A gravel or shingle driveway looks traditional and straightforward. You can use different coloured or various shaped stones for a unique effect. And, it‘s permeable, so there‘s no problem with rainwater run–off. But how much do they cost to install?
To construct a loose stone driveway, you need more than just the top layer of gravel. There‘s the sub-base too.
A typical 40m2 gravel drive costs a total of about £2450. Or, gravel driveway costs per m2 of about £60. This average cost depends on the type of gravel and whereabouts you live in the country. But, remember that London and Southeast’s labour charges can be, on average, up to 20% higher than other parts of the UK. And finally, these prices include VAT.
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We compiled these figures from various online resources, so they should be taken as a guideline only. The only way you get an accurate quote is to ask a local groundworker or driveway installer to inspect the site first.
Gravel Driveway Price Breakdown
Gravel driveway prices don‘t just depend on the type of gravel. If we consider our 40m2 driveway, you also need to include:
- excavation and removal of waste, about £350.
- Weed proof membrane costing about £40.
- A loose driveway sub-base bought, delivered and then compacted with a vibrating plate. £450.
- Decorative gravel varies widely in price depending on the size, colour, rock type, mix on-site or ready mix, and whether smooth or angular. But, typically, around £350 to £400.
- Average labour to do the job. Around £400.
- Other costs probably come to around £400.
- VAT, around £400.
These figures give a total of around £2450 for a typical gravel driveway.
You need to think about a few other considerations, which might add to the overall cost. For example:
Determine whether the driveway slopes, risking migrating gravel downhill onto the road. Or, you might need gravel mats, or a resin-bound alternative to prevent this situation.
Your driveway also needs edging to prevent the stone chippings from migrating onto lawns and flowerbeds.
And, drainage solutions to divert excess surface rainwater to a lawn, soakaway, or surface water drain.
Depending on the size of the driveway, you might need to hire mini-excavators for topsoil removal.
The number of waste skips needed for waste removal depends on the volume of loose soil produced. Expect the volume of loose excavated soil, to be more than the volume of compacted in-situ soil. Typically, 1m3 of natural in-situ soil becomes 1.25m3 in a waste skip.
Furthermore, you must decide on the most suitable material for the driveway sub-base. In the UK, MOT1 is the best sub-base material as it is a mixture of different sized crushed limestone rock ranging from 40mm to dust. The mixture compresses well to a stable and permeable base with no sharp bits that might damage the membrane. It also provides a substantial barrier to prevent individual pieces of gravel or hardore from pushing into the base.
The best gravel for the driveway depends more on what is practical and what pleases your eye. You can choose from smooth or sharp stone. And, from a wide range of colours and sizes. By the way, try not to buy gravel smaller than 20mm because smaller sizes become stuck in tyre treads.
The type of gravel, and how much you buy, governs its price. Typically, most gravel types come in small bags of 20kg or large bags of 850kg. If you buy direct from a quarry, you can usually get as much as you need. And, have it delivered from the back of a flatbed lorry. On average, gravel works out at about £74 per tonne, or £60 per 850kg bag.
Fortunately, it’s possible to lay a large gravel driveway in one piece, unlike concrete or tarmac. And we don‘t need dry weather to give an excellent finished product.
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Choosing a driveway specialist
If you want a pebble driveway that lasts for many years, always choose a gravel drive specialist rather than DIY. Unfortunately, many cowboys in the driveway construction industry haven’t got real qualifications or experience. They believe a driveway is easy to build.
Always choose someone who offers references that you can follow up. Check the standard of work and find out how professional the tradesman was. Don‘t only look at recent jobs; choose some that are a few years old, so you can see how the driveway looks after a few wet or frosty winters.
Probably, the quality of the excavation and sub-base are two of the most critical parts of a driveway. Paying attention to best practice, and ensuring they have a correctly compacted gravel driveway sub-base, takes longer to do and costs slightly more. But, an experienced contractor spending a few more days on this part of the job guarantees an excellent looking driveway in 10 or 20 years.
Alternatively, many companies that manufacture or supply driveway materials often run accreditation schemes. And, train installers to use their products.
