Considering A Chip Seal Driveway

Now that Matt and I have the wheelchair van, and we’re getting out and about on a regular basis, I’ve been thinking a lot about our driveway situation (or lack of driveway situation). At one time, it appears that our house had a gravel driveway, but the gravel has been mostly gone for a very long time. Ever since we moved into this house, there have only ever been remnants of a gravel driveway that used to be.

Plus, the original driveway only went from the street to the front of the garage, which you can see here. This picture was taken when the garage was still a garage, and before I had done any updating to the exterior of the house.

But the “driveway” was a straight shot from the street to those garage doors.

Then we turned the garage into my studio, which meant removing those garage doors and closing up that front wall, and then we added a carport on the back of the studio. So now, our “driveway” is at least twice as long as the original since it goes to the side of the house by the studio, and to the back where the carport now sits.

This is an old picture that was taken before the carport was added, and before the concrete pad under the door was poured, but you can see that the front garage doors have been replaced with windows. So it no longer makes sense to park in front of the studio, even though I still do.

navy blue DIY board and batten shutters with black hinges pulls and shutters dogs

But when our driveway is finally poured, it will not go to the front of the studio and dead end into the front of the studio. Instead, it will curve and go to the side of the studio (I generally park right next to that side door and use that door as my main entrance and exit), and continue to the back to meet up with the carport, which again, is not shown in the picture above.

All that to say that our driveway will now be at least twice as long as it would have been had we kept the garage as a garage. And that’s precisely why we haven’t had a driveway poured yet. It’s been 8.5 years, and we still don’t have a driveway because I’ve only ever considered concrete, and that’s going to cost a small fortune.

So I’m now starting to consider other options. Have you ever heard of chip seal? Do you have a chip seal driveway? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Chip seal is new to me, and it only came to my attention recently when I started seeing advertisements from a local chip seal company in Waco every time I’d log onto Facebook. From what I can understand, chip seal starts with a base of asphalt, and then gravel is embedded into the surface of the asphalt when it’s still wet, giving the look of a gravel or exposed aggregate surface, but it’s done at a fraction of the price of concrete.

I have to admit that it has a very charming look to it, but all of the pictures I’ve seen from this local company seem to be of country roads or driveways leading up to houses out in the country. And one of my main issues with the pictures I’ve seen is that none of these roads or driveways have clean edges.

In other words, when concrete is poured, they first build a form for the edges using wood and stakes in the ground to keep the forms in place. If you’ve ever seen concrete poured (which I’m sure all of you have) then you know this. Here’s a picture from when we had our new front sidewalk poured. They built a form for the edges using 2 x 4 lumber, and then poured the concrete inside the form.

When the concrete is dry, the forms are removed, and the concrete has nice, clean, defined edges.

So that’s what I’m used to, and that’s what I like.

When I called the company to ask questions about the chip seal, this was one of the main questions I wanted to know. Can the chip seal be poured in such a way that it has defined edges like you get with concrete? The answer was, “Well, kind of.”

And that’s what makes me not jump in with both feet on this idea. I know it probably seems silly to some, but I like those defined edges almost as much as I love (and need) symmetry in my life. If his answer had been an emphatic, “Yes! We can give you those defined edges,” then I wouldn’t hesitate to choose chip seal over concrete, because I really do love the look of it.

Here are some examples. I like the way that this one has defined edges using cobblestone. So that may be an option for our driveway.

Here’s a gray one, so I’m guessing you can choose from several colors of gravel.

Here’s another gray chip seal driveway with a stone edging.

So I’m considering it. I do like the look of it overall. I think it’s very charming and looks like something you’d see leading up to a very cute cottage. But since I have no experience with it, I’m wondering how well it holds up, and also wondering about those edges. Is a stone border the only way to get those defined edges? I’m just not sure. So if you have experience with chip seal, I’d love to hear your thoughts!



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  1. No experience here with it but thanks for the heads up on paving choices. I need to have a 550 ft driveway installed and was probably going to go with gravel but will now be looking at this.
    My current driveway is something called “cold pack” and when it solidifies, it is virtually indestructible. Been in place over 40 years.

