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Pros and Cons of a Gravel Driveway

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gravel driveway
Photo courtesy David Reber's Hammer Photography @ flickr/Creative Commons
Gravel driveways are very popular in some areas, and very hard to find in others. In many rural areas, gravel is the material of choice for both driveways and roadways. It is not uncommon to have gravel driveways leading to concrete garage floors. Here is some information that should help you decide if you want a gravel driveway, or, if you already have one, how to take care of it.

What Is Gravel?

Natural gravel can technically be defined as loose rock or stone that is larger than sand but smaller than cobble, which means it can range from about 1/10 inch to 2.5 inches in diameter. The gravel used for driveways, however, is more often a processed product, consisting of rocks, sand and clay. This mixture has a major advantage over plain rocks in that it compacts much better into a stable surface.

How To Maintain a Gravel Driveway

Gravel driveways require very little maintenance. The surface should be regraded from time to time, and weeds should be picked when they appear. Loose rocks that have strayed from the driveway surface should be tossed back on the driveway, and low spots should be filled in with additional gravel.

How Long Will a Gravel Driveway Last?

With proper care and maintenance, a gravel driveway can last up to 100 years. That's because there's just so little that can go wrong with gravel. Unlike a solid asphalt or concrete driveway, it's not going to crack or sink. Water passes right through, eliminating water problems.

What Does a Gravel Driveway Cost?

The cost of a gravel driveway can vary, from under $1 per square foot to over $3 per square foot. Even at the high end, however, it's still about the least expensive driveway you can build. One big factor in the discrepancy is how far the gravel has to be trucked. Another is the thickness of the driveway.

How Is a Gravel Driveway Built?

It is possible to create a rudimentary gravel driveway simply to having a dump truck unload some crushed rock where you want it. But the added cost of building a proper gravel driveway usually pays for itself many times over in the lifespan of the driveway. First, strip the topsoil and place landscaping (geotextile) fabric over the intended driveway surface. Quickly cover the fabric with a 4-inch layer of gravel to keep it in place. Fist-sized rocks should be used for this first layer. Add a second 4-inch layer of gravel roughly the size of golf balls, followed by a third layer of marble-sized gravel. Compact each layer well before adding the next one. Grade the gravel from a high spot in the center to the edges.
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