No matter whether your home is in a rural, suburban, or urban environment, gravel driveways are a good paving option due to the durability, affordability, and ease of installation.
- Best Types of Gravel for Driveways
- Advantages and Disadvantages to Gravel Driveway
- Installing a Gravel Driveway
You may not be aware but there is a large variety of shapes, colours, and textures for the gravel itself and that there are some ways in which you can make your gravel driveway last longer.
We have also included a step-by-step of how to install a gravel driveway so that you know what goes into the formation of gravel driveways.
We also have some tips on how to keep a gravel driveway well maintained and some simple mistakes to avoid when either choosing the gravel to use, installing it, or keeping it strong.
Read on to learn more all about gravel driveways!
Best Types of Gravel for Driveways
Choosing the stones that make up your gravel driveway is about much more than just what they look like. It is important to think about how easy they are to drive on, what layer of the driveway they suit best and whether they will be able to drain water effectively.
As there are so many different factors to consider in terms of both practicality and personal preference, doing research into the perfect stones and gravel will help you to decide what will work best for your driveway.
- Crushed stone
Crushed stone is made from a mixture of small rocks and coarse sand. Crushed stone comes in many different colours and sizes so that you can decide exactly what you want the stones on your driveway to look like. Because crushed stones are versatile, durable, and affordable, this makes it a great option for gravel driveways and is arguably the most popular option.
A crushed stone driveway is made from lots of small rocks and sand, making it look less uniformed than other driveway options. This creates more of a relaxed look and is perfect for a home’s driveway.
- Washed stone
Usually, crushed stone will not be washed so has the potential to contain dirt and dust. With a washed stone driveway, any of the unwanted debris is removed to create a smooth and clean look compared to the more natural look of crushed stone.
The two types are, however, similar in texture but the overall appearance of washed stone is arguably more attractive than other types of gravel driveways.
- Pea gravel
Pea gravel is made from small smooth stones that usually have a smooth texture. Similarly, to other types of gravel, pea gravel comes in a variety of colours. They typically are small and round in shape, hence the name pea gravel.
Because of their small shape, they are easy to drive and walk on which makes it a popular choice for gravel driveways. As they are small, however, they do need some form of edging to hold all the stones in place and stop them from washing away.
- Marble chips
These are chips that have a sharper texture and also come in different shapes and sizes. They give a more contemporary feel and can sometimes sparkle and shimmer in the sun because of their texture and look. This makes them appear aesthetically pleasing as each of the chips look uniformed and tidy on the driveway.
Similarly, to pea gravel, marble chips will also need edging to hold them in place and to prevent them from being washed away. The downside to marble chips, however, is that they can be more expensive than other types of gravel due to the material they are made from.
- Quarry stone
Quarry stone is made from a mixture of stone dust and crushed stone that bind together to form a compacted gravel. It is mostly made from crushed granite, limestone, or trap rock. Because it is made from different types of stone, quarry stone gravel makes a strong and durable driveway.
For proper drainage and to minimise damage to the driveway, the middle of a quarry stone driveway needs to be higher than the sides so that water can properly drain off the driveway.
Advantages and Disadvantages to Gravel Driveways
When deciding what kind of driveway that you want, you should always consider the advantages and disadvantages to each kind of material. Gravel driveways are a popular choice so we are going to share with you the advantages and disadvantages so that you can decide if it is the best decision for you and your needs or wants.
- Cost – gravel is a cheaper option compared to concrete, asphalt, or other paved surfaces. Even though there is some maintenance required with gravel driveways, it makes up for it in the money that you will save by choosing gravel over other options.
- Maintenance – as just mentioned, there is maintenance required when you chose gravel for your driveway. This is minimal however as there are only a few tasks that you need to do all you need to do, for example replacing the stones or chips when they sink because of water or the amount of weight that they have undergone.
You may need to replace gravel that ends up being removed from your driveway such as when it is removed when cars and people come on and off the driveway often. Other than this, the maintenance of a gravel driveway is minimum.
- Installation – the installation process for gravel driveways is simple compared to other types of driveway. The benefit to installing this type of driveway is that it can be used straight away compared to other types which have to set and cure before they can be used. For a more detailed explanation of how to install a gravel driveway you can read it here, see the below section ‘installing a gravel driveway’.