    1. Crystal Griffith, I looked up ‘cold pack’ and it sounds very interesting. Your comment>> “it is virtually indestructible. Been in place over 40 years” really caught my attention. I’m going to look into this more and see if it would make a good walkway with steps included. Thanks for your comments.

  2. This seems like a good alternative to concrete. Maybe even use the chip seal for the path throughout the backyard? I saw a couple examples using metal landscape edging to get the clean lines.

  3. I can’t speak to this kind of driveway, having experience with asphalt and concrete only. But the edges do look pretty defined with some sort of stone.
    Perhaps more research and/or having a company rep come out to show you specific examples etc….good luck.,

    1. Just curious-are those pictures from the actual company you are considering using? That would be critical to see their actual work-or at least addresses where you and Matt could do a drive by look at their work in your new van! Some of the pictures you posted look like actual aggregate drives that are imbedded in concrete-a whole different process. Either way, I am interested to hear what information you find.

      1. These are not pictures from the company I contacted. I have seen pictures from the local company, though. I just didn’t include them because I didn’t have permission to use their photos on my blog. The pictures from the local company look very nice, and he told me where I can go locally to see their work in person.

        The pictures I included here all included “chip seal” in the descriptions of the pictures.

  4. I was actually going to suggest using some sort of edging, so I’m glad you arrived at the cobblestone photos. 🙂 In theory, they could probably put wood down and then remove them to give you that square-edge look (and then you can landscape up to it) but they probably don’t want to do the extra work. Permanent 4×4 timbers would be another option.

    Any sort of edging is no doubt going to add to the cost and I know the supply of hardscape materials is low right now (my neighbor does hardscape work). Also, you’ll probably have to hire one company to do the edging and prep and a chipseal company to come in and do that part.

    There’s another product I remember them using on This Old House. It’s a steel edging that gets driven into the ground. Roger used to use it for flower beds, but I’ll bet it could be used here. Once the grass is planted up against it, you probably wouldn’t even notice it’s there anymore (or it could be sprayed to match your chipseal aggregate).

  5. In TN concrete is only $7.00 sq ft, so it is our least expensive option. When you start adding pavers, it gets very expensive. I also think concrete would look best since it matches the walkway. Since both will be coming off the street and you will see both from the street, I think it’s really the best option all around.

    1. I agree regarding the walkway. If the walkway was made out of chip seal, I’d say “chip seal all the way”. But, it seems like it would bother someone who loves symmetry. (It would bother me anyway.) One vote for concrete here.

  6. We have chip seal on our residential streets (OP KS) and HATE it. Most issues are probably due to the amount of traffic on a street vs. a driveway, but my neighbors and I take turns submitting requests EVERY year to get the same “holes” filled over and over again. It’s fast and easy to patch, but it doesn’t seem to last in this application.

    1. Yes but that’s many cars driving over it all the time. A one car occasionally driving on it probably wouldn’t do that.

    2. We also have chip n seal (as we call it in IN) and hate hate hate it. When it gets hot, the little stones come lose and fly everywhere. I’m not convinced that even a cobblestone border would keep the gravel inside the bounds, unless it was raised above the driveway.

  7. Our rural development was looking at having chip seal roads put in at one time, and the only reason we decided against it is because of large, heavy vehicles that need to come into our neighborhood fairly often. Like, garbage trucks, delivery vehicles, construction and concrete trucks, etc., and over time they would destroy it. But since it will be a driveway, and not subjected to heavy equipment all the time, I think it should hold up well.

  8. When we had our garage/shop built, we had to get a permit to tie into the main road and we only had 2 choices: asphalt or concrete. I would check with your local building codes and see if anything has changed with codes since the house was built on tiring into the main street by your house. Then you can plan accordingly

    1. That is often the case, especially if tying into a busier or more major road, but easily handled by doing the tie in with concrete (to match the walkway) and then the actual drive done in chip seal. I see this a lot, at least in our area, especially if there is a sidwalk.

