How To Lay And Maintain A Gravel Driveway

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  • Patricia Ferguson

May 25, 2018

    Patricia Ferguson May 25, 2018

    “A step-by-step correct way from start to finish. I did not realize I would have to dig and level my drive as a first step. It helped me to realize that the job would be more labor-intensive than what I could handle. So glad I came to this site.” …” more

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5. Level the Path of the Driveway

Before the first layer of gravel is delivered, level the path of the driveway. You can do this by hand or with a backhoe. Also, we recommend laying down a weed barrier to prevent grass from growing through your driveway.

The 5 secrets to a great gravel driveway

Without doubt one of the secrets to a beautiful and functional gravel driveway is what lies beneath.

The bit you never see, the sub-base, is crucial when it comes to this type of drive and there are some key elements to understand:

  • A good quality weed membrane

  • A well-compacted MOT sub-base

  • Gravel mats

  • Good solid edging

  • The right size gravel

  1. Weed membrane – Simple but effective. Lay this down over the bare ground before you lay the sub-base. A good quality one will stop the weeds growing and still allow water to past through. Don’t use a giant plastic sheet or your sub-base will hold water and water-log.
  2. Sub-base – go as deep as you can on the sub-base, we recommend 150mm.
  3. Gravel mats – or gravel holders are a relatively new addition to the sub-base but absolutely vital as they stop the gravel ‘travelling’. These are interlocking, plastic mesh, rigid square grids that lay on top of the MOT and then you rake all the gravel into them. They can’t be seen through the gravel, but they do a great job of keeping it all localised and in the same place, no matter how many times you drive on it.
  4. Edging – sometimes your driveway will be self-contained between walls, but if not, make sure you have good solid edges to contain the sub-base and the gravel. If you don’t do this, your driveway will start sprawling. Often, you’ll see a single row of block paving as an attractive but effective edge to a gravel drive.
  5. Size is everything – There are lot’s of really great looking gravels to choose from these days but the golden rule is trying not to go less than 20mm in size.

    Anything less will tend to get stuck in your car tyres tread, get walked into the home in your shoe tread, and act as a giant cat-litter-tray for the local cat clan.

Ok, all that said, let’s go though how to install a gravel drive.

2. Clear Grass and Topsoil

Next, clear away grass and topsoil from the path of the driveway. Depending upon the size of your path, you may want to have your driveway professionally excavated to save time and energy.

How to clean and maintain a gravel driveway

Keeping your gravel driveway looking attractive and clean requires little effort. Here’s how you can keep your new driveway looking pristine all year round:

  • Semi-regularly rake your gravel driveway, especially during the Autumn months, removing unwanted twigs, leaves and other debris. This will also help break up any compacted gravel – a win win!  

  • Although a weed prevention membrane is in place, wind-swept seeds may occasionally cause weeds to form. Simply remove these by hand, using gardening gloves. In the areas affected, spray weed killer (or herbicide) containing glyphosate.

For more information about removing weeds from your gravel driveway, read our guide to weed busting.

  • After years of use, your gravel driveway may thin, creating sparse areas. Happily, this is easily rectifiable by topping up the affected areas with more gravel.

TOP TIP: It’s a good idea when ordering gravel to purchase an extra bag or two, that way you can ensure the gravel you use to top up with is the same as the stone used in the original driveway design.

Make Sure You Have The Correct Tools

You will need to purchase or rent special tools and equipment to excavate the driveway and compact it down. Most gravel suppliers will be able to connect you with an equipment rental company. Established suppliers will have helped thousands of homeowners and contractors with projects similar to yours and will be able to provide you with advice that can save you time and money.

How To Lay A Stone Driveway

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Project from Markdevlinn

We all want that perfect driveway. Sometimes, that seems unattainable. After all, laying driveway stones may seem overwhelming at first, and hiring someone to do it for you can be pricey. But it turns out, there is a way to DIY this thing.

Add Landscaping Fabric

Before you add stone, you’ll need to first lay down a layer of landscaping fabric. This will help prevent the growth of plants and weeds from beneath the driveways surface, and will also help control erosion and shifting.

Disadvantages of Gravel Driveways

Now for the bad news: the downsides of gravel driveways.

