How To Lay A Gravel Driveway In 5 Steps

Written by  John Davies
Last updated: October 26, 2023

We don’t necessarily think of gravel as our first choice for a driveway. It is a material often used for patios and paths. However, stones (gravel) are one of the better materials from which to build your driveway. This is because they are affordable and easily customisable.

Creating a gravel driveway is a great idea for an enthusiastic DIYer to make the entrance to their home more welcoming and attractive. If thats you, then read on to find out the key steps on how to lay a gravel driveway.

Is Laying a Gravel Driveway a DIY Job?

Indeed, As DIY projects go, applying your own gravel driveway is a reasonably manageable one. However, you can make critical mistakes if you are not careful.

If you do not have an undue amount of digging to conduct or use an excavator, it should take about three days. Once you are done with the excavation, it is a reasonably quick process.

What Do You Need to Install a Gravel Driveway?

  • Gravel – make sure to purchase attractive and durable gravel material for your driveway.
  • Levelling material – it is advisable to purchase MOT Type 1 to guarantee a stable base. You will probably need more of it than you think. In many cases, you will install more MOT 1 than gravel.
  • Weed prevention membrane – installed underneath the level of gravel to prevent weed growth and ensure proper water drainage.
  • Decorative edgings – not essential, but highly recommended to increase the aesthetics of the finish and increase your kerb appeal.
  • A shovel
  • A saw
  • An excavator – Or a lot of time and effort!

Once you have the necessary materials, you can get to work!

How to Install a Gravel Driveway

If you work diligently and carefully, you should be able to install your own beautiful driveway. Here are the primary steps to follow when doing so:

1. Pick Your Gravel

Gravel comes in different sizes and makes. Keep in mind that some popular forms of gravel are inappropriate for driveway use. Avoid polished pebbles and stone dust if possible. Here are some of the varieties of gravel suitable for driveway pavement:

  • Blue grey slate chippings: An excellent and beautiful variety of gravel. The main downside is that they are significantly more expensive than most stones. Nonetheless, some quarries sell them all around the country. If you are lucky enough to live next to one, you may be able to get a good deal on the material. If so, opt for these.
  • Pea gravel: the smaller forms of pea gravel are too small for driveways. However, the largest ones measure 20mm and are a good choice. They are smooth and look quite a bit like beach shingles. However, they do tend to scatter.
  • Marble chips: these are very aesthetically pleasing stones. As a result, they tend to be dearer than their equivalents. They also have a scattering problem.
  • Crushed stone: this variety is one of your best options for a driveway. They are more solid than other types of gravel and not particularly expensive.
  • Washed stone: remarkably similar in substance and price to the crushed variety. However, many homeowners prefer its more finished look.

However, for a driveway, you will always want to use the 20mm variety. It is not too large to cause problems for pedestrians but not so small that it scatters everywhere and ends up stuck in your tyres. The gravel is supplied in handy bags or bulk bags of loose gravel.

gravel colours

2. Decide on the Colour Scheme and Aesthetic

It can be more challenging to pick suitable gravel to complement your home and create a unique look. Gravel can create a very traditional or ultra-modern look and feel. Indeed, its visual versatility is one of the main advantages of gravel as a paving choice.

The key to an attractive-looking driveway is to find the right match between the edgings and the paving gravel. When the fit between the two is a good one, a gravel driveway can be lovely. However, you must also keep in mind the overall feel of the area. A design concept that works in an urban area may be wrong for a quaint village.

3. Measure the driveway

Before you begin the installation, you should have a good idea of the surface area you are working with. First, use stakes and connect them with string to mark out the area you plan to dig out. Once you have the area charted out, it is not too hard to figure out the amount of gravel necessary.

In most cases, you will want to lay the gravel 50mm deep. Keep in mind that this is the depth of the gravel alone, not including the sub-base. Correspondingly, for the average installation, you will require on large bulk bag per 5m2 covered.

driveway measurements

Here is a good calculator to help you out.

Here’s how to lay a gravel driveway in 5 Steps

Step 1 – Dig Up the Area

Before you dig, clean up the area of any obstacles and obstructive debris. By the time you are through, there should be no topsoil or turf in the allocated section. The depth depends on whether you plan to install a subbase. We strongly recommend that you do. If you lay the gravel directly on the slabs or if there is grass or bricks on the bottom, the gravel will move around a lot.

Gravel is always prone to scattering, so it is best to prevent that with a subbase. If you choose to perform a minimal installation without a sub-base, stake out 50mm for excavation and get to it. If you want to undergird the driveway with a subbase, make sure to provide 150mm.

