Gravel Driveway




Introduction: Gravel Driveway

(First Post, So be Nice!)

There is a solution to every problem. Our problem with our new house was two-fold. First, we live on a pretty busy street so backing out of or into the driveway is fairly dangerous, even in the day light hours. We needed a way to safely enter and exit our property. Second, the grade around our home focuses water towards our house, pooling underneath, not a good long term issue.

To solve this we decided to build a wrap around driveway! The property was just asking for such a feature. There are a few basic steps to creating any type of grade work:

  1. Design
  2. Layout
  3. Strip Top Soil
  4. Grade Slope
  5. Build and Compact Base
  6. Accessorize! (lights and rocks in our case)

Step 1: Step 1: Design

Come up with a basic design. This is useful for getting an idea of the quantity of materials you will need, and helpful in explaining your "vision" to your reluctantly helpful partner

In the Design on the picture above (from Google) I showed the existing driveway in Blue and the proposed driveway in Red.

Step 2: Step 2: Layout

Take your design concept and actually lay it out in real life. Do this by taking measurements and placing grade stakes (or rocks, twigs, hub caps, etc..) Then run a string line between stakes or paint the ground. This is your last chance to plan for obstacles and see how your new grade is going to fit in.

For our driveway we knew we needed about 10' clearance for our vehicles to safely travel around. We also wanted wider curved portions to enter and exit the driveway. We placed stakes, ran our string line, and had to take out a few bushes.

Step 3: Step 3: Grade

This part is the best! Rent, borrow, but don't steal a Loader/Backhoe. I got mine from home depot for around $300 a day or something. A handy hint, rent it at 6pm or so and you can work it over night! You can dig by hand, but we had a lot of grading to do so we opted for mechanical assistance.

Clear any grass or brush from the new driveway area. Make sure to remove all soil containing "organic material" as it poorly compacts and will not settle well as it decomposes. An easy way to do this with the tractor is to point your bucket perpendicular to the ground and "backdrag". This will get under and rip up the organic layer of soil. You will probably have to make a few passes.

Using the excavator end (the "digger") cut along your string line. This will give you a gauge for your excavation limits and a guide for depth. Continue to excavate until you have removed all unnecessary material.

If you have to build up an area (called embankment) place the soil in small "lifts" around a few inches deep. Level out with a rake, or backdrag with the loader bucket. Then compact with the tractor, a vehicle, or your feet. It is important to use small lifts when not using heavy equipment, as you want to be sure the soil is well compacted.

Remember that WATER flows down hill. It is important to plan for this while you are grading. High velocity water will surely erode anything you create, so try and contain the water flow to a certain area and slow it with berms or rocks. In our case we needed to slope away from the house. I also built up the far end of the house and added a "containment pond" (for lack of better term) to slow the water flow from running into my neighbors yard.

***CALL 811, Dig Test, or your local utilities BEFORE starting any excavation on your property to mark UNDERGROUND UTILITIES***

Step 4: Step 4: Underlayment

As we are building a gravel driveway we needed an underlayment of filter fabric for two reasons. Keeping the clay soil separate from the gravel base, and to keep weeds/grasses from growing up into the driveway.

This is simply done by rolling out sheets of it (ours came it 4'wide by 220'long rolls) and pinning it down with landscape stakes. These are like giant staples and easily push into the ground.

We added some gravel to help hold it down until the gravel delivery showed up.

Step 5: Ordering & Placing the Gravel

(sorry for the lack of pictures)

This step can be a little bit scary at first because you need to go to a material supplier. These guys are all business, but if you tell them its your first time and explain your project, they should lighten up and help you through the process.

A material supplier is a professional construction resource that sells bulk construction materials (rocks, sand, mulch, ect..) They don't have the best PR department, so they might be hard to find. You can spot them off main roads & highways by the loads of dump trucks and piles of rocks in their yards. My local one is called [blank' Sand & Gravel.

The best material for a driveway is a mix of "Rocks" and "Fines." This allows for stability and compaction. Our local supplier calls it "road base" lol, pretty easy hu! Ours is Grey a grey color, but there might be other options.

My estimate was for around 20 yards of road base. Priced around $25 per yard, its not that expensive compared to concrete or asphalt. To calculate your need use this formula:

Length (ft) x width (ft) x depth (4/12) = cubic feet. divide that by 27 to = cubic yards

Your base should be 4in compacted, hence the (4/12).

