Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gravel Driveway Repairs - long term solutions

I love the look of a nice gravel driveway. Actually here in Toronto - there are a ton of alleys with stretches of gravel. Often time some of the stores around here have small gravel parking areas in behind the streets. Too bad most of them are falling apart.

There's a simple repair that can be done with gravel driveways and gravel parking spots - which involves getting someone to come along and regrade it. This basically levels out the surface. Or you can do the "fill in" method for annoying pot holes. Pot holes are usually formed by weak spots in the underbase or in the surface. So you can buy gravel and fill those in.

Most gravel driveway repairs involve tossing down more gravel. Every year - you can add more gravel - which keeps it looking nice.

But realistically - these are "patch jobs". They don't solve the basic problem. Erosion. Potholes. Gravel migration. As rain water settles into an area it starts to erode the soil ... and as you drive over the areas the gravel compacts. Compacted gravel means that the water no longer flows through - and your gravel driveway is no longer a permeable surface. Water won't flow through it.

So what can be done?
And is there a LONG TERM solution or are you stuck paying to repair your gravel driveway forever?

Yes, it can be done...
with a bit of excavation and some ecogrid - and then more gravel. Usually, a "fella" with a bobcat can do some excavations for you - and at incredibly reasonable rates.

- excavation
- gravel
- ecogrid
- plate compactor
- some strong backs for hire (or enough pizza and beer to make the job fun)

What you are excating for is to make space for a new sub-base - a drainage base - and the grid.
What you want to do is excavate out your old gravel. Its probably pretty well mixed in with the soil... and if you've got pools of water or it takes a while to "soak in" then your driveway is compacted.
How far you should go of course really depends on the area - and its good to consult with a local soil engineer if you can. If you are going to fix it ... Fix it Right! A good sub-base preparation will save you money and time. Level it out and then add in your new gravel. (if you are really concientious you should either salvage your old gravel - or at least get it to a recycler!).
Actually - the excavation is the most difficult step - and that's where the "fella" (or gal) with a bobcat saves you time - and will help it be done right.

Some of the gravel you purchase will be for the sub base. A good sub-base will usually be a mix of gravel - and you can usually talk to the people who are selling the gravel about what you are doing. They will likely be experts and can advise you. Your sub base is a gravel drainage layer which is usually a clear or washed gravel of varying size. The better the preparation of the sub base the easier the grid can be installed. Here's your chance as well to level it all out before you put on your grid... You can rent a hand push roller

NOW the hard work is almost completely done... the rest is easy as pie.

For Residential driveways the midweight grid product will work best. Its 1.5 inches deep (40 mm) - and designed to withstand car traffic. It has re-inforced edges - so unlike roll grid products - you don't have to worry about it moving around and fraying at the edges. After all - you will build this once - and it will last for decades. You can park your future eco-car on it a decade from now!

Installing EcoGrid is ... literally - a snap! The pieces are 13in square (just over a foot). We send them out in larger sheets - so its already pretty much ready to be assembled. There are install instructions - but it is simple - can send you the install guide for grid, with some tips and tricks.

Believe it or not the job is nearly done. Order up your pizza for those 2 people who are helping you. The grid installation can be done (depending on the size of your parking area or driveway) in an hour or two. Sometimes less.

You can rent a plate compactor of various sizes from your local rental place like Stephensons. They basically will flatten out the grid incase you didn't snap it tightly - and help level your surface. You only do it once on the area.

Now you've got your base done - and the grid is down - and the pizza is on its way. Hand out a beer or two and then spread out the gravel. I personally like the look of red gravel. But its up to you. You fill in the grid (again you can consult the guide for some tips). Its a good idea to keep an inch or two ontop.


In a matter of a day you've repaired your gravel driveway - or your parking spot - and you have a long term solution. The EcoGrid stops the gravel from compacting back into the soil. This pretty much eliminates your drainage problems. There won't be mud or muck.... EcoGrid has a special base that's designed to keep the gravel in place.

And to answer the NUMBER ONE QUESTION:
yes. You can shovel it. Yes, you can plough it. Yes, it can be snowblown.
You treat it like a regular gravel driveway!
All those people who have gravel driveways already know about plowing. You just don't snowblow it all the way down to the grid. Leave some of the gravel in place .... its great for traction then.

AND to answer the Number 2 question...
the reason some gravel driveway get icy is because the water is sitting there - it stays in those potholes in the spring and makes a mess. EcoGrid stops it from compacting - and then the water flows away from the surface. Gravity at work.


  1. Thanks for all the advice. We are thinking of just sticking with our gravel in Vancouver instead of paving as long as it stays in decent condition.

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