Now is the perfect time to think about installing a new gravel driveway. Because gravel is such a versatile material, the installation process is straightforward. In addition, the longevity of this material will make your investment worthwhile.
Unlike constructing an asphalt or concrete driveway, which nearly always requires the labor of a skilled professional, many homeowners make the decision to install a gravel front drive on their own. As long as you’re aware of the time, labor and steps required for such a project, you should be able to enjoy your new driveway for many years to come.
To ensure that you understand every aspect of the installation process, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to a making a beautiful gravel driveway.
DIY Gravel Driveway Installation
In order for your gravel driveway installation to go off without a hitch, you will need to employ the following tools and materials:
- Landscape Stakes
- String, Twine, or Similar
- Tamping Device
- Crushed Stone
- Landscaping Fabric
For very large driveways, you may want to consider special equipment rentals. Utility machines like a Bobcat can help to simplify the excavation process while a mechanical roller or tamping machine can ease the burden of compacting your gravel.
Step 1: Decide on a Layout
It’s important to take the time to carefully plan out a layout that suits your tastes and will work well within the scope of your property. Those with homes set back further away from the road tend to look best with a narrower driveway, whether it be parallel or winding.
Houses that are closer to the road are complemented by wider driveways, generally either rectangular or circular. If desired, you may choose to speak with an exterior design specialist to determine the layout that will appear the most attractive.
Step 2: Mark the Boundaries
Once you’ve made a decision with regard to the overall design of your driveway, you’ll need to prepare for the installation by carefully marking your boundaries. Make certain that you keep the width of the driveway even throughout both for safety and for aesthetics.
Use your landscape stakes to contour the perimeter and use string to create a visual line to follow throughout the excavation process. This is best done with at least two sets of eyes so that you can be sure that everything appears uniform.
Step 3: Determine Driveway Depth
Before you can begin to clear away the soil to make way for your gravel driveway, you’ll need to figure out how deep you’d like it to be. Keep in mind that you’ll need to install 3 different layers of crushed stone in order to complete the project, and that each layer should be 4-6″ in depth. This means that your driveway should be between 12-18″ deep.
Step 4: Excavate the Area
After you’re sure that your driveway is laid out and marked with precision, and you have settled on a depth, you’re ready to move into the excavation phase. While some homeowners don’t mind using some elbow grease and excavating the area with a shovel and hauling the soil away in a wheelbarrow, others prefer to rent special equipment to simplify and speed up the process.
Step 5: Calculate Your Materials Needs
Having the ability to accurately calculate how much of each type of crushed rock that you need for your project is crucial to completing the job on time and on budget. Purchasing too much stone will cause you to waste money, while buying too little will bring your project to a halt while you have to wait for a secondary order.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a mathematician to figure it out. By taking advantage of a reliable online materials calculator, you can quickly find out the correct volume of materials to purchase in both cubic yards and cubic tons. All you need to do is enter the length, width and depth of your project area and the calculator will do the rest.
Remember to enter in the measurements for each layer separately. If you’re working with a rounded or curved coverage area, it’s wise to seek assistance from a professional.
Step 6: Prep the Driveway Base
Even after the excavation phase has been completed and you’ve figured out how much stone to buy, there’s still work to be done before you can start pouring the materials into the driveway area. In order for your gravel driveway to have a solid and firm foundation, it needs to be carefully tamped or compacted down and all weeds, roots and other debris need to be removed.
It’s also a good idea at this point to lay down a layer of landscaping fabric. This will prevent weeds and other unwanted vegetation from penetrating through to the surface and compromising structural integrity.
Step 7: Strategically Install & Compact Each Layer
This particular step is very important. Remember that you need to install three separate layers – a base layer comprised of large rocks, a secondary layer of slightly smaller rocks and finally the top gravel layer. After being poured into the driveway, each layer will need to be tightly compacted with heavy machinery or even by driving back and forth across it with your vehicle.
This is what will keep the drive strong throughout the years. Remember to schedule your materials deliveries in stages so that you don’t end up with a huge cluster of jumbled stone scattered throughout your property. Be sure to also inquire as to whether or not your delivery service will pour the stone into your driveway or whether you will be required to do this manually on your own as this will make a difference in time and labor.
Step 8: Crown the Surface
Water is the mortal enemy of a gravel driveway. To keep the gravel from washing away and to prevent ruts and potholes from forming, it’s in your best interest to grade the crushed stone in such a way that it “crowns” or peaks in the middle of the driveway, creating a slight slope off to either side. To keep your driveway in the best shape possible, be sure to restore the peak with a rake every several months, or as needed.
DIY vs. Hiring a Contractor
After reading all of these steps, you may find yourself second-guessing your ability or desire to install your own gravel driveway. Even so, it’s important to know what to expect from a professional contractor so that you can be sure the work is being done properly.
Keep in mind that hiring a contractor will cost you more money, but the job is likely to be done faster and will save you a lot of work. It’s up to you to assess that value. Should you hire a contractor, be sure to insist on one that is experienced in gravel driveway installations and has a reputation for professionalism, honesty, and efficiency.
For more tips on purchasing materials and installing your new gravel driveway, get in touch with the experts at Braen Stone. Our team of stone specialists can help you to choose the right stone for your drive and to accurately calculate your materials needs.
We offer a wide variety of crushed stone and gravel available for whole prices. Our stone can be bulk delivered to job sites throughout parts of NJ, NY, PA and CT.