  9. I believe this process is used in Michigan on more rural roads to prolong their life. It is a little messy when first done (loose gravel beyond the edges**), but gets packed down into a durable surface on the roadway. ( **Of course, the rural roads don’t have defined edges)

  10. Here in Eastern Oregon the cities and the state use chip seal as an alternative to totally re-doing the asphalt on city streets and highways. It seems to go down faster, holds up as well as the asphalt does, and doesn’t get the cracking and huge crater potholes like asphalt does. Yes, when it’s first put down (the first couple of weeks in the case of a city street) it does have some loose gravel, but it packs in, and even on the streets they plow for snow in winter, it holds up well. In your case, if you want a clean edge, you’d probably want either some kind of paver or block, or perhaps have continuous concrete curbs poured to contain the chip seal drive.
    The poured curbs might be less expensive than pavers, it goes down fast and is very flexible design-wise. It’s commonly used to border landscaping so I’d guess that there are contractors in the Waco area that can do it. Just my two cents from the rural side….

  11. Is it possible for both you and Matt to try out a chip seal
    driveway? I wonder how easy mobility wise it is to maneuver a wheelchair on this surface as well as how comfortable it would be for Matt to be pushed any distance on a more gravely surface.

  12. Maybe you can do a concrete pad the first 20 or 30 feet from sidewalk then move to the chip seal. This commonly done in our PNW community

  13. Years ago, I was looking into asphalt vs. concrete for our driveway for a house we were building.

    I do recall that a contractor told me that you could pour concrete curves for the edges and then do an asphalt driveway.

    I never investigated it further, but you might look into it. Otherwise, you could check out using concrete pavers to edge the driveway, but I do expect that it will be much more expensive.

  14. I believe they did this on an episode of This Old House (Bedford project 2011 – ep 9). I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I am not sure if it is exactly the same process, but I seem to remember that it was gravel on top of asphalt. I thought it looked fantastic afterward. From my quick search, it looks like the driveway was lower than the lawn, so the edges are more hidden. Not quite sure the difference between a Texas lawn vs a Massachusetts lawn would be in this scenario.

  15. I would be asking what the expected life span is for chipseal vs asphalt. Does the company warranty it? Is maintenance required? Do they have references or examples of their work that you can look at? Ask them to go into more detail on the kind of edges they can provide and the costs for them.

    1. The guy I spoke with said that it lasts about 15 years, but then he said if this is just a residential driveway, it would probably last longer. After that time, he said I’d probably want them back to do some repairs, but he said it’s not something that has to be completely undone and redone. They have ways of doing needed repairs without redoing the whole thing. He did give me locations where they’ve done work and I can go in person and look at it.

  16. This is how roads are done where I grew up. Very little is full asphalt pavement. Chip seal is what once was known ad Oil & Stone roads. They survived our winters (northern New Jersey), but definitely don’t have definitive edges.

  17. We had chip and seal in Georgetown, Texas. It was better than the original gravel, but it’s nowhere near as smooth as concrete or asphalt.

    It’s not really poured like concrete. The gravel is dumped then rolled into the asphalt-like base, so you can’t have forms or borders in the way. Those stone borders in the photos (if that is chip and seal) were most likely added afterwards to shore-up the edges.

    Similar to asphalt in Texas, in summer months the base will melt a little and the stones can come loose. On a short driveway it’s likely not much of an issue since you won’t be driving at speed (but might be for Matt’s wheelchair). If you drive any residential/rural county roads in your area in the summer, you’ll hear the occasional loose stone in your wheel wells.

  18. I would ask the company to provide places that they have installed the chip seal so you could look at it and maneuver the wheelchair on. Just so you know if that surface will be easy for wheelchair use. If it is not I would not even consider it.

  19. I live up north. Most driveways here are either concrete or asphalt. Both have defined edges. Asphalt can be bordered with bricks or have a brick like pattern stamped in the edge, it can also be colored a contrast color to the asphalt.

    Our township has asphalt roads. Our cul de sac has been chip sealed several times….they pour oil on top of the asphalt, then add gravel. The better company then drove a large roller over the layers to pack the gravel down, so the oil didnt splash up on our cars.

