Best Gravel For Driveway: Building Your Own

Most private homes have some type of driveway leading to their home. A lot of these driveways are made from dirt, a lot for asphalt, and a lot from gravel. Today, we’re going to be focusing on the gravel driveway. 

best gravel for driveway
Image from Todd Richesin Interiors

Gravel driveways have a lot of pros and a few cons to them which we will go over later. But we all know that they are one of the most inviting, versatile, and attractive types of driveways that you can find. 

What Can You Use For Driveway Rock?

There are many different types of rocks you can use for driveway rock. You can use large pavers, tiny pebbles, or gravel. Gravel is the most popular choice aside from paving the road with asphalt, which isn’t ideal.

Though there are certain gravels that are favored, almost any type of gravel will do. Each of them has its own pros and cons, allowing each family to personalize their own gravel driveway in their yard.

Gravel Vs. Paving

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Image from Appalachian Antique Hardwoods

This may be your first thought when imagining a gravel driveway. Why not just pave a driveway with asphalt? Well, asphalt isn’t the best for private use. Not only is it difficult to use, but it also isn’t as attractive. 

Gravel Pros And Cons

Here we have the pros and cons of a gravel driveway. 

Pros:

  • Affordable – gravel is very affordable, especially certain types of gravel. Much more so than asphalt, which is basically always the same price. With gravel, you don’t simply pay for quality either. 
  • Easy Maintenance – this type of driveway is easy to maintain. If there’s a problem, you just need more gravel to correct it. So no matter how old it is, repairs are super easy and usually only require one person.
  • Easy-To-Install – gravel driveways are easy to install. All you really need is to dig a hole and fill it with gravel. The depth is up to you but we will go over all of the details later on about how to build a gravel driveway. 
  • Highly-Customizable – because there are so many different types of gravel, building a gravel driveway is a fun experience. You can mix and match to create a unique driveway that no one else has.

Cons:

  • Not Weatherproof – gravel driveways can be bothersome in the winter. When water and snow get underneath, it can be difficult to deal with. Especially snow since the snow will pack itself around the rocks.
  • Gets Muddy – speaking of that, a good drainage system is necessary for the life of your gravel driveway. So this needs to be taken into account when you are building your driveway out of the gravel.
  • Not Modern – if you want a modern look, gravel driveways may not be your cup of tea. They look rustic most of the time and rarely look urban. So take special care if this is a concern for you.

Pros And Cons Of Asphalt 

Here are the pros and cons of asphalt driveways.

Pros:

  • Durable – asphalt driveways are much more durable than gravel driveways. They are one solid piece of material that will hardly break, having a lifespan of about 50-years when it comes to private driveways. 
  • Modern – asphalt looks crisp, clean, and modern. So if this is your design style it is probably better for you than gravel driveways. 

Cons:

  • Limited Customization – asphalt looks like asphalt. So if you want to let your creativeness show, this isn’t the best way to do that. Asphalt can be boring at times which is one reason people don’t choose it. 
  • Difficult Maintenance – this is very difficult to maintain. Although asphalt driveways are durable, if they do need repairs, you won’t be able to do them easily alone. 
  • Very Hot In Summer – asphalt gets very hot in the summer. So if you have dogs or kids running around, it can be dangerous for them to play around. Gravel is much easier to control and let breathe. 

Gravel Driveway DIY

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Image from Becker Morgan Group, Inc.

If you are looking for a quick DIY on how to build your own gravel driveway, then look no further. Here is a complete and quick guide on how to build a gravel driveway the easiest and safest way possible. 

One of the single most popular ways to use pea gravel is in a driveway. Pea gravel can be compact and withstand a lot of pressure so it is ideal for driveways of all types. It is even one of the most common types of rock used for driveways.

Step 1: Mark Your Area

The first thing that you need to do is mark the area of the driveway. Set markers along the edge of the area leading to the parking area. You can even dig out a shallow line on each side to mark the area.