- Water drainage – gravel driveways are good at draining water. The stones allow water to dissipate into the ground without influencing the function of the driveway. Other materials, such as paved driveways can trap water which could cause cracks which could lead to expensive damage that will also take time to fix.
- Extreme weather conditions – during the winter seasons when there is frequent snow and ice landing and freezing on the driveway, this can cause problems for a gravel driveway. As a gravel driveway is not smooth, removing snow and ice so that it is safe to drive and walk on can be difficult.
If you try to remove snow with a shovel, then you may end up removing large amounts of your gravel. To remove snow or ice you can spread grit salt over the driveway to melt it or add sand on top of the gravel to get a grip with your tyres.
- Ruts – when a driveway is heavily used, it can develop ruts. Ruts are patches in the driveway that do not have any gravel in due to high levels of use. This can create an unkept and unattractive appearance. Because of these ruts, you may want to fill in the driveway with more gravel which could be an unwanted cost.
- Migrating gravel – the main criticism for gravel driveways is that your gravel and stones can end up migrating from where they were placed. They can end up in flower beds, onto the grass lawn, in the house, in the car and on the street.
The fact that the stones and gravel move around also lead to the ruts that were just mentioned. It also leaves the driveway looking messy and means that you could end up picking up stones everywhere you go.
- Dirty – gravel can be quite a dirty option in terms of driveway surfaces. Particularly in the summer months when the dirt and dust dry up, your driveway could end up looking untidy.
The dirt may also mean that you need to clean your driveway more frequently which takes more time than other driveway options which do not need cleaning as much.
- Rough finish – the final drawback to gravel driveways is that because they have a particular finish, it can be difficult to walk over when wearing certain shoes, when pushing a wheelchair or pushchair, and when riding a bike.
Installing a Gravel Driveway
In this section we are going to talk about the steps to installing a gravel driveway including the materials and tools needed and how to lay the driveway. This is so you can have all the information that you need to lay your driveway yourself or to decide whether you want to hire someone to do it for you.
Learning about the different types of gravel out there (as above) and how gravel driveways are installed will help you to make the decision as to whether you want your driveway to be made from gravel or another material.
- Shovels and spades
- Long tape measure
- String and wooden pegs for alignment
- Spirit level
- A rake
- Safety equipment and clothing
- Gravel mats
- Block paving (for edges if needed)
- Sand and cement (for edges if needed)
- Membrane to protect against weeds
- Prepare the area
You will need to prepare the driveway area so that any materials from the old driveway is removed. When any other materials are removed, you should make sure that the depth for the driveway is around 5 inches deep.
It should be noted here that a well prepped and dug out area will make for a better driveway as they can quickly sink with a high usage. You want to start with the best area possible to make sure that your driveway lasts.
If you are creating an edge for the driveway then make sure that it is all laid and dry before you install the rest of the driveway.
- Install the Sub-Base
Installing a sub-base is important as it helps the driveway to support heavy loads. It acts as a solid foundation to stop the gravel from sinking and to spread the weight of cars moving over it. You should take the time to make sure that this is done correctly otherwise your driveway will not last long.
Firstly, however, you will need to lay down the membrane to protect against weeds. You can then lay the sub-base to protect the driveway.
For a level sub-base, you can hammer in wooden pegs so that you can clearly see the level of the sub-base then can rake it flat and remove the pegs. You can also check how flat it is by using the spirit level.
To make sure that the area is compact and ready for the gravel then you can use the wacker-plate to remove any bumps to ensure a smooth surface.
- Lay the Gravel Mats
Gravels mats ensure that your gravel stays in place, which is needed especially if your driveway is on a slope. They neatly interlock together so you can place them all over the base of the driveway. When you get close to the edges you can snap or trim them to fit. When this step is complete, you are ready for the gravel itself.
- Lay the Gravel
After the hard work installing the base layers you can complete the most satisfying part of installing a driveway. The gravel itself. Evenly pour the gravel out by layering the different stones how you please.
You may want to give it a rake to make sure that the stones and gravel nestle into the gravel mats nicely. It may also need to quick hose to wash away any dust from the gravel bags but then it is good to go and use straight away.
It is also a good idea to make sure that there is more gravel in the middle of the driveway to help with water drainage.
We have mentioned adding edging to your driveway, but you may be wondering what we mean by this. An edge to your driveway could be stones, wood, bricks, or concrete that lines your driveway to keep the gravel and stones in and to help with drainage.
