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What’s the Best Type of Gravel for a Driveway?

The right gravel can make all the difference. Learn how to choose the right material for your gravel driveway in this guide.
Photo of a metal barn, firewood, and a gravel driveway surrounded by pine tree forest

Are you looking for an attractive and budget-friendly way to upgrade your driveway? While installing a new concrete driveway can cost tens of thousands of dollars, the average gravel driveway costs about $1500 from start to finish. 

If you have old landscaping gravel lying around, it may seem tempting to save even more money by using that. The problem is that to build a gravel driveway, you need to use an appropriate driveway material. Not all types of gravel are suitable for the weight of your car or the constant changes in pressure.

Today, we’re going to talk about the types of gravel that are suitable for creating a driveway. We’ll also talk about the pros and cons of using each material so that you can make an informed choice.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about choosing gravel for your driveway.

Choosing Your Base Layer

When you look at a completed gravel driveway, you’re only going to see that top layer of gravel. As a result, you may not realize that a stable gravel driveway has a base layer below that helps to create an even surface while improving drainage and weed control. 

A great base layer contains crushed stone and irregularly shaped rocks. You’re looking for something that will become extremely compact when pressure is applied but that won’t become so solid or uniform that it prevents water from draining into the ground. 

CA6 Road Mix is the best choice for your base layer. In fact, CA6 is commonly used as a base layer for both paved and gravel driveways. You can purchase CA6 at an affordable $32 per ton.

Best Top Layer for Residential Driveways

If you’re laying a gravel driveway on flat land, your options for a top layer are a little more open. When you’re driving across a flat driveway, your tires don’t need quite as much support to prevent skidding or sliding. Plus, you’re not going to see as much disturbance to the gravel, itself.

That means that you can go with a more decorative gravel with some rounded stones. Pea gravel is a great choice in this case because it’s a durable gravel that provides a beautifully decorative touch. 

Best Top Layer for Sloped Residential Driveways

What if you’re building a driveway on a slope? If you need to drive up or downhill to get to your property, you’re going to want a type of gravel that has a more crushed, jagged edge. This is going to lock into place a lot better than something with a rounded edge and provide better traction for your tires as your car makes the climb. 

When you’re picking a type of crushed gravel for your driveway, you don’t want to go too small. Anything under 3/8″ could become stuck in your tire tread, causing your tires to wear out quickly or lose traction on paved roads. 

Our top pick is 3/4″ CA7 Limestone Landscaping Rocks. These landscaping rocks come washed and ready to use. While limestone is more uniform in color than pea gravel, you’ll still enjoy an attractive finish. 

Best Top Layer for Construction Site Driveways

Gravel driveways are also a common choice for construction sites because they’re easy to install and easy to pave over or remove once construction is complete. However, you’re going to need to consider the difference in weight between construction equipment and your typical car.

Because construction equipment is so heavy and typically has larger wheels than your average car, you’ll want a larger grade of gravel. We recommend 3″ Limestone Rocks, which are too large for a residential driveway but well-suited for a construction site.

How to Install a Gravel Driveway

One of the biggest perks of going with a gravel driveway is that you don’t need a ton of landscaping experience to lay one. However, if you don’t have experience using a mechanical compactor, you may want to hire the pros for at least one step of the process. Whether you’re going DIY or working with experts, read on for a step-by-step guide to creating your gravel driveway.

Calculate Gravel Needs

To calculate your gravel needs, you’re going to want to start by measuring out the area you need to fill and cover with gravel. If you don’t dig out the area first, make sure you know how deep you’re going to dig in order to account for depth. We recommend allowing four to six inches of depth for each layer.

Because the calculation is complicated and varies based on the size of the gravel, don’t hesitate to use our gravel calculator. Select the gravel you’re going to purchase and input your measurements to find out how many tons of each type of gravel you’re using you’ll need to buy.

Pick Your Edging Material

In addition to the gravel you’re using for the driveway, you’re also going to want to pick an edging material. An edging material can keep the gravel in place to protect equipment like your lawnmower, which can break if the engaged blades come into contact with the gravel. This can also reduce the frequency with which you’ll need to replace or replenish your gravel.

Edging materials can also add an attractive contrast to your driveway gravel and give your landscaping a complete look. We recommend using large decorative stones like our Arctic Rainbow Stones. Other popular choices include bricks and timber.

Dig Out Your Driveway Area

Next, you’re going to need to dig out the driveway area. If you’re using two layers of gravel, you’ll want to dig between eight and twelve inches into the ground, removing all turf, top soil, and weeds. 

Once you’ve reached your optimum depth, you will need to use a rake, back hoe, or compactor to grade the surface of your driveway. While you want it to be flat and compacted, you’re also going to want it to rise from the edges to the center at a rate of 2-5%. This is going to help prevent erosion, which can save your property and landscaping from a number of problems.

Add Your Edging Materials

Before you add your layers of gravel, you’re going to want to create a barrier with your edging materials. This is an optional step but as we mentioned earlier, it can make a big difference in the preservation of your driveway and your landscaping.

As you create your barrier, make sure that it’s slightly taller than the top layer of your driveway. You may need to build the barrier up a bit more once the driveway is complete.

Lay Your Gravel 

Now, it’s time to lay your gravel. Start with your CA6 Road Mix, which you will want to pour into a wheelbarrow for easier navigation. Use a rack or backhoe to create an even layer before compacting the base layer with a mechanical compactor. Once again, try to create that 2-5% slope from edge to center.

Next, lay your top layer and even it out with a backhoe or rake. This time, you’re going to want to ensure that the edges are slightly higher than the middle to prevent runoff and create better drainage. 

Keep Up With Gravel Driveway Maintenance

Once you have your gravel driveway in place, there are a few steps you can take to ensure proper maintenance.

The first is to periodically check on that slight incline you’ve created with the top layer of gravel. If it starts to even out or the center becomes higher than the sides, use a rake to redistribute the gravel. 

The second is to keep growth under control. You can put down a weed barrier before laying your gravel base, which will help to prevent weed growth in the first place. If you skip this step or your weed barrier starts to break down, you can spray your gravel driveway with a weed repellant to kill any existing plant life.

Finally, if your gravel driveway starts to produce dust, spray it with a hose a few times a month. This will help to rinse away any dust buildup so that it doesn’t end up in the air every time you drive over your gravel driveway.

Shop Landscaping Materials With Fox Landscape Supply

A gravel driveway is both lower in cost than concrete and asphalt and provides a beautiful landscaped look for your property. Use this guide to ensure that you’re picking the best gravel for your needs.

Fox Landscape Supply is proud to provide landscaping materials to contractors, landscaping companies, and homeowners in north-western Illinois. If you have questions about our materials, pricing, or delivery schedule, contact us today. 

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