My F-150 can haul 1cy of road base/base rock. This is heavy stuff and that's all it could stand. In order to cut costs we opted to pick up the material ourselves, one load at a time. I live close to the material yard, so fuel was not an issue. However after 3 or 4 trips I realized this was going to take forever and a day to work such little quantities at a time, so we had some delivered.

The delivery we requested was in a 3 yard dump truck. This worked for us because he could back it up where we needed and didn't destroy our trees when he raised the dumping bed.


For placement:

1) roughly offload material in the area you need to fill

2) spread out by dragging a shovel from the top of the pile back towards you (like paddling a canoe)

3) check your depth every 5-10 feet by digging a little hand hole so you can see the ground, use this as a guide

4) rough level with the back side of a rake

5) final level. (we did this by tying a rope around Pallet and pulling it by hand. This worked, but after the fist couple times we ended up pulling it with my pick-up) This can be accomplished by dragging anything from a pallet to a chain link fence.

***if your rock is dry and creating dust during this process, wet it down a little to control the dust. you can actually get a fine for creating dust, plus its nicer to work with when not dusty***

Step 6: Compaction

The final step is to compact the road base/base rock.

The Department of Transportation calls for 95% compaction, but us DIY'ers don't have a way to gage that. So I compact until the base is undisturbed by a vehicle rolling over it.

There are a few ways to accomplish this, but the best and easiest is to rent a "vibrating plate compactor" from your local equipment supplier or lowes/home depot. These rent for about $60 per 4 hours.

Run your compactor up and down the driveway (long ways) with over lapping passes. Continue this until there are no ridges formed on the side of the compactor when you make a pass.

Make sure to wear proper "PPE" or Personal Protective Equipment, when using machinery. Here you can see I have glasses, ear protection, and gloves. There are actually "vibration resistant" gloves that have rubber pads in the palms, these are awesome if you can afford them.

**compactors might seem scary and heavy to work with, but once you get them set up they drive themselves.**

Step 7: Accessorize!

Think about ways to make your nice driveway even more gorgeous.

Here's what we did:

1) Add rocks to line the drive (we had a ton left over from the prior owner)

2) Place some solar pathway lights along the edge of the drive so you can see it at night (they don't provide much light,

3) Work "dry river beds" to the design. This works two fold, one to unify the landscape; two to slow and control storm water flow.

4) Place pedestals at the head of the driveway to help mark the entrance (we used some spare pine rounds I haven't copped up yet)

Other ideas:

-Low voltage path lighting (to truly illuminate your work)

-Stick some yard art in the ground to greet you when you get home

Step 8: Bask in Your Glory!

Your finished! Bask in your Glory and take a picture for prosperity! This was a difficult job, and you've done well.

I'm still waiting to have to do some maintenance on the driveway, but it has been 4 months and everything is still ROCK solid! lol

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    7 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Looks great! You may want to mention checking with the local code department about whether a permit is required and if your municipality allows gravel pads. Other than that, really great instructable and congratulations on being selected as a finalist!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your comments and congratulations!

    Municipal building codes do not govern driveway types (as far as I know) however an HOA (home owners association) could limit a homeowner to a certain type of aesthetic in the front yard.

    I have run across "curb cut" permits before, however we did not change the curb, so all good there. Good thing to keep in mind though


    5 years ago

    Excellent work. Nicely written 'ible, also. I'm curious; how long did the driveway work take you, from design to finish?


    Reply 5 years ago

    Design was a snap. I started to sketch things up for my projects, which added a little bit of time. Figuring out the drainage was fairly easy as well.

    Layout took an hour of placing stakes, moveing them, replacing them, etc.. until we were happy.

    Excavation (with the tractor) took 4 hours strait.

    Placing the fabric was incremental, but took maybe 10 min per 100ft of fabric.

    Placing the Gravel (road-base) occurred over several weeks. If we had all the rock placed at once, the whole deal could've been completed in 4 hours. Each pick-up bed full (1cy) was placed in around 15 min.

    Compaction was in total around 2 hours.

    So in 3 weekends we had a finished product. Good luck!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Beautifully done 'ible Swimspud. Gravel makes a nice noise when one drives over it :) Softer geology than concrete.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is an excellent first Instructable! Great job on your driveway. I like the large rocks lining it. Thanks for sharing!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I forgot to talk about those [palm to face]! I'll update that.

    Thanks for the warm welcome!