The biggest reason many homeowners choose gravel driveways is that they are the cheapest kind. They are also easy to install and have excellent drainage. On the flip side, they don’t offer the same aesthetics as a concrete or paved driveway and issues with weeds are common.
If you are thinking about installing a gravel driveway, this post explains all the pros and cons you need to know about.
What You'll Learn Today
- Pros of Gravel Driveways
- Cons of Gravel Driveways
- Final Thoughts: Is a Gravel Driveway Worth It?
Pros of Gravel Driveways
If you are on a budget, a gravel driveway is the best option. It costs less to install a gravel driveway compared to concrete, paver or asphalt.
A gravel driveway is also cheaper to maintain. While a concrete driveway may require grinding, sealing, resurfacing and other expensive maintenance procedures, gravel requires only levelling and an occasional top up.
So both the initial costs as well as the long term costs are low.
Easy and Quick to Install
One of the reasons a gravel driveway is cheaper is that labour costs are low. That’s because the driveway is easy and quick to lay. In most cases, a contractor can complete a gravel driveway in just a day, though longer driveways can take 2-3 days.
And the best part is that the driveway is ready to use right away. Unlike a concrete or asphalt driveway, you don’t have to wait for the gravel to set or cure. This minimises any inconveniences.
A gravel driveway can last just as long as other types of driveways. So you are not compromising on longevity when you choose to go with gravel.
Like any other kind of driveway, the lifespan of a gravel driveway depends on how well it is installed and maintained. When laid properly and maintained well, a gravel driveway can easily last 30 years and even longer.
Low Maintenance and Easy to Repair
Gravel driveways have their issues, and we’ll talk about them shortly. You’ll have to deal with weeds, gravel washing off and occasional ruts and potholes.
But overall, a gravel driveway is easy to maintain. Even when issues pop up, they are easy and cheap to fix. Usually, you can even fix these problems yourself, so you don’t have to spend money on professionals.
If you are looking for a low-effort driveway, gravel is a great pick.
These days, there’s lots of talk about permeable or porous driveways that reduce water runoff and flooding. Companies have come up with special pavers and concrete that can absorb more water.
But none of them can match the drainage capability of a gravel driveway. The loose gravel easily allows water through to the ground, which minimises runoff. Consequently, this reduces flooding and erosion.
If you are looking for an eco-friendly driveway, gravel is a good option.
Cons of Gravel Driveways
As with any other type of driveway, a gravel driveway has its drawbacks. But most of the cons of a gravel driveway are not complete deal breakers. There are some workarounds to minimise the downsides.
Not Everyone Likes How They Look
Gravel is generally not considered a premium driveway material. A gravel driveway doesn’t have the same high-end look as a paver, asphalt or concrete driveway.
If you are concerned about curb appeal or improving your home value, you may want to consider other options.
Another issue is that it’s hard to make your gravel driveway unique. You can apply a wide range of stains and finishes on a concrete driveway, and pavers come in all sorts of styles. But gravel is just gravel. You can get gravel in a variety of colours, but you don’t have the same versatility as concrete and paver driveways.
Solution: You can make your gravel driveway look more premium by using a gravel binder. This is a resin that binds the gravel into a smooth solid surface. Alternatively, install gravel pavers. They do the same thing — transform a loose gravel driveway into a nice looking solid driveway.
Other tips to make a gravel driveway look nice include:
- Edge the driveway with brick, stone, concrete or pavers on both sides. This will help hold the gravel in place and improve how it looks.
- Adding plants like flowers and shrubs on the sides of the driveway can help classy it up.
- Choose a beautiful gravel colour that goes well with the exterior colour of your home.
Cleaning Can be a Bit of a Hassle
The main issue when it comes to maintaining a gravel driveway is cleaning. It’s easy to sweep, scrub or pressure wash dirt off a solid and smooth driveway like concrete.
With gravel, dirt and debris hides between the pieces of gravel and you can’t easily sweep it away. A pressure washer, which is so handy for cleaning other types of driveways, is not suitable for gravel.
Things are worse if you live in a dusty place. It can get so bad that the gravel turns colour from the buildup of dust. And when it rains, dirt and soil trapped by the gravel can leave it looking dirty.
Solution: Cleaning a gravel driveway is tricky but not impossible. The secret is staying on top of things. Don’t let the dirt and debris build up. Use a brush or broom to gently sweep away debris on the surface. A rake is also great for clearing leaves off the gravel.
For dirt and dust, a garden hose is the best way to keep the gravel clean. Spray the driveway to wash away the dust, being careful not to wash away the gravel. Don’t be tempted to use a pressure washer; it’s too powerful for the gravel.
If the gravel is really dirty, the best option is cleaning it a small section at a time. Scoop the gravel into a bucket and sieve it using a wire mesh. You can then rinse it with a hose before putting it back on the driveway.
The best solution is to use a gravel binder. This creates a firm and smooth surface that is super easy to clean.
Here’s a video of a contractor installing a resin-bound gravel paving.
It’s Harder to Clear Snow From Gravel
The loose nature of a gravel driveway is not just a problem for cleaning; it causes issues with snow clearing too.
With a solid driveway, you can clear snow easily with a plough, a snow blower or a shovel. On a gravel driveway, you’ll scrape the gravel along with the snow if you are not careful.
Solution: Installing gravel pavers or gravel binder is the best way to fix this problem. You can clear snow off the gravel driveway without worrying about moving any gravel.
You can still clear snow off a gravel driveway, as long as you are careful. If you are using a snow plough, adjust the shoes such that the blade is about half an inch off the ground. You can also use a snow blower, but raise the auger slightly to avoid picking up gravel.
A snow shovel also works great for clearing snow on gravel. Just be careful not to scoop gravel along with the snow.
Gravel Doesn’t Always Stay in Place
One of the things you’ll need to do now and then if you have a gravel driveway is replacing lost gravel. Some of the gravel simply slides off the driveway as you drive on it and some of it is washed off by rain.
Solution: There are plenty of ways to keep gravel in place on the driveway including a couple we’ve already mentioned — gravel binder and gravel pavers. Other options include installing concrete or brick borders, spreading cement on the gravel, and improving drainage to reduce run off on the driveway.
Weeds and Grass Can Be a Headache
Weeds are probably the biggest headache that a gravel driveway presents. Because of the loose gravel, weeds are able to sprout on the driveway. And once they start growing, they spread faster and faster. Grass, too, can grow easily on a gravel driveway.
Solution: If you have yet to build a gravel driveway, remember to use an underlayment fabric when laying the driveway. It blocks grass and weeds from growing through the gravel.
If you already have a gravel driveway, here are some solutions to deal with the weeds.
- For small driveways, you can try and pull up the weeds by hand whenever you see them.
- Apply herbicide to kill the weeds.
- Home products like vinegar, boiling water and salt can permanently kill grass and weeds on the driveway.
More Vulnerable to Ruts and Potholes
Gravel driveways tend to develop ruts and potholes more easily than solid driveways. These are usually from vehicle traffic but can also be caused by water runoff.
Solution: Fortunately, potholes on a gravel driveway are also the easiest to fix compared to other types of driveways. Just keep some spare gravel around and top up any ruts and potholes that develop.
If the ruts keep reappearing, check what the root issue could be. Maybe you need to fix drainage or shore up the base materials.
Final Thoughts: Is a Gravel Driveway Worth It?
In our opinion, a gravel driveway is worth it as long as you don’t mind that it doesn’t have the same premium look as a concrete, paver or asphalt driveway. It’s affordable, can handle all kinds of weather, it’s easy to maintain and it lasts a long time.