Adding an edge to gravel driveways helps to eliminate the risk of untamed gravel ending up in other places as we mentioned as a disadvantage.
Any type of edging will require a small amount of maintenance to ensure that it stays in working order. This means checking for gaps and filling them in or adding in more materials if necessary. They should also be set correctly so that it all stays put if accidently driven over. Doing this will help both the edging and driveway itself last longer so it is important to think about and check regularly.
We listed maintenance of gravel driveways as an advantage of the material. This does not mean that there is no maintenance required to keep your gravel driveway in good condition. There are a few things that you can do to keep your driveway looking good and performing well.
The growth of weeds is a gravel driveway nightmare. They ruin the look of your driveway and can be difficult to remove if they have grown under the layers that you put down when installing the driveway. Therefore, we should stress the importance of the membrane we mentioned earlier that stops the weeds from growing.
In terms of weeds, preventing them in the first place is the best way to ensure that you will not have to worry about them growing on your driveway.
Weeds with a lightweight root system may still be able to grow on the gravel layer and grow horizontally. Because of this you may find yourself spraying a weed killer over your driveway. You could also remove the weeds by hand if you do not like weed killer, but this comes with
more maintenance as you may need to do this frequently.
You may need to rake or top up your gravel due to the spreading that occurs when your driveway is walked or driven over often. This little maintenance job will stop the gravel from being in places that it shouldn’t be in such as your garden lawn where it could cause damage to equipment such as lawn mowers or on the street where they could be transported far away from your home, wasting your money.
By raking and maintaining your driveway you can keep all the gravel where it should be and can fill in any gaps if necessary, keeping the driveway looking tidy and in good condition.
This refers to when gravel sets in areas where it gets a lot of use. For example, if you notice tyre tracks in a certain area then the gravel that has bedded in will create poor drainage. This means that the particular area with a lot of gravel may fill with rainwater and cause a breakdown in the driveway surface.
You can deal with this by breaking apart the area that has been bedded in into smaller granules again, allowing the surface to smooth itself out or you can top it up depending on how much the driveway is used.
Mistakes to Avoid
Installing a gravel driveway does take some time, however this option is cheaper than other driveways and results in an attractive looking driveway. As you need to take care when installing your gravel driveway, there are some mistakes to look out for and avoid ensuring that your driveway lasts for as long as possible.
- Spongy Bed
Preparing the ground that you are installing the driveway on is important. If the ground is a soft soil that has roots, leaves, grass, and weeds on then this creates a spongy surface which will affect the integrity of the finished driveway. You want to make sure that you start with a strong surface.
- Poor Drainage
A poorly levelled driveway will become waterlogged, meaning the gravel and stones will weaken and separate. You want to make sure that water can drain effectively off your driveway so you can add more gravel in the middle of the driveway so the water can flow down the sides.
- Failure to Use Edges
We have discussed the importance of edges to stop the gravel and stones from escaping to where you do not want them. This is a simple mistake to avoid as there are many different options for edging so you can choose what suits you and your driveway best.
- Using the Wrong Size and Shape Gravel
You want to make sure that you are using gravel that suits what you want out of your driveway so it will last longer. For example, if you use a bike often or need a pushchair or wheelchair then you will want to avoid small and sharp stones that may look nice and compact, however, they could damage tyres. Equally, stones that are very rounded will be harder to drive and walk on as they sink easily and can roll underfoot.
You also want to think about the look that you are aiming for. A patterned gravel driveway will take time to lie perfectly then will be ruined when cars drive over it or when it is walked over. A path with steppingstones, for example, would be a better option for patterned gravel as they will be trodden on less.
- Base Layers Not Compacted
Your driveway will be made from different layers that all need to be compact and secure to ensure that the driveway lasts for as long as possible. Without compact layers, the driveway will not retain its shape which means that you will have to spend more time and potentially money to keep your driveway in working order when usually, gravel driveways are low maintenance.
To summarise, gravel is a great option for your driveway material. They are one of the cheaper options that if installed and maintained well, results in a long-lasting driveway that also looks appealing. You can choose the gravel and stones that you like the most depending on your needs and wants to create the perfect driveway.
By reading this article you should be able to make an informed decision on whether you want a gravel driveway. This is based on all the information we have provided not only on advantages and disadvantages but also what types of gravel to look out for, the installation process, and what materials/tools you may need to do the job.