Gravel driveways are made of crushed stone or rounded rocks. They aren't always the most attractive driveway type; but are often the most affordable. These are commonly found in rural settings or areas where the length is prohibitive for other options. This type of driveway is relatively easy to maintain and are more resistant to damage and weathering than solid surface alternatives. There are a few different materials to choose from when considering a gravel driveway.
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Pea gravel is a mostly inexpensive stone for use in driveways. It is a very good-looking smaller stone, and the cheapest will be a mixture of several sizes and finishes. More expensive pea gravel is not as sharp, more consistent in size, and a much richer colour. With its smaller size, pea gravel is best for use in smaller driveways, as longer lengths take considerable amounts to cover properly and that takes away any cost savings due to the increased amount required.
River stone is another type of material for driveways, and the colour and texture of the stone is similar to pea gravel in attractiveness. Very rounded stones easily slide out of place, however, and may increase maintenance needs. These are hard to walk on, and car tires easily spread the stones. This causes the driveway to eventually flare out away from its defined boundaries and require regrading to make it look presentable again.
The most common stone for gravel driveways is self-binding gravel. Ideal for longer areas, the stone is made up of many different sized pieces that interlock tightly together with time and the pressure of vehicles driving over it repeatedly. This results in a hard surface more like concrete than loose stone. An advantage to self-binding is that it is very often easy to cover with a new layer periodically to make it stronger and more attractive while keeping the price manageable.
To have an effective gravel driveway, the path should be marked and dug down about six inches. The ground should be relatively level and firm, and a base layer of larger stone laid first and lightly compacted. When the top gravel layers are delivered, they should be evenly spread and lay completely level within the marked boundaries. Repeated compaction by regular driving will help to solidify the driveway and make it as firm as possible.
A proper functioning gravel driveway requires occasional care and maintenance. The area requires levelling to balance high and low spots, and curves need periodic smoothing to readjust for pushed stone by car tires over time. A crown is recommended with a high spot in the middle of the driveway and lower tapered edges for proper water runoff. Eventually, the gravel will break down or push into the ground requiring a new topcoat and regrading to return it to its original look and functionality.
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