    Some rural driveways just have gravel. Because we receive snow and the driveways need to be plowed, there is a lot of extra maintenance, as more gravel needs to be added periodically. I’m guessing you don’t have that problem in Waco!

    Good luck with your decision!


    I don’t know about chip and seal. But this guy found a very inexpensive way you could possibly consider. You could add edging for defined lines. I don’t know if he added stabilizer. It seems like some weathering would ruin his work if stabilizer wasn’t there.

  21. I would ask them for some addresses of jobs they have done so you can drive by—including what job they did where they feel it’s a clean edge. I have to say I do love the stone/brick edges.

  22. Would chip seal be an additional cost to asphalt? Are you considering it because you think it looks more like concrete? In our area chip seal is used as an inexpensive alternative to fixing an asphalt road. Oil is sprayed on the road, then gravel spread on top. It takes a lot of time and traffic for the gravel to get packed down.

    1. I don’t think it’s an additional cost. I told him we don’t have a driveway, and need one. I said that we had been considering concrete, but wanted to know how this compares as far as cost. He said it would be about half the price, if not less. So I assume that’s from beginning to end, starting with grading the area, preparing whatever base is needed, pouring the asphalt, and then adding the gravel layer.

    2. I actually like the fact that it looks like a gravel driveway. At least, that’s what it looks like in pictures. I’ve always thought that gravel driveways were so charming, but I don’t like that the gravel gets displaced over time, and they need regular “refill” of new gravel. Plus, the ones I’ve driven on have been dusty. This looks like you can get the same look without the loose gravel and dust (except for those first two weeks).

  23. I really like the appearance of a chip seal driveway. One thing to consider is that asphalt can be repaired, while concrete really can’t be without sawing, removing, re-pouring. I’ve seen chip seal drives “sided” with the heavy steel landscape border. It makes a really cool, organic looking driveway.

  24. My thoughts are what happens during those long hotter than hades summers in Texas. Even when I lived in southern Idaho the summers melted the asphalt so bad. I would check with as many people in your area that have it as I could. My Dad taught me to lay cement when I was a kid. It wasn’t that hard. We put in a sidewalk, a patio and built a barbeque out of bricks that summer. You could do it and save a ton. Maybe your brother would help?

    1. I agree about the melting asphalt. And that smell that never goes away!! We had a concrete driveway put and we lined it bricks ourselves. Love it! I feel concrete is cleaner and adds class. When it is cured….it’s cured!

  25. The one with the stone edges sort of reminds me of the stone that was on your house. Something like that would fit so well with the look of your house.

  26. If you have extreme temperatures there, not a good idea, especially cold. If it’s OK to go with it, using some type of brick on the edges (sides) would look fantastic. Also if you can add any curves.

  27. I have owned three houses, with three different driveways: one gravel, one asphalt, and my current one of brick pavers
    I do not like concrete, it is way too much of an eyesore when it is large. I liked the gravel as it is more natural, but isn’t conducive to shovelling snow!

    When we had the asphalt put it, I had them come back and they cut the edges and then laid brick pavers in about a one foot border, which lead to the front door pathway of the same brick pavers. It looked fantastic.

    Like you, I would not accept the messy edge, where the grass could not grow properly beside it.

  28. Try Resin bound driveways (and paths, perhaps for your back garden path).
    Many colours to choose from, any shape, and edges as sharp as you like!
    There is the added attraction of being able to incorporate a design within the whole area if you so choose.
    It comes in two options: the base is laid and the chippings are scattered into it, or the whole thing is mixed, chippings included, then laid.
    Looks good, and is easy to sweep and keep clean.

