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Gravel Driveways: Advantages and Disadvantages

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 29 Apr 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Gravel Driveways Landscaping Resurfacing

Gravel driveways are one of the most popular choices for driveways and hard landscaping in the UK, and it's easy to see why. It's cheap, easy to lay, low maintenance and looks good, particularly in country settings or in towns where it matches the predominant stone and brick colouring of the area. There's an immense choice of size, colour and texture, so it's a good choice for resurfacing.

The crunch of gravel under a car's wheels is very satisfying and can also act as a defensive measure, alerting you to uninvited guests. On the downside though, you can't use it on a site that has any gradient to speak of (see our Q&A Is Gravel Suitable On A Sloping Driveway?), it needs regular top-up resurfacing, and can be tricky to keep in place.

Gravel Driveway Maintenance Information

Gravel driveways will eventually bed down and become invaded by dust dirt and weeds. This process can be delayed by occasional maintenance, usually clearing weeds, spraying weed killer, and sweeping gravel that's escaped back onto the drive area. But eventually the top surface will need relaying, particularly where car wheels habitually travel, as the weight will cause the gravel to break down and compact.

Choice of Gravels for Landscaping

There is a huge amount of choice in the gravel market. The cheapest is to get pea shingle or pea gravel from a builder's merchant, and depending on what's available at the lowest price in your region, it can look very good. As the price goes up, the gravel will usually be more rounded, not so sharp, and better graded in terms of size and colour. So the cheapest may be a mixed bag of all sorts of stones and finishes and a wide variety of sizes. A more expensive load will be one type of stone, smoother and more consistent in size.

There are specialist mixes available, some not stone at all. Although they are likely to work better in a garden context than for a gravel driveway, it is possible to buy 'stones' made from tumbled glass in all the usual colours that wine bottles come in, or slate mulch, which will come in grey, blue, green and purple. There are also semi-natural coloured gravels, usually limestone chippings that have been coated in a dye and the colours are only limited by the dyes that are available. They are considerably more expensive than natural gravel, however.

Where to Use Different Types of Gravel

You need to consider the use that the gravel will have to deal with. For a garden path, patio or other landscaping, you can be far more creative with mixing colours and patterns than for a gravel driveway. Any multi-coloured layout on a drive will quickly lose its coherence as the wheels of the cars will spit the gravels all over the place, breaking down the barriers between the different colours. You need also to consider how comfortable a gravel might be to walk on; slate mulch, if it's coarse, is not likely to be particularly good in this capacity.

Ordinary gravel will do well on a drive, and the type of stone, colour and texture is really only limited by the size of your pocket. Steer clear of excessively rounded gravels, through. These can be hard to walk on, as they sink too quickly and roll away underfoot. They will also be scattered more easily by car tyres, and then roll further, so the risk of getting them caught up in garden machinery and causing damage is greater.

Self-Binding Gravel Needs Less Resurfacing

For a long gravel driveway it might be worth considering self-binding gravels. These are effectively supplied in a form that's dirtier than the usual gravel, but the dirt is very useful. It's actually the smaller particles, the dust (known as 'fines' in the trade) that is cleaned from the gravel that is sold at garden centres. The fines are left in with the stones for these self-binding gravels and in some products they even have more fines added.

These different sizes of gravel bond together over time, particularly with the downward pressure from vehicles driving over it. The result after a while is a semi-hard surface, not as hard as concrete or tarmac but more coherent than clean gravel. One advantage of this kind of drive is that with most self-binding gravels the material can be excavated, crushed and re-laid years later if necessary, so there's no need to reinvest in new materials. Next up...discover how to look after your gravel drive.

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[Add a Comment]
Can someone give me some information on depths for self binding gravel and prices per m2 please. Based in Wiltshire. about 150m2.
DMW - 29-Apr-17 @ 10:01 AM
CB - Your Question:
HiDue to have 20 Tonnes of Cotswold Chippings (10 - 20 mm) delivered for my driveway. Base has been dug out and hardcore spread and compacted with plate compactor. Edging stones concreted into place. The Question - After spreading the chippings (approx 70mm depth) should I run the compactor over it again to bed it in?Many thanksDid pose this question on another page on this site but cant find it any where - sorryCB

