Whether out of necessity or by design, gravel driveways are practical and attractive additions to just about any property. However, unlike their asphalt or concrete counterparts, gravel drives do require some additional routine maintenance that should be performed more often than upkeep on other driveway surfaces.
Gravel driveways provide a functional aspect to your property by allowing for a reasonably quick and efficient surface to be installed on which to drive. The preparation for both gravel and hard-surface driveways is essentially the same.
However, with a gravel drive, once the gravel is put down you are done; a paved drive requires a few more steps. Gravel also allows for excellent traction in wet, icy, or snowy conditions.
Unlike hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt, which tend to freeze and glaze over in wintry conditions, gravel provides a subsurface for traction during inclement conditions. As gravel is available in a variety of colors and sizes, the design element of gravel is almost unlimited.
Gravel is available in a variety of colors and shades. From dark greys and browns to lighter shades of both colors and even reds and pinks, gravel is a unique and attractive means of complementing a landscape design.
Many times the colors available are dependent upon the geographical region in which they are purchased. Gravel is also available in a variety of sizes and shapes. The crush size will be determined by the quarry producing the gravel and may range from large individual pieces up to and including several inches to finer crushes known as crush and run gravel. There is even tumbled gravel, or ornamental gravel, which resembles river rock and pebbles.
There are several benefits to using gravel as a driveway surface. As opposed to a harder surface material, gravel is relatively easy to maintain. Instead of having to repair cracks, chips and holes with more hard materials, gravel simply requires a good raking.
As gravel acts much as a fluid and will spread away from areas of constant impact and travel, it will be necessary to periodically smooth areas with gravel that has become displaced. However, as this may sound extensive, there is rarely a need to purchase more gravel and when it does become necessary, it is typically much cheaper than a repaving job.
When planning and installing a gravel driveway, it is important to plan and design the subsurface in much the same way as with a hard surface driveway. The ground, or sub layer, should be graded to allow for adequate water runoff.
There should also be consideration given to proper grade and compaction of the ground. These steps will prevent water from puddling and will prevent the gravel from simply sinking into the ground.
Regardless of the type of gravel to be used, a good subsurface of crush and run, which is a finely crushed gravel, will help the chosen top surface to remain intact and last longer. The crush and run forms an almost concretelike hard surface when wet, upon which the top surface of gravel rests.
When it does become necessary to perform maintenance on your gravel drive, a rake may be all that’s necessary to smooth holes or uneven areas. You may also want to consider using a tractor-operated box scrape.
This device attaches to the back of a tractor and scrapes the gravel smooth. The scrape picks up excess gravel and deposits it in lower uneven areas.
As gravel provides an excellent surface for most drive way applications, there are some situations in which gravel may not be particularly appropriate. For example, a driveway with a steep grade may not be suitable for gravel. Run off water may wash the gravel and form ruts as it travels down hill. The result will be ruts which are cut to the bare ground and form slick areas which may provide for rough or no travel.
Many landscapers and designers have found that by using gravel and overall effect is achieved in regard to the total landscape. Complementing or contrasting colors may be implemented which can result in dramatic effects on both homes and grounds.
It is also possible to achieve different effects by using different typed of gravel. For example, a beach home may be greatly benefited by a smaller earth toned pebble which may resemble tumbled gravel found on a beach.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a formal style building in perhaps a federal style may benefit more from a larger white marble gravel. Regardless of the architectural style, there is most likely a color, size or type of gravel to accentuate the design.
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Pea Stone vs. Gravel Driveway
A driveway is not only functional, but adds beauty and value to a home and garden. Whether a dirt track or an elaborate work of art, a driveway says much about the homeowner’s pride in his surroundings. The medium you choose for your driveway depends on your budget, the length and width of your driveway, and the type of substrate on which you plan to lay it. Both pea stone and crushed-rock gravel driveways are practical and attractive
Pea Stone Properties
Pea stone, also known as pea gravel, consists of small, rounded stones of half an inch in size or smaller, washed smooth by river water into a round or egg shape. Commonly used as a mix in concrete, pea gravel is also found in filtration and drainage systems. The variety of colors available makes it a popular choice for landscaping, and its smoothness provides a safe surface for children’s play areas and dog runs.
