How to Build a Gravel Driveway (the right way)

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Gravel driveways have long been favored for their rustic charm and cost-effectiveness. However, not all gravel driveways are created equal. To ensure longevity and functionality, it is crucial to understand selection of the right rock, the installation process, compaction, and the importance of effective drainage.

Selecting the Right Type of Rock

The success of any gravel driveway begins with the rock selection. Different rocks offer varying degrees of stability and durability. Common types of gravel used for driveways in Middle Tennessee include: Crusher Run (or Crush ‘N Run), Chert (a rocky clay material), 57 stone (often used more for pads and drainage), other large rock mostly used as a base layer or for heavy traveled construction roads.

Installation Process

Before dumping gravel, proper site preparation is essential. First, you will want to strip any vegetation where the roadway is going. This helps give the rock a good layer of dirt to sit on and reduce some vegetation growing back through your driveway.

Once the ground is stripped of vegetation, you will want to cut or fill any low/high spots in your driveway. It is always a good idea to compact any dirt used to lift the driveway if more than 4”-6”. Also at this point it is time to think about drainage installation. Culverts and swales are the most familiar options for drainage. It is very important to install drainage to keep water off your gravel driveway. The most common driveway jobs we have are touch-ups that eroded rock due to lack of drainage.

Slopes and Soil Considerations

Another common job we come across is a homeowner with a very steep gravel driveway. While their drainage is not the best when it comes to keeping water off the driveway, often, the problem stems from the slope itself. Water will inherently fall onto the driveway during storms and begin eroding it. Over time it will create rills (or little valleys) because the driveway is so steep and can run faster across it. Some options to remediate this is to install geo-grid to hold rock, concrete, or asphalt.

Another issue you may run into is unsuitable soil. This is where the ground is extremely wet, pumping, or any other reason extra work needs to be done to ensure proper installation. In this situation, over-excavation may be required to dig out all saturated or unsuitable soil. Extra drainage or geo-grid may be required on a case by case situation.

Compaction Techniques

There are two times during your job where you should compact. Once on the subbase (dirt under rock) if you are filling or lifting any spots. The second time is once the rock has been placed in which a smooth roller can be used. If you can get water on the rock before and during rolling, it will set up almost as hard as concrete. However, it can be tricky to get the amount of water needed on a lot of properties and it can be expensive.

Maintenance Tips

While you can take every step in this guide to construct a proper gravel driveway, there is one thing we can guarantee – at some point you will have to do maintenance on it.

The first and most important maintenance you can do is ensure your drainage ditches are all cleared out and water is staying in them. Ensure you clear any debris around culverts so they do not get clogged or overflow the crossing.

The second maintenance you will be required to do is add a load(s) of rock in areas that are low or have eroded over time. This is hopefully something you will not have to do often, but every driveway is different. However, if you find yourself having to constantly re-rock your driveway, you more than likely have a drainage issue or are using the wrong rock.

Building a gravel driveway the right way involves careful planning, proper execution, and ongoing maintenance. By selecting the right rock, understanding the installation process, considering slope, compacting effectively, and ensuring drainage, you will set the foundation for a driveway that stands the test of time.

Remember, no matter how well-installed, a gravel driveway requires a little TLC. Invest the time, and your gravel driveway will be a source of pride and functionality for years to come.

If you need a new driveway installed or a facelift on an existing driveway, request a quote today!

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