Step 2: Dig The Area Out

Now it’s time to start digging. Dig out the area that you have marked to be about a foot deep. This is very difficult to do with a shovel, so hiring a team to do it for you or renting machinery is ideal for driveways. 

Step 3: Lay Base Layer

Add a layer of landscaping fabric or two on the bottom. Then, add about 8-inches of landscaping rock. You can use any of the rocks mentioned above or a combination of them. Anything that offers good drainage. 

Optional: Add The Frame

It can be a good idea to add a frame or border with large rocks around the edge of the driveway. This is for looks and deters people from driving over the curb. However, it will prevent you from driving over it as well. 

Step 4: Add Top Gravel

Finally, add the top layer. This is the gravel that may be more expensive but is more attractive. This will be about four inches thick and will be flush with the top of the ground though underneath the border.

Best Gravel Sizes

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Image from Studio Architects

This is difficult to determine, but there is a range. The best thing to do is look at the number on the bag of gravel. This is the size of the gravel. A good combo is something like 3, 4, 57, and 411 as this gives varying sizes. 

But there are other things to consider other than gravel sizes. For example, the type of gravel you use matters. 

Decomposed Granite

Decomposed granite is a natural derivative of granite. This is a crushed version of granite countertops and it works great for walkways and driveways. It is a little expensive but it can be used for a pretty top layer.

This type of driveway rock is very small and flaky. It won’t be found in large pieces but is rather sandy. It is great for packing but will need a larger gravel rock to accompany it if you want it to drain well.

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is larger than decomposed granite and is one of the most popular types of landscaping rocks or driveway rocks. You can use it for any layer that you wish and even let the driveway continue to a patio.

Because it is a great transition rock, it is often the only one that you need for your driveway or yard.

River Rocks

River rocks are very versatile and gorgeous. Each rock is smooth, symmetrical, and attractive. They are even more versatile than pea gravel because they are larger and safer. They can be expensive, however.

So most people tend to use them for the top layer and use cheaper alternatives for the bottom layers of their driveway. 

Brick Chips

Brick chips aren’t ideal for the entire driveway but can work well for the bottom layer. That’s because they are a natural weed barrier that can help deter weed growth in your driveway. So adding them first can be great.

They are generally red, but they are also usually used as base layers so the color doesn’t matter much. 

Lava Rocks

Lava rocks are unique landscaping rocks that came from volcanic areas. They can regulate temperatures and deter weed growth. They are great for bottom layers too and can even keep the driveway at a good temperature. 

How To Find Gravel Near Me

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Image from Woodburn & Company Landscape Architecture, LLC

Finding a driveway gravel store near you isn’t as overwhelming as it may seem. There are a few places to look for gravel and a few tips that can guide you along the way.

Hardware Stores

If your project is small, then looking at hardware stores is your best bet. But when it comes to driveways, you probably will need more than a few bags of gravel. So you need to make sure that they can supply you with enough.

Lawn And Garden

Another place to look is either in lawn and garden sections or lawn and garden stores. Lawn and garden stores will be able to get you truckloads of gravel but it may have a price hike due to them being a third party. 

Gravel Suppliers

Gravel suppliers are ideal for large projects like a driveway. That’s because they can get you your gravel without charging you a fee from their supplier. So if you have one of these near you then it’s perfect. 

Compare Prices

Before buying, check prices. Sometimes, you will be surprised at the difference between hardware store gravel and supplier gravel. So make sure you know which one has the better buy for what you are looking for.

Check For Minimum Orders

Some suppliers have minimum orders if they sell to individuals in the first place. So make sure you don’t need to buy more than you need in order to get what you do need or else you’ll be wasting money. 

Should I Hire A Professional?

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Image from Fusch Architects, Inc.

Hiring a professional can be ideal if you can afford it. Though you will pay nearly double the price you would to do it yourself, you can have it done right. They will also be buying all of the gravel for you.

So that saves a lot of trouble there. If you have a busy life, hiring a professional can even save you money as you won’t have to take off work to do the work on the driveway yourself. So always consider it!