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How to Lay a Gravel Driveway – Step by Step Guide for 2024

By: John Devlin

This guide will show you how to lay a gravel driveway quickly.

Gravel is a fantastic choice in driveway construction materials for various reasons.

For one thing, gravel chippings are relatively cheap compared to block paving, tarmac and imprinted concrete – but it’s also long-lasting and look superb when laid correctly.

If you need the rough gravel driveway installation costs, we have this handy guide that breaks them down step by step.

While we’ve seen all types of driveway solutions installed over the years, gravel remains a popular choice.

How Do You Lay Gravel Driveways: 7 Easy Steps

Below, we’ve lined up seven quick steps on how to lay a gravel driveway, keep reading to find out.

Step 1 – Measure your area

Whether it’s a brand new gravel driveway or if you’re digging out an existing driveway area, it makes sense to get your measurements first before laying a gravel driveway.

Measure the length and width of the ground to know how much gravel you’ll need (this bit comes a little further down, but grab the details now).

You’ll only need one layer on top of your driveway, as there will be compact sub-base material and a weed control membrane – ideally.

You’ll probably expect a reasonable bulk bag of gravel to give you ten square metres of coverage at a depth no greater than 50mm. This may vary, so shop around.

Step 2 – Choose your gravel.

Here’s the fun part – decorative gravel chippings come in all kinds of styles and colours, and it’s entirely up to you whether you’d like your garden to have a rustic charm or go for a more modern look for your new gravel driveway.

You should ideally look to spread thin layers of gravel that complement the look of your home and any brickwork you have nearby.

The good news is that most gravel is low maintenance, provided you have a solid base or sub-bases, a decent weed membrane and look after it properly. Therefore, your driveway gravel is going to be an aesthetic choice.

Step 3 – Prepare the area (dig a new plot or remove the base and sub-base)

If you’re preparing the ground for a new driveway, remove any surface dust and debris and dig down with a shovel into the topsoil between 50mm and 200mm. As we mentioned, 50mm tends to be a good depth for a thin layer of gravel, and the remainder is for your driveway base layer.

If you’re digging out a new plot in your garden, the soil must be flat for your sub-base to be effective. A good way to do this is by using wooden pegs and a spirit level. An incline slightly up or down will lead to stability issues for the entire project once laid and all your hard work will be ruined.

If you’re digging up an existing driveway to install a new one, carefully remove the existing base and sub-base if they are uneven or unstable although a strong cement bed can also be used as a base. It pays to avoid any potential pipework underneath when digging into your driveway base.

However, this will probably be a more significant issue if you dig a new plot entirely from scratch.

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Step 4 – Lay a new sub-base.

Your sub-base layer is the foundation for the surface layer of your gravel drive. Ideally, you may wish to use sand and compacted aggregate – or, in some cases, you may wish to use gravel grids for a more eco-friendly, more permeable way to prevent an uneven surface.

Your average professional landscaper will recommend laying a gravel driveway on a sub-base compacted to MOT Type 3 as standard, as this kind of base is permeable and SUDs compliant.

This is an excellent choice for a compact, stable base, and it will withstand heavy vehicles and regular foot traffic for years to come. The material interlocks naturally and will compact with minimal fuss.

It’s important not to cut corners when you lay a gravel sub-base, as this is where your gravel driveway will find the majority of its strength. Keep that 50mm minimum depth free for your gravel chippings.

Step 5 – Check the sub-base carefully.

To spread your gravel evenly and for your finished driveway to give you the strength and stability you require, you must double-check that your sub-base is level and compacted.

Ideally, it’s worth raking around your sub base so that it’s level – consistency is key here, which goes for the depth more than anything.

Be sure to grab the spirit level and check around the base’s top. Any sign of deviation will give you a headache in the long run. Using a wacker plate here will also help you press down and compact the area tightly.

Step 6 – Consider edging and membranes.

In our landscaping experience, edging is an important consideration when you lay a gravel driveway. You may wish to finish it off with bricks or block paving so that your gravel stays put and doesn’t spill out. It’s likely best to add this to your drive now for that very reason.

5 great edges for gravel

Remember, if laying new blocks or bricks, you’ll also need materials like sand and/or cement mix to set them in place.

You also need to ensure you have some form of weed membrane. If you don’t prepare any weed barrier, you’ll see little pockets of pesky weeds pop up in the ground over time.

Cut your membrane to the shape and dimensions you desire before laying it over the top of your sub-base.

Step 7 – Layout your gravel mats and the pebbles

Mats and gravel grids are great for helping to keep your weed membrane and sub-base material secure before you start adding gravel.

To install your grids lay, interlock and trim your mats where necessary to get a tight fit. Again, the tighter the fit, the more solid layer you can expect.

Then, it’s time to lay your chosen gravel evenly. This is another fun part of the job, and it’s also the finale. Shovel the gravel required evenly over the mats and rake, adding a little more stone if things start to look too thin or uneven.