Ensure the contractor knows about safety and is qualified to operate the excavator. So, check he or she has a machine ticket and a valid CSCS or CPCS card. They might also have a Groundwork City and Guilds or NVQ qualification.
Types of Gravel For Driveways
There are many types of rock you can use when building a gravel driveway. Each one has different properties and gives an entirely different overall effect. Let‘s look at a few of the most common and see how they compare. You can use this list as a gravel driveway cost calculator to help determine the prices of different rock types. The costs vary depending on the amount you buy, whether you buy them loose direct from the quarry or in bags from a garden centre or builder‘s merchants.
Also known as dirty stone, blinding, dense grade aggregate, or MOT Type 1. It‘s a mixture of 40mm stone with smaller stone size fractions together with sand and dust. When compacted, they bind together to form a very stable driveway aggregate. 40mm blinding makes an excellent sub-base material. Or, 25mm blinding makes good top layer gravel. Usually, they’re available in 850kg bags costing £60 to £70.
Pea gravel or pea shingle comprises small stones of different shapes and sizes, but are all around 10mm to 20mm in diameter. The individual pebbles are smooth and look like the typical shingle found on a beach. Unlike angular crushed rock, they don‘t lock together, so it needs edging to help keep the stone in place.
Pea gravel comes in a variety of colours, usually mixed, such as red, grey, blue, brown, yellow, and white. A bulk 850kg bag costs around £70.
Marble chips come in many different colours. But one of the most common types is pure white, also known as ‘white dolomite‘ or ‘white spar‘. Householders often use this highly decorative type of rock when building walkways and driveways. Also, you can buy marble chips in different sizes to suit your preference. But, they tend to migrate, so they need driveway edging to hold them in place. Unfortunately, marble chips cost more than the other gravel types, so they might only be practical for a very small driveway. Prices go from £170 per 1000kg.
This type is a mixture of small stone and coarse sand. Different combinations of the varying size fractions have various uses. Crushed stone is useful as hardcore, sub-base, or top layer. And, it makes a useful general all-round driveway aggregate. You can also use it for mixing concrete, landscaping, and drainage. A bulk 850kg bag costs around £70.
This stone looks like crushed stone but is more attractive as it‘s washed clean. Smaller sizes can be used in the sub-base, while larger sizes look good as top layer stone. A bulk 850kg bag costs around £70.
Blue Grey Slate Chippings
Slate chippings are a trendy alternative to standard gravel. And, look attractive as a flowerbed mulch as much as a covering for footpath and small driveways. The muted grey colour complements many types of building materials and blends in naturally with its surroundings. Some parts of the UK have local slate quarries that sell these very cheaply. And, you can buy many size fractions for varying purposes. If you haven‘t got a slate quarry nearby, purchase them from a garden centre or DIY warehouse at less than £10 per 25kg bag or £160 for a bulk 850kg bag.
Stone dust, also called stone screenings, is almost like very coarse sand. You can use it on its own or combined with small and large stones. Stone dust has many different uses:
- Used as the single size fraction, it produces a rigid water–impermeable surface.
- When combined with larger stones (as a driveway aggregate), it makes a great binding agent for a sub-base or the top layer.
- Also, used to bind asphalt or cement as a footpath or road surface.
- Compacted stone dust prevents weeds and moss from growing on the driveway.
You can buy this from the usual outlets, and a bulk 850kg bag costs around £70.
These are pebbles that have been polished by a river bed or beach. They come in many colours, but white is very popular at the moment. And, they allow free drainage for rainwater. But, because they are smooth and round, they don‘t work very well as a driveway material. Instead, many people use this type as a driveway edging material, creating a border for other more stable gravel. An 850kg bulk bag covers around 9m2, depending on depth, and costs around £300.
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Advantages & Disadvantages of Gravel
We already know that gravel driveways are popular for anyone looking for a sustainable, eco-friendly driveway instead of a concrete or asphalt surface. But, gravel has quite a few other benefits going for it too.
- Gravel is very affordable. It is much cheaper than any of the alternatives such as paving, concrete, and asphalt. And, if you buy in bulk, it can cost less than half that of paving.
