How to Make a Gravel Driveway Solid (Compacting and Hardening)

Gravel exist in different forms; some of its types are loose and prone to being carried away during heavy rains and floods. If your driveway has loose gravel, compacting it is the best solution to make it more stable and comfortable to walk on. So how can I compact and harden gravel?

Remove any organic material before digging the parallel trenches for your driveway. Fill the holes with gravel and compact them with mechanical compactors to fully harden, making a stable driveway

How to put gravel in the driveway

Properly laid gravel on the driveway makes your home attractive( if you use pea gravel, white marble chips, or shore jersey), more comfortable to walk and drive on, and remains intact even when it rains heavily.

The process to lay solid gravel involves three stages. Let’s find out what each of these steps entails.

1. Land selection and preparation

Select a  suitable area in your home. The place should be drainage-free to avoid water pooling, which shortens the driveway’s lifespan.

Measure the driveway’s area’s length and width, then record them. This step is essential to help you know the quantity of gravel you will use and the budget for it.

Choose the type of gravel you would use for the driveway depending on the aesthetic you want. Also, decide on the shape of your gravel driveway. This shape could be circular or a standard straight line.

Lastly, calculate the total amount of money you would spend on the project. To calculate the cost, multiply the length by width by height and divide the result by 27 to get the cubic yards of gravel you will use. Remember to include labor costs and the cost of hiring equipment.

Call a contractor to make arrangements if you don’t intend to carry out the project yourself.

Preparing  the driveway area

Before you begin preparing the area, assemble all the tools you would use during the project. Such tools are a wheelbarrow, shovel, rake, gardening gloves, crusher, backhoe or a tractor, weed barrier,  and a mechanical compactor.

Here is a Method of preparing the driveway area:

  1. Remove grasses using a rake and dig up the top soil ( about 4-6 inches). To loosen the ground quickly, use a tiller.
  2. Level the surface uniformly using a  crusher to prevent water pooling. Pooling causes mud puddles which later need filling with gravel.
  3. Compact the dirt using the compactor or drive a heavy vehicle in the area.
  4. Lay down a weed barrier by spreading it to cover the driveway space wholly. A weed barrier helps to prevent weeds from growing and elongating on the driveway. A weed barrier is porous, water will still reach the ground soil, and there will be no pooling.
  5. Place a border on the driveway to separate the driveway from the lawn or yard though this step is optional.

2. Laying and spreading the gravel

  1. Put a sub-base on the selected area. A sub-base can be large gravel rocks spread to a depth of 4-5 cm. Spread the rocks using a shovel or a metal rake.
  2. Put gravel stones of 2cm thickness and spread them. Here, you can put the gravel in three layers, as explained later in this piece. When laying, be sure to raise the middle of the driveway to about 2-5 % higher than its sides. This process is called queening, and it helps to prevent water from collecting on the driveway.
  3. Compact the gravel using rollers or a mechanical compactor to make it more stable.
  4. Clean any dirt on the surface of the driveway. Also, clean the tools you used and dry them out before storage. Your driveway is now ready for use.

Remember to re-gravel at least after every two to three years for the gravel to last longer. Sometimes, if the rocks spread out, rake them together again.

How do you harden and stabilize a gravel driveway?

For a long-lasting driveway that can stay up to a century, it needs to be stable without cracking and adequately maintained. A hardened driveway supports heavy machines and vehicles’ weights without breaking.

Below are steps to stabilize your driveway to last longer.

1. Removing organic matter

Remove any dead grasses, leaves, tree roots on the driveway. Organic matters don’t compact, making the driveway unstable enough to support heavy vehicles and machinery.

2. Digging a parallel trench

Dig a trench parallel to the driveway where water will collect after the rains. Remember when constructing the driveway, we queened so the water slides to the two sides of the driveway when it rains.

When this water reaches the edges, it flows to these trenches, so water doesn’t stand on the driveway, preventing water pooling.

3. Filling in potholes

Fill any holes on the driveway with gravel fillings to prevent water from collecting when it rains. If water collects on the driveway, it moves under the driveway and separates it from the sub-base, making the driveway less stable over time. Filling potholes also ensure vehicles remain stable while passing on the driveway.

4. Compacting the gravel

To compact a driveway for more stability, drive heavy vehicles on the driveway, or use mechanical compactors to do the job. Compacting also helps to keep the gravel particles together, so water doesn’t carry them away during heavy rains or floods.

How deep to dig for a gravel

A gravel layer should be 4-6 inches deep. If you want to include more than one gravel layer ( maximum layers should be 3), be sure to extend each to a depth of 4 inches. The stones in the various layers should be 4 inches thick.

Gravel driveway layers

A gravel driveway laid in three layers remains stable and lasts years even with little to no maintenance.

The first layer just after the sub-base consists of baseball-sized stones whose diameters are above 2 inches. They extend to a depth of 4 inches. Some gravel types used for this layer are #3 (a crushed stone whose diameter is 2 inches) and item #4.

The second layer consists of golf-sized ball stones, consisting of crushed rocks, sand, and dirt. These stones are 4 inches thick and extend to a depth of 4 inches. A  perfect gravel type to place in the second layer is #item 57. This stone is angular in shape. It promotes good drainage in the driveway and prevents the rocks from sticking together. You can also use washed clean stones on this layer.

Lastly, the top layer of the driveway, seen on the ground, is made of smaller gravel fillings mixed with rock dust. On this layer, you can use crushed stones with a  fine texture. You can use pea gravel, jersey shore gravel, or white marble chips on the top layer for a sightly aesthetic that matches your home’s design.

Also, you can use crushed stones for the top layer. They have a fine texture and make the gravel driveway more stable.

What gravel type hardens like concrete?

Crushed limestone is sometimes used as a top layer on a gravel driveway because it hardens like concrete when dry. It’s compact, durable, and strong enough to support heavy vehicles and machinery.

Crushed limestone has a vast application, majorly in the construction industry.


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