Materials Needed For Laying Gravel Drives

  • Your choice of gravel
  • Gravel mats
  • A sub-base (ideally MOT Type 3)
  • Edging blocks/stones
  • Sand and/or cement to set the edges
  • Weed membrane or layer to prevent weeds

What tools you will need

You’ll also need the following tools:

  • A tape measure
  • A rake
  • A wacker plate
  • Thick gardening gloves
  • A spirit level
  • Landscape stakes (for the membrane)
  • A wheelbarrow
  • A vibrating roller / mechanical compactor (optional)

Why Install A Gravel Driveway

It’s very easy to maintain

Regular gravel driveway maintenance shouldn’t take much hassle – even less so when you seal it properly. Below, we’ll run through a few ways you can keep your gravel drive clean and well-maintained.

It’ll promote water drainage.

A gravel driveway will generally prevent runoff water and stop water pooling in place. It’s terrific for draining rainwater and providing a good, SUDS-compliant sub-base layer; you’ll find it remaining permeable for years.

It’s simple to fix

If you ever make a pothole or a divot in your gravel driveway, it’s effortless to fix – simply lay more gravel and rake it back over the ground for full compaction. That is unless it’s sealed – then, you’re looking at a different kind of repair.

It’s very cheap

On the whole, building a gravel driveway is surprisingly cost-effective. It’s on par with concrete and asphalt for sheer savings alone, at least compared to the broader driveway material market. Prices vary depending on the type of stone you choose when making a gravel driveway – but they won’t break the bank.

Amazing load-bearing ability

Providing you’ve got good coverage when you lay a gravel driveway properly, you can expect lots of resistance against heavy vehicle pressures and regular foot traffic for years and years. 

However, a lot of this is down to laying a reliable sub-base – following the same process listed above, and you won’t have many worries.

If you need more convincing on why people choose this surface for their driveway project, see our dedicated gravel driveways pros and cons article, where we give an honest overview of why it’s such a popular choice for families and what makes it unique to other garden surfaces.

How To Maintain Your New Gravel Driveway Installation

  • A top tip is to clean away any leaves, cut grass, dirt, or loose debris from your gravel driveway before they get compacted. Trust us – doing so sooner rather than later will save you hours of tedious cleaning. You’ll likely only need to do this once a week or so with a gentle rake. Of course, gravel driveways that are properly sealed won’t suffer so much!
  • Keep your gravel chippings topped up over the years. While gravel drives will withstand incredible pressure years at a time, to keep them looking fresh and clean, it’s sometimes worth raking the old back out and replacing anew – but only really every two to three years, at most. It’s also easy to repair them by quickly filling them up with more stones if potholes emerge. Again, sealed gravel doesn’t apply here.
  • Have you ever heard of gravel grading? Your gravel should be a solid layer resistant to car tyres and more. Besides, it’ll be graded. That means it will be thickest towards the centre to prevent water from building up, pooling, or running off. Keep this thickness in check: thin at the edge and thick in the middle. Add gravel above 10mm in size to low points towards the centre as smaller pieces will get stuck in the treads of tyres.
  • Keep topped up on weed protection. When you lay a gravel driveway, you should generally use a weed membrane to inhibit growth. However, it pays to have a gravel-friendly weed killer to hand just in case any persistent growths work up and cause damage.

If you need a more in-depth guide on how to clean and maintain a gravel driveway or patio, see this article. Here, there are 7 expert tips to follow for easy garden maintenance, and we also show you what supplies work best all year round.

FAQ's

How Deep Should a Gravel Driveway Be?

Ideally, if you are learning to do a gravel driveway, your driveway should be 200mm deep. That will allow laying around 150mm in the sub-base and 50mm in surface gravel.

This is based on a layer of evenly spread gravel at about 20mm. Bulk bags of gravel will typically give you enough for up to ten square metres at double this depth.

You need to ideally leave 150mm for your sub-base, working to a model of MOT Type 3.

What Gravel Driveway Sub-Base Should You Use?

When learning how to lay a gravel driveway, you should consider buying MOT Type 3 for its interlocking, crushed rock – graded down from 40mm. Some contractors may also choose grid systems and gravel mats for an environmentally friendly approach.

Start Your Free Gravel Driveway Quote

Compare gravel installation prices from trusted, local firms with honest feedback from customers like you.

a picture of a gravel driveway

Gravel Driveways

Select option to start quote

a picture of a gravel patio

Gravel Patios

Select option to start quote

a picture of gravel paths

Gravel Paths

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Last Word

Now you know how to lay a gravel driveway. Nothing stops you from stocking up on the materials listed and giving it a go. Laying gravel driveway layers can take some time – and quite a bit of measuring and checking the length and width. A bulk bag of gravel will provide enough for about 10 metres square.

However, once the groundwork is in place, you can rely on a hardy, weather-resistant driveway that’ll withstand car tyres and regular movement for years. Plus, the decorative aggregates available nowadays can add kerb appeal to your property.

However, knowing how to lay a gravel driveway is simple on paper – if you are unsure about tackling the project yourself, contact an experienced contractor to install it for you.

If you’re sick of mud puddles and potholes, learn how to lay a gravel driveway – and for best results, seal it in place for maximum protection.

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