Uses and Applications

There is a conception that tarmac also known as asphalt and tarmacadam is the cheapest method of laying a hard surface! But this is not entirely true as it depends on the ‘economies of scale’. Laying tarmac is time-consuming, with the need for heavy plant and specialist tools, which are needed no matter what the size of your drive or patio area. So there is an optimum area required to make the cost of a tarmac drive or other areas economic. For smaller spaces, other methods such as block paving or slab paving may need to be considered.

Tarmac laying should not be considered as a DIY job unless you have access to the correct tools and someone who has the experience in laying tarmac.

Where should you use tarmac?
Although tarmac has been one of the more traditional means of hard covering for driveways and paved areas, some practical aspects should be considered first.

Tarmac Drives are subject to the solvents that are leaked by cars; Petrol, diesel or oil and if you are a keen home mechanic then this could include brake fluid etc. Any solvent will eventually break down the hardened top surface of the tarmac, exposing the lower aggregate layer and this damage will get gradually get worse over time with no known way of reversal. You can only fix this kind of damage with ‘Patching’ which doesn’t look good.

You also need to consider the aesthetical effect on your neighbourhood. If you live on an estate where all the drives are tarmac, it will look beautiful, on the other hand, if you live in a house surrounded by period properties with gravel drives yours will stick out like a sore thumb — possibly resulting in devaluing your property and challenge your neighbour’s patients!

If the area is for a recreational or patio area, then you should think about alternatives if it is subject to direct sunlight as tarmac gets hot in the summer gives off an odour and can become tacky.

What size of aggregate and colour of tarmac should I use for my driveway or required area.

Once you have decided tarmac is your hard covering of choice, then you need to think about which type of tarmac you are going to use. There are many different types and colours available. This can make the area more pleasing to the eye and blend in better with the surroundings. The main differences are in the size and type of aggregate and the binding agent used. Choosing a size of aggregate that is different from that used on roads should be used so that your drive doesn’t just look like another piece of the road! Unless the drive is subject to use from frequent heavy vehicles, then the larger aggregate used in road building is ideal.

The choice of binding will depend on the function of the area that is to be tarmacked and should be left to a professional to make the decision. An ACS agent will help you decide the size of aggregate and the binding agent that should be used.

What is the ideal tarmac to be used on a driveway or patio area?

The top course of tarmac also referred to as the wearing course, is made up of smaller grain aggregate giving a neater finish that is better looking and harder wearing top layer. It should also be laid so that it can be removed in the future without disturbing the base layer should you need to replace worn areas in the future, to do this you skim the wearing course and re-lay it, a process known as ‘overlay’.

How long should I leave the tarmac before driving on it?

The tarmacked area will set fairly quickly, and within about one hour it will be available for careful use. You should treat a drive with caution for at least a week, and always take care to avoid aggressive accelerating or braking and especially turning the wheels when the car is stationary this is also the case when it is particularly sunny or in hot conditions.

What’s involved in laying tarmac?

In most cases, the first job is to remove the existing hardstanding or to dig the foundation in preparation to lay the sub-base of crushed hardcore and tarmac surface. Typically you would dig to a depth of 16 to 18cm.

Sub-base, Base layer and Wearing course

Once the foundation has been dug out, a layer of crushed hardcore will be laid and rolled with a road roller. Then the base-layer is put down which is tarmac with a larger grade of aggregate. Then the top layer known as the ‘Wearing Course’ is laid this consists of smaller grains of aggregate giving a nicer finish to the job and as mentioned previously if laid correctly you should be able to remove all or part of it in the future if you needed to.

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Finding your ideal contractor

ACS always give you cost upfront and don’t always require a deposit. When choosing your contractor make sure that you clearly understand the quote/estimate, so you have no hidden surprises when it comes time to pay.

ACS will try to give you a quote which unlike an estimate is legally binding and of a more accurate nature. If we are uncertain of cost, say for example we are not sure of the ground in a particular area before we start to excavate we may give you a quote for everything we are confident about then estimate for that area with a full explanation of why. When pricing any job, ACS understand that clarity is vital for both parties and we will not commence work until we are happy that you fully understand what work we will be carrying out and you know what you are paying for.


It is not uncommon once work has commenced for the customer to ask for additional work, this could be due to how the job starts to look and you want another area done for example. As your contractor, we will always discuss and agree with you any extra work and confirm pricing before undertaking the work. We know from our many years of experience that this is crucial to make sure costs done increase unexpectedly for you.

ACS Flintshire County Paving, take great pride in there workmanship and customer services reputation. We work very closely with our customers to make sure of the perfect outcome. Once the project is complete as a matter, of course, we will visit you at least once in the next 12 month period to make sure everything is as it should be. You can call us at any time if you notice any problems, and we would suggest sooner rather than later as you are aware a fault in tarmac can escalate fairly quickly (look at the potholes in our roads!!). If you would like ACS to quote for your tarmacked area, please call on 01978 480 188 or 07795 053 834 or complete our contact form by clicking HERE. One of our staff will arrange a convenient date to come and view your potential project and help you with your decision making. ACS always here to help.

General Advice

  • A vast range of prices, designs and quality
  • Carried by most Builders Merchants so easy to obtain.
  • Lots of brochures available free of charge detailing the range that is available
  • Clay paving bricks can cost up to £20 to £25 more per m2 or more.
  • If you are going to do it as a DIY project make sure your chosen block meets the requirements of BS EN 1338 for concrete blocks, or
    BS EN 1334 for clay paving bricks.
  • Try to see a completed project in the block paver or clay brick that you choose this is better than looking at it in a glossy brochure. ACS can introduce you to clients that we have done work for.
  • If you see a brick or block you like ask the resident if you can for the name and manufacture of the product, may seem cheeky but can save hours in research, and most people are happy to discuss their home improvements.
  • You must make provision for drainage into gullies or other drainage points. Although there are sanded joints in paving over time once it has established itself, the surface is almost impermeable.
  • If the area is subject to puddles or resting water you may want to consider permeable paving.