaced to get a good estimate from a contractor.

Tarmac layers

There are a number of layers involved in laying out tarmac for your driveway.

Much like your house, your driveway will also need a foundation. The contractor will need to excavate the area where you want your driveway to be, which will be between 16 to 18 centimetres. A crushed hardcore sub-base will then be laid and pressed down by a road roller. Concrete blocks, decorative stone or Edging kerbstones are placed on the side edges of the driveway, to keep the tarmac from sprawling out on its own.

The tarmac will be laid down in two layers. The first layer is the base, while the second one is the "wearing" course. The base layer uses a larger aggregate grade and will need to be delivered in a heated truck. As the base layer is laid out, large and sturdy rakes will be used to spread the material out throughout the driveway. The roller is then used again to press the tarmac down.

The second layer or the "wearing course" of the driveway uses smaller aggregates, so the material looks finer and a bit better-looking. If the job is done well and the drive needs resurfacing in the future, then the contractors will only need to skim the wearing course and relay it. This is known as an "overlay."

The drive will set and can already be used after an hour, but you will have to avoid aggressive braking or accelerating for a week or so.



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"The term Tarmac is not simply a shortened version of Tar Mcadam, it is the term patented by Edgar Purnell Hooley after improving the process of Tar Mcadam with the addition of different materials."

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