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Pros and Cons of a Stone Driveway

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stone driveway
Photo courtesy sustainescapes @ flickr/Creative Commons
In a world (seemingly) filled with solid concrete and asphalt driveways, stone can seem downright quaint. Perhaps that's because it pretty much epitomizes the idea of quaint. Stone has been used on driveways, walkways and paths of all kinds for centuries. And, though it makes for one of the least expensive driveway options, a nicely designed and built stone driveway can actually make a grand old house appear even grander.

Yes, those loose stones can cause some problems. Cars may drag them into the garage, and humans may drag them into the house, but these are easily fixed problems. Loose stones in snow country can be a bigger problem, avoidable if you keep the plow or shovel above the stones.

What Is Stone?

Sounds like a silly question, doesn't it? Everybody knows what a stone is, but when it comes to driveways, patios, sidewalks and other surfaces, choosing the right kind of stone can really make a difference. Although it is common to use terms like gravel, crushed rock and stone interchangeably, it is useful to recognize the somewhat different driveways you can get with these different materials.

Gravel driveways are often composed of a mixture of rocks, sand and clay, which is compacted into a reasonably stable surface. A stone driveway typically is just that, loose stones, usually dumped over a gravel base.

How To Maintain a Stone Driveway

Loose stones will stray, so raking around the edges will be necessary every once in a while. You can cut down on this small chore, however, by building a border for the driveway with bricks or cobblestones. It will also be necessary to smooth and grade the surface regularly; you can use that same rake for the job. Finally, plan to clear any weeds that grow through the stones.

How Long Will a Stone Driveway Last?

A loose stone driveway can last just about forever. Certainly, with the minimal maintenance mentioned above, there's no reason your driveway shouldn't be good as new a century from now.

What Does a Stone Driveway Cost?

Depending on the choice of stone and the depth of the stone and gravel base, plan to spend $1 to $4 per square foot for a stone driveway. You can keep the costs to a minimum by doing much of the work yourself.

How Is a Stone Driveway Built?

A new stone driveway requires that the sod and topsoil be removed, and the surface needs to be graded. Depending on how much stone and gravel you plan to add, you will need to dig at least 6 inches deep, and preferably 10 to 12 inches. Compact the soil, then add a 4 to 8 inch gravel base, topped with 2 to 4 inches of stone. If you are installing a border (highly recommended to contain the loose stones), plan to set the bricks or cobblestones before spreading the stones.
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