Maintaining Gravel Driveways

Let The Driveway Maintenance Begin

 

There are many things to consider when it comes to a driveway. Of course the least amount of maintenance is going to be the most expensive such as asphalt and then there is the least expensive which is gravel. Gravel driveways is what most of us end up with due to it being the cheapest to have, but it requires the most maintenance. So let the driveway maintenance begin.

Honestly it is not really that bad. Usually a little work in the spring and a bit in the fall you are good. Sometimes it may require more than just a couple times of year. Things that come into play are traffic and weather. These two things will beat a driveway to nothing.

Traffic

First let us look at traffic. Most people do not realize that traffic plays a big part in how often you will do your driveway maintenance. If you, family members, friends, customers, etc. are speeding down the driveway the tires will pick the gravel up and sling it every where except on the driveway. We recommend no more than 15 miles per hour and post speed limit signs. We can make the signs for you if necessary. Another thing although you may not notice it especially with today technology or if in car is the slightest of bumps. These small bumps is what turns into large pot holes over time. As the car bounces it gets light trying to float and then comes down like dropping an anvil in a mud puddle. In a sense these bumps will progress as the vehicles keep going down the driveway making it get lighter as it goes up due to it going higher and heavier as it comes down because it has to come down farther with more force. When the vehicle goes up it can lose traction causing it to spin tires and digging a hole when it comes down grabbing for traction and slinging all your precious gravel. Slow and signs is best when it comes to traffic.

Weather

Heavy rains, freezing temperatures, hot dry days all play a role in destroying that wonderful stretch between you and everything outside your homestead. The rains can wash rock, dirt, etc far away from where it should be. Freezing temperatures can cause the water in the ground to expand pushing the driveway this direction and that. Hot dry days tend to make people want to drive fast and get away from the dust. Where we are from the rains and the dust is what plays the weather role in beating our driveway into a miniature grand canyon as it just keeps biting away with erosion. One way to stop this is to build the road much higher than the ground next to it.

Maintenance

Now that you know a couple of the main things that tear it up let us talk about driveway maintenance. There are a few things that do come into play here. One of them is just hiring someone to do the work like our customers do and not even worry about it. Now if you decide to do it yourself the best thing to have is a tractor above 20 horsepower along with a front end loader, box blade, rear scraper blade, and some sort of drag or rake. Most of the time the tractor and box blade will be sufficient enough.

  1. Sometimes we need to break the surface if it is an old driveway or is extremely packed. This will create material to work with. Keep in mind that you do not want to break below the driveway into the sub grade unless it is necessary and the driveway is that bad. To do this we will drop the rippers / teeth in the box blade all the way down and adjust the top link accordingly which is usually making it shorter. It may take several passes. You maybe able to accomplish this just by using a rear scraper blade if you add sufficient weight to it making it dig in.
  2. With the rear scraper blade slightly angled use it to pull the material back from the sides of the road into the middle. If you have an offset option and tilt this can make your life much easier causing it to get a little deeper on one side and get out farther on the outer edge of the driveway while you maintain traction on the road surface. You may need to make several passes.
  3. At this point you can switch back to the box blade, ad sides to your rear scraper if it is equipped, or just try with the rear blade to drag along the driveway moving all the material you collected from the edge into the pot holes filling them up. Again you may need to make several passes.
  4. Now at this point you should be able to make the decision if more gravel or other material such as road base, recycled crushed concrete, recycled asphalt milling, etc. needs to be purchased to add on to the road. This is where having a front end loader would come in handy because you can scoop up a bucket full of material and place it in each low spot or pot hole.
  5. Finally make several more passes with the rear scraper blade on a slight tilt to create a hump or crown in the middle of the road looking for the smoothest finish possible. Some people do not like this hump or crown, but it is the best way for the road to shed water instead of running down it washing it out.

 

Tips

  • Always pull the material back up hill as gravity, traffic, weather, etc will cause it to run back down the hill.
  • When adding weight to anything do not have anyone stand on any implement or attachment as they can end up seriously injured or killed. We use concrete blocks or plastic 55 gallon barrels filled with water.
  • Expect the smoothest glass finish as possible.
  • Expect the last tip to be impossible and never happen.
  • Usually six foot implements are perfect. As a rule of thumb you would need five horsepower for every foot of implement.
  • 6ft blade X 5hp = 30hp tractor. Less horsepower is doable if you gear down and have four wheel drive.
  • Slower is better. You are going for perfection not a checkered flag. Go slow.
  • Front end loaders on small tractors need power steering and four wheel drive.
  • Smaller the gravel the better the finish. One inch or less is the best.
  • If it is a new drive way prep the sub grade the best as possible then add a layer of gravel where the rocks are two inches or less and then add the final layer of rock where the rock itself is one inch or less.
  • Hiring someone is cheaper than owning machinery most of the time.
  • Snow plows will create lots of damage also.
  • When doing driveway maintenance the material ends up as big as a softball or bigger than your fist you are usually stepping up to building a road instead of maintaining it.
  • Early mornings and late evening sun will help you find high and low spots due to the shadows created.
  • Adding a bit of gravel every year or so is usually cheaper than doing major repairs. You can spend a fortune saving a nickel.
  • Add weight to the rear in vehicles like pick ups that are light in the rear helping them not bounce on the driveway.
  • Best time to do this is after about an inch of rain.
  • Driveway maintenance is what it is, but if you prolong it then you could end up road building and not maintaining.