Our Response:
We can't give individual technical advice on this sorry. Can any readers help?
DrivewayExpert - 30-Nov-16 @ 12:48 PM
Hi Due to have 20 Tonnes of Cotswold Chippings (10 - 20 mm) delivered for my driveway. Base has been dug out and hardcore spread and compacted with plate compactor. Edging stones concreted into place. The Question - After spreading the chippings (approx 70mm depth) should I run the compactor over it again to bed it in? Many thanks Did pose this question on another page on this site but cant find it any where - sorry CB
CB - 29-Nov-16 @ 2:37 PM
Working on a rugby club drive. 75m x 7m . Currently tarmac with holes and flaws. Can t afford new tarmac. Can we smash it up , cover with gravel or road planings and roll ? Base is good. 1 brewery truck per week and cars. JohnHo
johnho - 11-Nov-16 @ 1:26 PM
Hi Would 40mm slate chippings be OK to drive a car over? It's a 2 foot stretch max and would only be the front and rear tyres on the drivers side. Thanks
Robbo1968 - 24-Jul-16 @ 5:08 PM
Can you please advise what type of gravel will stop it becoming the local cats toilet? Also I am looking for a surface which would be easy for a toddler to run and play on. Thanks!
M - 10-May-16 @ 7:29 PM
Gary - Your Question:
Hi, I live next to a lane that was Tarmac and has been dug up and replaced by gravel. It now sound like thunder every time the people drive in and out. There are 3 house that use this lane. We contacted our local council to complain about the noise but they basically told us we should move! Does anyone now if there are building regs regrading this matter? Thanks

Our Response:
Is the road private or adopted? Was the council responsible for the change in road surface? If so, they will have been aware of any building regs etc. In general the guidance given by many councils is that when planning resurfacing or surface dressing operations, engineers should consider the implication of road traffic noise arising from the new surface. In general noise is unlikely to be an issue where traffic speeds are likely to be less than 30mph, where vehicle flows are less than 32,000 vehicles per 18 hour day
DrivewayExpert - 18-Mar-16 @ 12:10 PM
Hi, I live next to a lane that was Tarmac and has been dug up and replaced by gravel. It now sound like thunder every time the people drive in and out. There are 3 house that use this lane. We contacted our local council to complain about the noise but they basically told us we should move! Does anyone now if there are building regs regrading this matter? Thanks
Gary - 16-Mar-16 @ 5:13 PM
I live in a 2 year old terrace house in a block of 4 and we share quite a long drive of black tarmac and of the same age. I am trying to persuade my neighbours into investing in a natural stone topping of beige chippings, but I want to ensure that I can promise a good, longterm finish that won't deteriorate. I'm not keen on a resin bonded surface, partly because it's much more expensive and also because I have seen traditional, 'tar and chip' surfaces last successfully for years. However, I've also seen driveways that look terrible after a relatively short time, so I can appreciate that there's a lot more to this treatment than meets the eye! How can I go about this without falling into predictable 'pitfalls', please!?
Mead - 20-Aug-15 @ 9:32 AM
Just had a sloping gravel drive laid with 20mm shingle (rounded). The slope is about 1 in 5or 1 in 6 and yet I can drive my rear wheel drive BMW up or down it no problem, and manoeuvre on full lock too! And the vehicle has very wide wheels. I was very concerned that this would not be practical and I might need to use crushed rock instead but I needn't have worried. My wife managed it first time too without any trouble at all. So my advice to all who are considering gravel on a sloping drive is go for it.
Pacisci - 25-Jun-15 @ 4:53 PM
@laurie. self binding gravel is fine for slopes where the load is simply foot traffic. You may need to contact a supplier for techical details about vehicular traffic on a slope. The general consensus seems to be that self binding gravel is not suitable for slopes where the angle of fall is greater that 1 in 15 so you may be OK. The price varies between £60 and £100 per 850kg - 1000kg bag. Make sure you find someone who has laid this surface before and ask to look at their previous jobs. They will need specialist equipment (e.g more a 2 tonne plus size roller) - expect to pay a labour charge of £75 to £125 per man day depending on which area of the country you live in.
DrivewayExpert - 11-Feb-15 @ 2:28 PM
i have a driveway of concrete which I am going to replace. It's long,22 metres, but can be laid insections. The section from the front of the house to the road is 7 metres. It will have a slight downward slope both away from the house to the road, about a 2 foot drop over 7 metres and likewise a lateral slope of the same amount along the front of the house. This sounds like Self binding gravel would suit. Can it take this sort of slope and hold its own? There remaining driveway is 7 x .2.5 metres alongside the house and 7 metres x 7 metres at the rear leading into a double garage. This is reasonably flat with just a slight gradient away from the house of about 1 foot over 7 metres. Could I use normal 20 mm gravel for this held in a plastic matrix. Grateful any advice including some idea of cost to lay this 110 square metres of area. Thanks
laurie - 8-Feb-15 @ 9:40 PM
I have a drive which is both patterned concrete and large shingle. The shingle seems too "soft" and often beds the car tyres very deep so that is is hard to reverse to car back onto the concrete.What can I do to "harden" the shingle.
Dave - 13-Sep-13 @ 9:26 PM
I live in West Mids. and would also be interested in "self binding gravel".
sean yates - 17-Jul-12 @ 8:21 PM
Self binding gravel would be perfect for me. Can anybody tell me where I can get it? I live in East Sussex.
Mac - 15-May-12 @ 11:40 AM
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