Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Gravel Driveway

When it comes to constructing a gravel driveway, there’s no room for error. While taking the necessary steps to properly build a new driveway can significantly improve the look and value of your property, cutting corners and making mistakes can result in problems that cost you a lot of time and money – both now and in the future. It’s crucial, then, that you do everything within your power to make sure that you or your contract get the job done right the first time!

To help you pull off your driveway installation successfully, we’ve put together a list of common gravel driveway construction mistakes, and what should be done to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Inadequate Design Planning

This one is a biggie, and we see it all the time. It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of constructing a new driveway, but that doesn’t mean that you should just dive in, headfirst without carefully planning things out. While you might envision a wide gravel drive in your mind’s eye, for instance, it could be that utilities running beneath your property will demand that the driveway be narrow instead. Without taking the time to plan out your driveway’s design and think things all the way through, you could end up running into cables, pipes and phone lines and create a huge mess.

Do This Instead

Figure out where your driveway will be located, and how you would like it to be laid out. Mark this area off with stakes and twine, marking flags or landscaping paint. Make sure that you like the way the layout looks and then call your utility providers to verify that the location and scope of the driveway won’t interfere with underground equipment.

Mistake #2: Failure to Take Action Against Weeds

After expending all of the time, effort and money required to construct a gravel driveway, the last thing you want is for weeds to grow up from underneath and wreck the whole thing. Weeds not only take away from the beauty of a driveway, but they also create hazards and weaken the structure. This happens when contractors and homeowners cut corners and skip important steps during the installation process.

Do This Instead

When excavating the area for your driveway, take the time to pull weeds from the roots in order to prevent them from growing back. Use a hoe to clear away and roots remaining. Next, apply a layer of landscaping or geo-textile fabric to sit between the bottom of the trench and the stones on top. This will keep weeds and vegetation from growing through, and will also keep pests away from the driveway.

Mistake #3: Missing Layers

Most homeowners are very concerned with how their gravel driveway is going to look, and that means putting a lot of focus on the top layer of stone to be used for the project. This is in no way to downplay the importance of selecting a stone that is both attractive and functional, as this is a vital step. It’s critical, though, that you don’t get so caught up in this aspect of your project that you forget to give any thought the other layers required for a safe and functional driveway.

Do This Instead

A healthy gravel driveway is comprised of three layers: a subbase, a base and the surface. Each layer should be 2″-4″ deep for a total driveway depth of 6″-12″. The subbase layer will need to consist of the largest sized crushed stone, usually 2 1/2″ in diameter or bigger. From here, a slightly smaller sized crushed stone will be needed to be used as a base. Finally, the gravel you choose as your surface material will be poured on the top 3″ of the driveway.

Mistake #4: Insufficient Compaction

It’s not enough to make sure that you’ve got three different layers for your gravel driveway. Some homeowners make the mistake of pouring one type of stone directly on top of the other without first compacting and compressing the original layer. When this happens, gaps and empty voids between the individual stones can cause the gravel and crushed rock to settle. Over time this will negatively impact the appearance, structural integrity and functionality of the driveway.

Do This Instead

When you are done pouring a layer of rock into the driveway bed, make sure that you take the time to thoroughly compact the stone. We suggest using a roller or driving a vehicle over the surface of the stones until they are firmly pressed into place. In some cases you might even consider pouring stone dust or fines into the rock mixture in order to further eliminate voids.

Mistake #5: Poor Drainage

One of the biggest problems that homeowners face with gravel driveways is water. This is an especially big issue for those of us who live in NJ and NY where we’re so prone to rain from the springtime through to the fall. Heavy waterfall can cause flooding, pooling, and can even wash gravel away from a driveway that hasn’t been constructed to allow for ample drainage. This may mean that the driveway starts to develop major potholes, that time and money must be spent to apply a fresh new layer of gravel after each rain, or even that your front yard and home become flooded because water wasn’t directed away from the problem. In any case, it’s a big mess.

Do This Instead

Make healthy drainage a part of your gravel driveway design and construction plan. Some property owners work with contractors in order to install drainage pipes or French drain systems beneath the surface layer of their new driveway in order to move water away from the property and safely back into the groundwater supply. It’s also helpful to make sure that the surface of your driveway doesn’t dip below the property surrounding it, as this is a sure way to cause pooling and flooding. In addition to everything else, you’ll find that regularly raking the gravel in your driveway to a peak down the center line will make it easy for water to roll off either side and decrease flooding.

Mistake #6: “Eyeballing It”

Never, ever, ever try to guess how much stone or gravel you need for your driveway. Ordering too much or too little crushed stone can cause you to overspend, can back up your project schedule, and can leave you with a surplus of materials that you have no use for.

Do This Instead

Make use of a trustworthy materials calculator. These online tools will ask for the length, width and depth of your new driveway. Once this information is submitted, it will tell you how many cubic tons or cubic yards of stone to buy. Seek professional guidance for round/arced driveways.

Installing a Gravel Driveway in NJ

If you’re planning on constructing a gravel driveway in NJ, NY or surrounding areas, Braen Stone is here to help. We’re experts in the stone industry and are more than happy to help you choose the right stone for the job. Our stone and gravel is available at wholesale rates and can be picked up or bulk delivered to locations throughout parts of NJ, NY, PA and CT.

Crushed Stone Driveways | NJ & NY

By | 2020-04-01T15:00:45-04:00 August 15th, 2016|Gravel, Blog, Crushed Stone|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dirk is a Project Manager at Braen Stone. He's an expert on a variety of construction materials and prides himself on helping the company meet the needs of companies large and small.