1. Cheap, Unfinished Appearance

Gravel lacks the aesthetic appeal of paving stones and the crisp, uniform appearance of asphalt and concrete. It’s cheap, and it looks it. If you’re looking to improve your home’s curb appeal, and especially if you’re preparing to list your house for sale, a more expensive option may be a worthwhile investment.

Pro Tip: Looking for DIY projects that actually pay for themselves over time? Check our roundup of easy home improvements that help reduce homeownership costs.

2. Potential Compliance Issues

Sad to say, gravel driveways aren’t popular with everyone.

If you live in an upscale community or belong to a homeowners’ association, your driveway project may be restricted or stymied altogether by legally enforceable covenants (regulations). Your HOA’s bylaws might mandate a certain type of driveway surface, for instance – say, black asphalt or stone pavers. Before you spend any money on your gravel driveway project, make sure it won’t go to waste.

3. Delivery Difficulties

Dump trucks are big. When they dump their loads, they get even bigger. Actually, they get taller – their beds lift up to create a slope down which whatever they’re carrying can slide. With its tailgate fully engaged, the typical dump truck grows to 16 feet tall. That’s level with your second-story windows.

On narrow driveways with side or overhead obstructions, taking a gravel delivery is harder than it should be. This is common in densely built cities, where driveways directly abut houses and aren’t built for anything wider than a standard passenger car. Overhanging eaves further complicate matters – a driveway that’s wide enough to handle a dump truck at ground level might not have enough clearance 10 or 15 feet overhead.

If you have a narrow lot, you’ll likely have to block off a portion of your street and get the gravel dumped there. That may require you to pull a permit (or at least notify your municipal government) and will definitely create a lot more work for you, since you’ll need to schlep the gravel up to where it’s actually needed.

4. Snow Removal Woes

Gravel driveways are difficult to shovel by hand and even tougher to plow. We’ve given up trying to clear our gravel driveway completely. I basically scrape as much snow as I can off the top and trust our newish tire treads to claw their way up the slope.

Our driveway is short, and its slope is brief enough that we can power our way up without much trouble. Homeowners with longer, steeper driveways aren’t so lucky. If springing for asphalt means you’ll actually be able to make it up your hill in the winter, it might be worth the added investment.

5. Ruts, Bumps, and General Sloppiness

Careful grading can keep your gravel driveway relatively even for a while, but the killer combination of gravity and heavy use will win out eventually. Wheels inevitably produce ruts and bumps, which get ever sloppier over the years as the driveway’s gravel thins.

Before we resurfaced it, our gravel driveway had two deep, parallel scores left by thousands of vehicle transits. The thin gravel cover wasn’t adequate to keep those scores mud-free after rains. In winter, they’d fill with ice and snow for months on end, and take weeks to drain following the spring thaw. I can’t tell you how sick we got of dodging mud puddles, and how happy we are with our fresh, reasonably clean gravel surface today.

Who Is a Gravel Driveway Best For?

Gravel driveways work best for homes in rural areas, and they even work in some urban areas. It helps to have a buffer zone around the gravel driveway to capture those inevitable stray pieces of gravel.

If your property is prone to movement or if you have large tree roots, gravel driveways are flexible and extremely accommodating. Owners of large properties often prefer gravel driveways over concrete or even asphalt, because it is cost-effective.

Properties that need frequent snowplowing or scraping do not work as well for gravel driveways, because the plow tends to scrape up the gravel, as well.

Tip

Check with your local building department before laying down a gravel driveway. Some urban areas do not allow gravel on smaller lots, or they may require that a certain size of rock be used.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) FAQ

How Much Stone Do I Need For My Driveway?

Calculating the amount of stone you need for the driveway depends on the size of the stone. The more symmetrical the stones are, the easier it will be. Plan them out on paper and lay them out before you begin.

How Much Does A Stone Driveway Cost?

Depending on the type of stone you use, a stone driveway will cost an average of $2 to $5 per square foot. If you do the work yourself, the cost will be much less as labor is half the cost of installing a stone driveway.

Is A Stone Driveway Cheaper Than Asphalt? 

Gravel is the cheapest type of driveway. As far as stone vs asphalt goes, the cost is similar. The difference is that the big machinery that you need for asphalt can add to the cost. 

How Do I Edge A Stone Driveway?

Unlike gravel, stone driveways do not need edging. But feel free to add it. Railroad tiles and oblong stones can be good for edging a stone driveway. For a cheap and easy option, use CMUs.

