While cheap to lay and easier to maintain compared to other types of driveways, a gravel driveway has several limitations.
One of the biggest is the tendency for loose gravel to shift or wash away from the driveway. This can happen in a short period (e.g. during heavy rain) or slowly over time.
In this post, we discuss the best ways to keep gravel in place on the driveway.
What You'll Learn Today
- Why Is Gravel Not Staying In My Driveway?
- 10 Ways To Keep Gravel In Place On Driveway
- 1. Install borders
- 2. Spread cement over the gravel
- 3. Use a gravel binder
- 4. Use gravel pavers or grid systems
- 5. Grade your driveway into a crown to improve drainage
- 6. Drainage
- 7. Compact the gravel
- 8. Choose the right kind of gravel
- 9. Proper driveway installation
- 10. Fix potholes and ruts immediately
Why Is Gravel Not Staying In My Driveway?
Before I get into the solutions, it’s important to understand what makes gravel move and shift in the first place.
The most common reason is improper installation. Things like not having the right depth of materials, not using the right kind of gravel, poor drainage or wrong grading can make the driveway unstable.
This makes it easier for traffic and water to wash away the loose gravel.
But even with a perfectly installed gravel driveway, gravel will inevitably wash away over time because of human and vehicular traffic as well as rain.
That’s why you have to replenish and grade the gravel every now and then.
But there are a few things you can do to reduce how often you need to add more gravel to your driveway. They make driveway maintenance easier and cheaper.
10 Ways To Keep Gravel In Place On Driveway
1. Install borders
Adding borders or edging along the sides of the driveway helps keep the gravel within the driveway.
Driveway borders also add a nice aesthetic to the driveway.
There are several materials you can use to edge your gravel driveway including stone, bricks, wooden planks or concrete pavers.
Driveway borders can also reduce the tendency of grass from your lawn from creeping into the driveway.
2. Spread cement over the gravel
One of the cheap ways of stabilizing your gravel driveway is to spread cement over it. Ordinary Portland cement will do.
Dump a bag of cement onto the gravel then use a broom to spread it over the driveway. I have included a video below showing this process.
Once you are done, spray the entire driveway with water to help bind the cement to the gravel. This will create a fairly solid surface that reduces wash off and keeps the gravel in place.
But it’s not as effective as other methods we’ll look at shortly such as binders, pavers and grids. It is especially not ideal if there is a lot of vehicle traffic on the driveway.
It can also be expensive for long driveways. You’d need a lot of cement bags.
3. Use a gravel binder
A gravel binder is a resin that binds loose gravel together to create a solid and firm surface on the driveway or walkway.
Some popular brands include Gravel-Lok and Vuba Easihold.
Gravel binders are easy to use. You add the resin to a watering can or sprayer then apply it onto the gravel surface. Be sure to check the coverage recommendations.
As the resin dries, the gravel locks together to form a solid paved-like surface. This keeps loose gravel from shifting or getting washed away.
Gravel binders are especially helpful if you get a lot of water flow over your driveway or if your driveway is sloped.
Note: Most gravel binders are permeable so they still allow rain water to sink into the ground, which is great for the environment.
Here’s a video showing the application of Vuba Easihold.
4. Use gravel pavers or grid systems
Another effective way to stabilize a gravel driveway is to lay pavers or a grid on top.
These are not the usual pavers used on walkways and driveways. They are special stabilization pavers/grids designed specifically to keep gravel in place.
They come in form of small pavers (perfect for walkways or small driveways) or larger grid systems that are great for large driveways.
Both have grids or holes that hold gravel in place, preventing it from shifting when water flows over the driveway or when a car drives over it.
Gravel pavers and grids can also improve how well the driveway supports heavy loads from vehicles and machinery. They keep the gravel from sinking and prevent ruts and potholes from forming.
5. Grade your driveway into a crown to improve drainage
Roads are not flat from one side to the other. Most slope gently from the center of the road to the sides. This is called a crown design and its purpose is to improve water runoff from the road.
If your gravel driveway is flat from side to side, water will pool or create drainage channels on the driveway itself, causing gravel to wash away.
When laying the driveway, grade it such that it slopes on both sides from the center line. A 4% to 6% slope from the center is adequate to redirect water to the sides of the driveway.
You can let the runoff flow to the lawn where it’ll sink to the ground, but this requires permeable borders or no borders at all.
Alternatively, add drainage ditches along the sides of the driveway to redirect the water where you want it to go.
Tip: You can try to grade your gravel driveway with a rake, but it’s best done by a pro with the right machinery like a tractor and a land plane.
Still on the subject of drainage, you’ll need to improve water flow if your gravel driveway constantly gets washed away when it rains.
Crowning it and adding drainage ditches on the side is one of the ways you can improve drainage.
Culverts also work especially in areas where there is heavy runoff over the driveway (e.g. if your driveway is on a slope). A culvert redirects the runoff to go under the driveway (here’s our guide on how to clean it).
You can also stop the runoff from reaching the driveway in the first place. This requires cutting ditches to redirect it elsewhere. Just make sure it doesn’t end up somewhere worse like near your house or in your neighbor’s front yard.
7. Compact the gravel
One of the possible reasons your gravel is not staying in place is that it’s too loose. After laying the gravel, it’s important to pack it down as much as possible.
You can use a handheld tamper plate to compact the gravel. For better results, use a powered tamper or a heavy plate compactor. You can rent one at a local Home Depot or find an equipment rental near you.
8. Choose the right kind of gravel
The kind of gravel you use can affect the stability of your driveway.
Pea gravel and river rock gravel are smooth and rounded. The gravel doesn’t lock to each other and shifts more easily.
Using rounded gravel can be a problem on sloped driveways as the gravel will likely slide down the slope over time.
Angular gravel is rough and locks to each other more tightly. It also doesn’t slide down as easily as rounded gravel.
9. Proper driveway installation
As I mentioned earlier, most stability problems in gravel driveways are as a result of poor installation. Whether you are laying the driveway yourself or having a pro do it, make sure it’s done right.
Here are some tips to keep in mind.
- Make sure the driveway is deep enough to hold the gravel in place. A shallow gravel driveway will lose gravel more easily. A deeper driveway also allows water to drain into the ground instead of pooling on the surface and washing the gravel away.
- Lay the driveway in layers starting from bigger pieces of stone underneath and topping up with smaller gravel. You should have at least three layers if you want your gravel driveway to last a long time.
- Consider adding underlayment fabric under the driveway. It’s mostly used to prevent weeds and grass from sprouting through the gravel, but it can also improve the stability of the driveway.
- Don’t forget to grade the driveway into a crown shape for proper runoff. Also get a compactor to pack down the gravel when you are done.
10. Fix potholes and ruts immediately
Whenever you spot a pothole or rut on the driveway, don’t leave it unattended. Just like on roads, potholes tend to get bigger if they are not fixed.
Over time, these potholes and ruts can extensively damage your driveway and cause gravel to wash away.
Keep a pile of gravel handy so you can fix these problems as soon as they occur.
It’s also important to figure out what caused those potholes. If they keep recurring, you may need to lay the driveway again or stabilize it with pavers or grids.
If you are having problems with ruts, then the issue is drainage. Find out where the runoff is coming from and find a way to redirect it.