  29. Kristi, I live out on country roads that have been just dirt roads when I first moved out here, horrible especially in winter. Then the county chipped them with a promise of black top later. It was amazing, no more pot holes or dust. Like driving on pavement but like you said no formed edges. Then years later they black topped the road. So much better, it seemed because the roads looked more like pavement and had the formed edges. But sadly the black top didn’t hold up to traffic like the chipping did. After only a year pot holes began forming and getting wider and deeper as the road aged so that it became impossible to miss them all. A lot of maintenance on vehicles was the normal because of this black top. So after years of this black top we were So happy when the county tore out black top and put the chipping back in. It is so durable and for some reason the pot holes which formed with dirt road and black top too does not happen with chipping. And we don’t see the county having to do maintenance on it. In my humble opinion chipping is the way to go when you can’t pave. Blessings to you, one who is so blessed already!

  30. So in my super expensive zip code, my quote to set/lay edge a path with the cobblestone pavers was $12 a linear foot. I think poured and stamp a concrete curbs are less. So do account for your edge.

    Look into grids if you like gravel it is not, chip and seal, but there are a variety of grids you lay and place gravel or can grow grass in it. They define and stabilize the area extend the longevity so less maintenance. The grid material adds $.5(geofabric) – $5(plastic) sqft to it. Also over time, you could easily lay pavers for smoother paths for Matt over it. Some can act as a base layer reducing the labor on your part.

  31. I’d definitely want to see *in-person* driveways the local company has done. My favorite thing about chip seal roads (they’re common in rural IN) as a child was popping the tar bubbles on hot summer days. Obviously exposed tar would NOT be desirable in a residential application…it’s not really desirable in a road either as you end up with tar flung onto the rocker panels of your vehicle. I do know with our roads they put down the sticky, fling on some gravel and hope for the best. If the chip seal company were to put down an abundance of fine gravel and press it into the surface I could see that chip seal could be a lovely and practical solution. I would just really encourage you to go see new and older examples that the local company has installed though. The chip seal we have around here would be both ugly and would result in black filth being drug into your home from walking on the surface.

    Also, if chip seal is new to you I’d ask myself why it’s not used for rural roads in your area? Chip seal roads get markedly softer in the HOT summer sun. I’d guess that the Texas sun and heat are too much for municipal chip seal applications, but maybe residential use without then need to accommodate a semi-truck worth of weight would be okay.

  32. Suburban cities here in MN do this about every five years or so and a temporary fix to avoid the cost of asphalt for a few additional years, but never for permanent one. It is used on streets here but never on driveways. Most are asphalt, some are concrete, if it can be afforded. Those who do it, consider it a good investment. …Yes, it kicks up a ton of tar and gravel coated in tar for awhile til the tar dries, which be awhile in the summer. I would think even longer in the heat of tX. … When we lived in AZ for five years I never once saw this used on residential driveways. always concrete on all driveways. It was never an option to use asphalt on driveways of new homes. They have hot summers like you do. Yes, it sticks to cars initially, and is a lot of work to get off. The pictures you show are after it has dried and before people drive on it. Ours looks like that initially, but not for long and the many rocks and tar not visible in your pictures. Tire treads can make marks wear as it lifts and sprays the rock/gravel. This process is used only to prolong the streets for a few years, until new asphalt is applied. And it still cracks within a couple of years, so soon it will look old, not at all like the pictures you show. I guess you could say yours would not be driven on as much, but still you get what you pay for! I would suggest you pay more for asphalt. We replaced our asphalt driveways every seven years or so, 10 years would pushing it as it would crack and crumble around the edges eventually it was just a part maintenance. It began cracking after three years, just like what you are now considering. The cracks have to be filled, and will always show, I think you should investigate further to get the REAL nformation. .

  33. Resin driveways crumble in Arizona…just sayin’…they try adding additional resin on top as it does that, but it’s never the same

  34. I used to have a chip seal drive but we got rid of it. It was here when we bought our home and was about 3 years old. I started noticing scratches in my hardwood floors and could not figure out what was causing them. I finally heard a clicking sound as our company was walking around. Tiny bits of gravel had imbedded in the treads of their shoes after walking on my drive! The drive was mostly solid but there were still tiny gravel pieces loose in it. That’s just my experience and maybe not all chip seal surfaces have any loose gravel. I just know my beautiful hardwoods suffered terribly.