How Long Does A Stone Driveway Last? 

A stone driveway can last up to 100 years if taken care of. Driveways in mild climates will last longer on average than those with flooding and ice on a regular basis.

Is A Stone Driveway Different Than A Gravel Driveway?

Yes. A stone driveway uses larger stones that pave the pathway. But a gravel driveway uses gravel that is poured over the area. Gravel is cheaper but stone is high-end. 

Final Word

When you own a detached single-family or multiunit house, your property maintenance responsibilities don’t end at your threshold. You’re not just the king or queen of your personal castle – you’re also lord of the outdoor domain within your property lines. Installing a gravel (or asphalt, concrete, or stone) driveway is just one of the many projects you’re likely to tackle outside the walls of your house during your tenure as a homeowner.

Are you planning a gravel driveway project in the near future? Will you go the DIY route or hire a professional to help?

How Much Does a Gravel Driveway Cost?

The cost of a gravel driveway can vary, from about $1 per square foot to over $3 per square foot. Even at the high end, however, a gravel driveway is still about the least expensive driveway you can build.

One major factor in the discrepancy is how far the gravel has to be trucked. Another factor is the thickness of the driveway.

construction process of a gravel driveway

As with all types of hardscaping, the preparation and installation process for gravel driveways is very important to ensure a lasting job. Four are the steps for gravel driveway installation. First is the excavation of the ground, second the installation of the geotextile membrane, then the laying of the sub-base material, and finally the laying of the gravel. Below, we will describe you step by step the construction process.

Excavation process

Also, attention must be paid to level the surface Firstly is the ground inspection and excavation in-depth 5cm – 20cm. The depth depends on the consistency of the ground and if there were any previous driveways or patios there. The use of a tiller makes the process easier as it looses up the soil and the digging process becomes faster.

Also, attention must be paid to level the surface of the driveway; any remaining soft area is removed and filled with compacted sub-base material. All this is important because any areas that are deeper than other areas may later lead to water pooling and cause mud puddles that have to be filled in with more gravel afterwards.

At the end of the excavation process, we should compact the dirt. That is possible with a compactor machine or driving over the area several times with a heavy vehicle.

installation of the geotextile membrane

In the second step, the geotextile membrane should be placed betweenThe amount of the weed barrier should cover comple the excavated area and the sub-base. The reason for laying a geotextile membrane is to help prevent weeds from growing through the pebble after installation. Also, to prevent the soil binding to the base stone, which could affect drainage negatively in the future.

The amount of the weed barrier should cover completely or exceed the surface of the driveway. One more function of the geotextile membrane is to separate the sub-base material with the ground and to allow the passage of the water. That is essential, especially in areas where the ground conditions are poor.

laying the sub-base material

The third step includes the laying of the sub-base and is the most crucial part of the driveway construction. The sub-base helps to spread the weight of traffic from above and creates a solid Depending on the size of vehicles using the drivewlayer resistant to rutting and channelisation. This defines the load-bearing ability of the driveway.

Depending on the size of vehicles using the driveway, its depth varies from 10cm to 15cm.

The consistency of sub-base is crushed rock graded from 40mm down to dust. Different sizes ensure that the material interlocks when compacted while still remaining permeable to water. In countries like Ireland, where the flooding issues become more prevalent, that is of high importance.

All sub-bases should be installed in thin layers and compacted with a vibrating roller or wacker plate to ensure full compaction throughout the sub-base layer.

Finally, on this step can be placed any desired edging that can work as a visual border, and creates a barrier between the driveway and lawn.

laying the gravel

Laying the gravel, that is the complete process, can be considered as the easiest step compared to the previous ones.

The purpose of the gravel is to give a decorative finisImportant to mention is that the size of the graveh to the driveway, and its laying should not be too deep. An excessive quantity of gravel increases the cost of the project and the time for its completion. Also, it does not benefit the performance of the finished driveway. For these reasons, the depth of the gravel should be between 3cm and 4cm.

Important to mention is that the size of the gravel should be around 2cm. Smaller than 1cm dimensions could get stack in car tyres and is better to avoid.

At last, the area should be graded in such a way that gravels peak in the middle of the driveway and incline slightly to the sides. The middle part should be by 2% to 5% higher than the sides. This structure helps to promote water drainage.

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