Clearing snow from a gravel driveway can be tricky. Whichever method you use, there is a risk of removing the loose gravel along with the snow. You have to be especially careful when you are using heavy equipment like a snow blower. In this post, we discuss how to snow blow a gravel driveway without blowing away the gravel.
We also include some alternative options if you don’t have a snow blower or don’t want to use it.
What You'll Learn Today
- Can You Snow Blow A Gravel Driveway?
- What Kind Of Snow Blower Do I Need For A Gravel Driveway?
- How To Snow Blow A Gravel Driveway?
- How To Remove Snow From A Gravel Driveway Without A Snow Blower?
- Can You Use A Leaf Blower To Blow A Gravel Driveway?
Can You Snow Blow A Gravel Driveway?
A snow blower works great on paved, asphalt or concrete driveways. That’s because these surfaces are firm and solid, so there’s a smaller risk of damage.
A gravel driveway has a surface full of small loose rocks that could easily get picked by a snow blower and flung away.
That’s not to mean it’s impossible to snow blow a gravel driveway. You can definitely do it; you just have to be careful with the snow blower.
As we will discuss shortly, the most important thing is to make sure the auger paddles don’t pick up gravel.
What Kind Of Snow Blower Do I Need For A Gravel Driveway?
There are three kinds of snow blowers: single stage, two stage and three stage.
For blowing a gravel driveway, I highly recommend a two stage snow blower for most homeowners.
A two stage blower can handle thick snow, including the snow piles left by the plow at the end of your driveway.
Most importantly, a two stage snow blower has adjustable skid shoes. These allow you to raise and lower the auger.
When clearing snow off a gravel driveway, you adjust the shoes downwards to raise the auger. This ensures it only picks up snow and doesn’t touch the gravel.
It’ll leave a thin layer of snow on the gravel, but you can easily shovel or rake it, or simply leave it to melt in the sun.
Tip: If you are shopping for a snow blower and are wondering which one to get (single stage vs. two-stage, electric vs. gas etc.), here is an excellent video guide from Consumer Reports.
Can You Use A Single Stage Snow Blower On A Gravel Driveway?
It’s difficult to use a single stage snow blower on a gravel driveway. Because these types of snow blowers don’t have skid shoes, you cannot raise the auger.
The auger touches the ground and will scoop up gravel along with the snow.
You can try to tilt the snow blower slightly backwards to raise the auger, but this makes it harder to maneuver the blower.
You can also try to modify the blower to raise the auger. I’ve seen people attempt two DIY methods.
The first is to add your own skid shoes on the blower. They can be metal or pieces of wood. It’ll require drilling holes on the snow blower.
It works on some snow blowers, but it can affect the performance and maneuverability of the blower.
The second option is to add a second set of wheels at the front of the snow blower. This will raise the auger and leave a space underneath to ensure it doesn’t pick up gravel.
Generally, however, getting a two stage blower is the best option. It’s easy to adjust and you are assured that it can deal with the thickest snow you’ll ever get.
If you only get a couple inches of snow on your gravel driveway, which is not enough to justify a pricey second stage blower, consider another method instead like shoveling or de-icing salt.
Or get a single stage blower and try to modify it to work on your gravel driveway.
How To Snow Blow A Gravel Driveway?
Remember to protect yourself before you go out into the snow. Wear thick and warm clothing, including boots and gloves.
If you can get a pair of heated gloves, even better.
Also, make sure there is plenty of daylight left to work in. Unless your snow blower has headlights, don’t work in the dark.
1. Get your snow blower ready
If it’s battery powered, make sure it has enough charge. If it’s electric, check that everything is working properly.
For a gas powered snow blower, check the fuel, oil and other components. This is especially important if you are using it for the first time this season.
Next, adjust the auger to the right height. Loosen the bolts on the skid shoes and lower them then re-tighten the bolts.
The goal is to leave half an inch to an inch of space between the paddles and the surface of the gravel driveway.
2. Mark your driveway
When it snows, it can be hard to see where your driveway ends and where the lawn begins. Borders at the edge of the driveway can also be covered by snow and you could run into them, damaging your snow blower.
Get a set of reflective snow stakes or driveway markers from Amazon or a local store and plant them along the driveway before it snows.
3. Start blowing, beginning from the upwind end
Now you are ready to blow snow. Don’t forget to adjust the chute to blow snow where you want it to go.
If it is windy, start from the end of the driveway that the wind is blowing from (upwind). That ensures snow doesn’t blow back from the area you’ve just cleared.
Work your way slowly down the driveway, constantly checking to make sure the blower is not picking up any gravel. If it is, stop and adjust the auger higher.
4. For thick snow, work in layers
If the snow is too thick, even a two-stage blower might struggle to clear it. In that case, it’s better to blow the snow in layers.
Raise the auger higher and take out the top layer of snow. Then lower it gradually until you only have half an inch to an inch of snow left on the driveway.
5. Remove the remaining snow using another method
When using a snow blower, you cannot clear all the snow down to the gravel. You’ll end up flinging the gravel away, damaging your driveway and risking injuring someone.
The thin layer will also melt quickly when the sun comes out.
If you want to remove all the snow, there are a few options.
You can shovel or rake it to the side of the driveway. This is ideal if your driveway is not too long. Just be careful not to drag or scoop gravel.
You can also apply de-icing salt on the snow to make it melt quicker. Mix salt and sand to improve traction and make it safer to walk on the snow.
6. Clean the snow blower
Before you put the snow blower away, clear any snow stuck in the chute, paddles or impeller. Leaving snow on the blower can prevent it from starting properly next time or lead to rust.
How To Remove Snow From A Gravel Driveway Without A Snow Blower?
Don’t have a snow blower?
There are several other ways you can clear snow from your gravel driveway.
I’ve already mentioned one of them above — de-icing salt. Calcium chloride is the best kind of de-icing salt for most homeowners.
It works in very low temperatures (up to -25F), it is affordable, and it is less toxic than rock salt (sodium chloride).
Other options include plowing the snow (remember to raise the blade above the gravel) and shoveling.
If you don’t want to do any work removing snow from the driveway, you can use heated driveway mats. Lay them on the driveway. Any snow that falls on them melts away so you always have a clear driveway.
On the downside, heated mats are pricey (especially if you have a long driveway) and they also cost money to run since they are powered by electricity.
To reduce cost, you can lay the mats just where the wheels of your car pass instead of covering the entire driveway.
Can You Use A Leaf Blower To Blow A Gravel Driveway?
It may seem like a reasonable replacement for a snow blower, but a leaf blower likely won’t work on your gravel driveway.
Remember that a snow blower doesn’t blow onto the driveway. It picks up snow with the auger and blows it away.
A leaf blower blows out air, which can kick away snow but also gravel. Unlike a shovel, snow blower or plow, you cannot adjust a leaf blower to avoid picking up gravel.
I don’t recommend using a leaf blower to clear snow from a gravel driveway.