A variety of different types of gravel exists, usually made from crushed limestone, dolomite or granite. Other types of gravel are deposits from riverbeds and shorelines. Granite gravel, in particular, is commonly used on surfaces that support high traffic or heavy vehicles. Most washed stone gravel is gray in color and ranges in size from one-quarter of an inch to three-quarters of an inch.
A pea stone driveway is smoother and more textured than a crushed stone driveway. Set in soil or clay, it provides a surface with more resilience than a concrete driveway. The colors make it possible to create patterns in the gravel, or to use a shade that blends in with the exterior color of the home or other features in the landscape.
Crushed stone gravel, however, is more economical and can be compacted to provide a more solid surface, without the use of concrete. The hard-wearing properties of granite gravel give it a longer life span than other types of gravel.
The main differences between pea stone and other types of gravel are the size of the stones and the smoothness of the pea gravel compared to the roughness of crushed rock. In addition, the formation of pea gravel by natural processes over many years means it is not a renewable resource and therefore its use is not particularly environmentally friendly.
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How to Lay a Gravel Driveway
The first thing you should do even before you start putting down gravel is to scrape and level the roadway. This is actually the most important part of putting in a driveway. It will prevent the gravel from washing off the driveway in the first rainstorm and keep water from pooling up anywhere. If you have a long driveway it is a good idea to just rent a Bobcat or some other small tractor. If the driveway is short you can probably do it by hand.
Using the rented equipment or a shovel remove the top layer of soil along where the driveway will go. If there are any large rocks sticking up through where you want the driveway you’ll have to remove them or risk ruining your vehicle when they pop further out of the ground and start scraping the bottom of your car.
Slightly angling the road base toward one side instead of leaving it perfectly horizontal will prevent water from building up on the surface when it rains. It’s always a good idea when installing a driveway to dig a trench and put a 4″-12″ PVC pipe in it crossing the driveway.
This is extremely handy if you ever have to run an extension cord or anything else across your driveway for Christmas lights or a weed eater. If laying a pipe across the driveway fill in the trench afterwards with soil and press it down well.
After the driveway is scraped and that dirt deposited elsewhere you’ll need to make sure the surface is solid. Renting a compactor will save you money in the long run by making it so you don’t have to redo the entire driveway in just a couple of years.
The more compacted and solid the base is the more solid your driveway will be. If unable to rent a compactor driving back and forth over the driveway with your vehicle will help a little. Make sure the driveway is level and has no high or low spots after all this.
Now get a load of gravel. Either have it delivered or go get it with your own truck. If having it delivered make sure you have an area near the driveway where it can be easily dumped. The gravel you use should be coarse and angular not something like pee gravel.
Angular gravel will lock in on itself and keep itself in place much better. Get enough gravel to cover your driveway to a depth of at least four inches.
Next, it’s a really good idea to lay landscaping fabric over the driveway. This will prevent the gravel from mixing with the soil below it and also prevent some of the ever present weeds from popping through. Use large rocks or small piles of gravel to hold down the fabric and prevent it from flying away before you lay the gravel on top.
If the gravel is still in the back of your vehicle you’ve really made your life easier. You don’t have to take quite so many trips with a wheelbarrow since you have use the vehicle to drop off the gravel along the driveway.
If this is the case, have someone driving the truck and also someone with a shovel in the back. Slowly pull the truck away as the person in the back of the truck pushes the gravel out onto the road. To prevent making more work for yourself try to get the gravel spread evenly and in the right amount so you don’t have to move it as much by hand.
After dumping most of the gravel on the driveway or if doing the driveway by hand fill a wheelbarrow with gravel, grab a shovel and a garden rake and start working down the driveway. Rake the gravel so that it is in an even layer over the road surface. Use the gravel in the wheelbarrow as needed to fill in any bare patches.
After getting the gravel onto the driveway you’ll need to pack it down evenly. Use a compactor or drive your vehicle back and forth over it. When the gravel has wedged itself into a nice compact mass you’re all done.
Tips & Warnings
Modern building equipment is extremely easy to use. If you haven’t used any before just inform the people at the rental agency so they can show you have to use the piece you are renting.
It is possible to install a driveway a little at a time. This isn’t the preferred method but leveling a section at a time and then coating it with gravel is possible. This makes it possible to install a gravel driveway even for those who aren’t physically able to install an entire one in a weekend or for those who don’t have enough time to work in a large block of time.
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