Therefore, you will need a 200mm hole for the installation. This may sound like a fairly basic part of the job, but it can be deceptively time-consuming. There is no particular technical expertise needed for this part, but it may prove time-consuming and labour intensive.

However, you do not have to perform the back-breaking work yourself. You can rent out an excavator from a local tool shop, and it should save you a great deal of time and effort. If you have a big driveway (or a bad back), this step is highly recommended.

dig up driveway

Step 2 – Compact the Area

Once you have correctly excavated the area, you will need to compact the soil at the bottom before installing the base or a layer of gravel. If the surface is small and relatively solid, this should not pose significant problems. However, soft foundations can be difficult to compact. Ensure the base of your driveway is flat and compacted. Softer areas may require digging out and compacting with MOT Type 1.

This is an excellent material to install below the gravel since it condenses into a solid basis able to sustain and support heavy vehicles. MOT Type 1 comes in different forms and can range from 40mm to granulated dust. Do not place the MOT Type 1 level at the centre. Instead, provide a slight slope leading down towards the sides. That will allow moisture to run off. By doing so, you will protect the integrity of the driveway.

It is not too difficult to measure out the volume of base needed. Multiply the area by 150mm. For larger driveways, compacting the base layer may require a roller.

gravel compactor

Step 3 – Install the Weed Blocking Membrane

This stage is optional but, as we have noted, well worth the effort. It is obviously mostly there for weed prevention. However, it also aids in draining fluids from the surface. It is also probably the least challenging aspect of the installation. You will be able to simply roll it out over the compacted soil or MOT Type 1. To keep the material in place, make sure to use fixing pegs as instructed.

Step 4 – Lay Sand

Make sure to level the sand with a shovel. Use sharp sand here. It will bind the hardcore together and fill in the cavities. Sand will also prevent unduly sharp corners from forming.

sand foundation

Step 5 – Install the Gravel

Typically, you will lay the gravel 50mm thick. To guarantee even distribution, use a rake to allocate the stones proportionally. The gravel is usually not washed at the quarry. An industrial cleaning process can undermine the integrity of the material and harm the environment.

Therefore, after installation, you may want to wash it off with your garden hose. However, if you don’t, the good old-fashioned rain will get the job done eventually.

You don’t need the grids, but it does produce a better result in the longer.

Step 5a – Install Gravel Grids

The main problem with gravel surfaces is their tendency to scatter. If you have installed the driveway following our instructions, the problem should be minimal. However, you can install grids for an extra layer of protection against scattering and erosion.

Gravel grids are small mats that fill up with stones and keep them firmly in place. Adding them is easy and worthwhile. They are relatively easy to cut, and a standard saw will suffice. When you install them, lock all the little hooks neatly and securely into each other.

How Much Does Installing a Gravel Driveway Cost?

Gravel is significantly cheaper than concrete. In some cases, you may end up paying about half as much. Keep in mind that aside from the top layer of gravel, you will also need to pay for the sub-base.

The costs we provide here are based on several sources and give you a good rough guide of the job’s cost. However, prices may vary locally and according to the complexity of the specific project.

Type of job/ Size30m260m290m2
DIY Simple£1500£3000£4500
DIY Including extras£2000£4000£6000
Professional Installation£2400£4800£7200

Here are some factors that may increase the cost of your gravel driveway:

  • If you use a cellular grid system, it will help retain the gravel on your driveway for longer. However, it will also increase the cost. If you use this material (and it is a good idea), expect to pay £15 more per square metre.
  • The amount of excavation can raise or lower the cost. If the workers need to excavate a driveway that is built exceptionally high, they will need more labor and greater capacity to remove debris. As a result, the job will be dearer. However, in some cases, the excavation levels required may be below average.
  • As discussed, a gravel driveway has the potential to be quite attractive. You can complement that look by installing steps, plant beds, or adding a decorative brick wall. Any extras will, as always, involve an additional cost.
  • As in many other jobs, the ease of installation is primarily determined by access. If the staff can drive their 8-wheeled lorry right up to your driveway, it makes the process easier, and the price tag should adjust accordingly.

The professional installation of a gravel driveway for a typical British household will cost around £2450. The calculation is based on an average driveway, which requires 40m2 of material. Typically the cost includes about £400 for labour and another equivalent some goes to VAT.

If you do get a professional to perform the installation, make sure to hire a member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen or the Federation of Master Builders.

Meanwhile, if you go the DIY route, follow the instructions methodically and use the proper materials. When you are done, you will have a beautiful and practical driveway that you can be proud of.

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