Gravel driveway

Gravel is a popular choice when it comes to driveways, and not just because of how cheap it is. Gravel driveways are fairly easy to install, are low maintenance and have a warmer, more natural look than other options such as concrete or Tarmac. Gravel also comes in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours, giving you plenty of options if you want to do something creative!

Although gravel driveway installation can be a fairly simple project to plan out, there is a great deal of physical labour involved. Because of this, and depending on how much experience you have with this kind of work, you may want to hire a landscape designer or driveway specialist to handle your project. A local builder should also be able to do the work, though you should also make sure that they have worked on this kind of project in the past.

Gravel driveway

Planning out a gravel driveway

The first step, naturally, will be to choose the location for your new driveway. Look around the space you have available, considering the size and shape that you want. 

When choosing your space, pay attention to the gradient of the ground and whether there will be any potential issues with drainage. Since you are using gravel, a permeable material, this should not be too much of a problem and you should not require planning permission. However, depending on the location of your driveway you may still want to have a surveyor examine the area before you start clearing anything away.

The next step will be to mark the area out. This will make the job much easier than having to constantly go back and measure where you are; simply drive landscape stakes into the ground every eight foot or so along the length of the border. Once this is done, drive a second set of stakes in, with one every 10 feet across the width of the driveway.

Once you have your area properly laid out, measure it one more time and write down the exact length and width. If you are laying a round driveway, or if your driveway will need to curve, measure the area out in sections to make sure that you have all of the space you need.

Gravel driveway

Preparing to lay a gravel driveway

Before you can start creating your driveway, you should know exactly what you want to build in terms of materials and layers. It is a fact that having several layers of gravel and assorted stone sizes will create a more stable driveway, though this will increase the costs of your job, as well as the physical work involved.

At this point you will also need to decide whether you will be doing most of the work yourself. As we mentioned previously, creating a driveway is not necessarily complicated but can be physically exhausting. Depending on how much of this you are willing to do, you may want to hire a local builder or driveway specialist to take on some or all of the work. 

To make your job pass smoothly and efficiently, you will need to carefully decide on what materials to buy. You should be aware of the length and width of your work area, and each layer of gravel will be around half a foot deep. After deciding on how many layers to use, calculate the area (length x width x depth) and order enough gravel accordingly. If you have decided to have several layers of your gravel, it can be useful to have the materials arrive a few days apart, as this will give you enough time to install a layer and let it settle before continuing on.

Depending on the company you order your gravel from, there could be several options open to you in terms of gravel size, shape and colour. If you fancy something different, take your time when choosing your gravel and create something unique for your top layer!

There are a few simple tools that you will need for laying your gravel driveway. The first is a rigid rake, a shovel, a wheelbarrow and a thick pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands. While these are simply and cheap to buy, it will be wiser to rent any heavy equipment you need for this project. This should include a mechanical compactor and a backhoe, though if you do not have experience in using this kind of equipment then you are advised to leave this stage to a professional driveway specialist.

Gravel driveway

Laying a gravel driveway

Now that the area is prepared, it’s finally time to start filling it with gravel! To make things as easy as possible, give the delivery people plenty of access to your work area, and ask if they can spread the gravel out over the space instead of dumping it in a big pile. 

You will need to lay the gravel out evenly across your driveway, so start by placing even piles of gravel along the length using your wheelbarrow. You can then use either your shovel rake to even distribute the gravel across the rest of the driveway. Finally, use your mechanical compactor to press the gravel down.

Depending on the number of layers that you are adding to your driveway, you may repeat this process several times. On your final layer, pool a few rocks around the centre of the area before pressing them down. This will create a grading that will promote drainage, but do not add too much: at the centre, your driveway should only be around 2-5% higher than elsewhere.

Now that your gravel driveway is finished, try to keep an eye on it going forward. If any gravel is displaced, rake it back into the centre of your driveway, and try to make sure that no bare patches emerge.