The Art of Gravelling a Driveway

truck_with_chained_gate_spreading_layer_of_gravel If you live in the city or the suburbs your driveway is likely to be surfaced with asphalt, concrete pavers or at the very least, a respectable layer of crushed rock.

But hey, I live in an old farmhouse 300 feet from the road so the gravel driveway with a grass centre strip is the "traditional" look at Stonehaven. Other than clearing it with the snowblower in the winter and mowing the centre strip in the summer it’s pretty much maintenance-free.

But every ten years or so it needs a new "coat" of gravel. It’s fast, it’s cheap and fun to watch.

A natural choice

Sticking with gravel was an easy choice from both an economic and aesthetic point of view. Besides the 300 foot trip to the road, we added a turning loop near the house shortly after we moved in, which adds another 100 feet or so to the overall length.

stonehaven_new_gravel_driveway_loopEven eighteen years ago, preparing the proper base and paving that amount of driveway would have cost well over ten thousand bucks. And Canadian winters are brutal on asphalt as the water freezes and expands in cracks – resulting in an expensive and never-ending battle to repair cracks and seal the surface every few years.

Crushed rock is "cleaner" than gravel since the small particles wash down between the stones leaving less dirt on your shoes and the car. We added crushed rock near the entrance to the house to keep that area a bit cleaner to prevent tracking sand into the house.

While a brand new crushed rock driveway looks great – an old crushed rock driveway with a grass strip up the centre looks "neglected".

I prefer my neglect to look "natural".

Dozer-free delivery

dump_truck_raising_box The first time I saw this (and took these pictures) I was mightily impressed with the delivery technique. Fast. Simple. Effective. Cheap.

But it can’t be done just anywhere.

We have the advantage of wide open airspace above the full length of the driveway – no tree branches or overhead wires to prevent a seasoned gravel truck driver from laying down a consistent 4” layer of gravel in a speeding dump truck with the box raised.

Chain the gate and pop the clutch

truck_spreading_layer_of_gravel One key to this operation is chaining the gate on the back so that it only opens about 6" to control the flow of the material. The other key is timing.

Once the truck was at the starting position and the gate chains were in place the driver released the gate latch and started raising the box. As soon as the load started to slide he popped the clutch and took off – maintaining a constant speed as he headed down the the driveway. Once the gravel was gone he’d lower the box, latch the gate and head out for another load.

truck_dumping_gravel_for_connecting_driveway_loop The whole operation including 4 trips to the gravel pit for material took a little over an hour and a half. Each dump took around 2 minutes from arrival to heading back to the gravel pit for a refill.

How Cheap was it? 6 loads of gravel at $60.00 the each. Total cost: $360.00.

Clean up

Once the truck driver was done we had to pick out some oversized rocks and rake the edges and few starting mounds. Each time I drove in or out of the driveway I’d pick a slightly different path to compact the material across the full width. Within a week or so it was pretty well compacted. After a year or two my grass strip appeared again.

Just like it has for the last 110 years.


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2 thoughts on “The Art of Gravelling a Driveway

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  2. Yea, I have to put in some manner of gravel driveway in upstate NY. Everything online says you HAVE to put in three or four layers of different types of gravel, plus a fabric layer underneath, plus edging, etc etc which will come to probably $10,000 for about a 250′ driveway. I don’t understand why we can’t just have a truck dump gravel just like this.

  3. Great description of your road and associated works. Im doing mine from new in New Zealand, its 400metres long and is up and down hills. I look forward to the grass middle as it will show the roads settled.
    The torrential rainfall heres the problem, its unusual to get a frost here and ice is only in the freezer.

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