- It‘s easy to install a gravel driveway. Grade the sub-base using 40mm blinding aggregate and compact it to a smooth surface. Then, add the gravel of your choice, followed by a pea gravel layer to fill in the larger gaps. Leave it to settle for a week or so, and you have a smooth surface.
- Although you have to maintain gravel surfaces regularly, it‘s cheap and easy to do so. It‘s even possible for someone with minimal DIY experience to do a good job. All you need are a bag of the same type of gravel, a shovel, and a rake.
- Once you have installed your gravel driveway, you can use it immediately, unlike the other driveway surfaces where you must leave it to cure.
- A significant advantage of using gravel for a driveway is that it‘s permeable to water. Rain falls on the gravel and runs through until it meets the first impermeable surface. It can then run-off into the ground or evaporate without damaging the gravel and without causing puddles.
- You can use many different gravel colours and textures and still, give a stable and robust gravel driveway surface. So, even though you use gravel, the surface can look unique.
Gravel isn‘t all sweetness and light. There are things you should watch out for too.
- If the area where you live catches heavy snow in the winter, it‘s difficult to remove from a gravel driveway. Probably, the only thing you can do is to spread salt to melt the ice or lay sand to improve grip.
- If you use large and heavy vehicles, you probably suffer from ruts in your driveway‘s surface. They are unsightly, can expose the sub-base beneath, and cause puddles. If they appear, you must infill the ruts regularly to keep the driveway looking good.
- Depending on the type of gravel you use, the surface might deteriorate over time. Limestone and marble chemically react with acid rainwater and weather into a type of clay.
- Also, some pebbles might crush under the weight of a heavy vehicle. Slate has sharp edges that abrade against other slate chippings. So the surface needs to be replenished regularly.
- Dirt accumulates between the gravel, especially in dry summer months. A dirty driveway needs frequent washing with a garden hose to remove dust and soil.
- Weeds, grass, and moss can lodge and take root in the soil caught in the gravel surface. Keep an eye out for green shoots and remove them as soon as they appear.
- Resurfacing gravel and patching ruts takes time and money. While, other surfacing materials don‘t need regular repairs.
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Gravel Driveway Installation Process
Laying a gravel driveway is a straightforward exercise that many DIY enthusiasts can easily manage. Even if you‘re not that way inclined, it‘s easy and doesn‘t take long for an expert contractor to produce a great job that is good value for money.
Let‘s look at the steps you need to do to build a gravel driveway.
Peg out the boundaries
Use metal or wooden stakes together with string to mark out the perimeter of the proposed driveway.
Clear the site
Remove all grass and topsoil from within the marked out area. You can either do this by hand. Or, if you aren‘t that energetic, hire a small excavator to do the job. You can rent one of these from your local tool hire shop, or you can hire a machine and operator.
Calculate the volume of gravel needed for each layer
After you‘ve removed all the topsoil, you can now calculate how much gravel you need. But, before you do that, use a shovel and rake to level the subsoil as much as you can. Fill in any hollows and break off any mounds so that the ground has no undulations. Once you‘ve done this, it‘s time to measure the excavation.
Multiply the length and width of the area you‘ve excavated to give you the area. For example, if the driveway measures 5m long by 3m wide, the area becomes 15m2.
Now, you need about 50mm of top layer gravel. But, at least 125mm of sub-base. So measure the excavation from the top to the sub-soil and subtract 50mm. The answer to the calculation gives you the depth of the base you need.
Measure the volume needed for a 100mm to 150mm hardcore layer on the bottom of the excavation. Multiply the area by 150mm (remember to change millimetres to metres. So, 150mm becomes 0.150m) to calculate the volume. Also, order half this volume of sharp sand to blind the hardcore, to fill in the cavities, and remove any sharp corners.
Multiply the base depth by the area, and you have the volume of the base. Don‘t forget that you must compact the base to that volume. So, add about 4% onto the volume to allow for compaction. You now have the required volume of “40 mm to dust“ quarry stone blindings.
Next, multiply the area by 50mm (0.050m) to calculate the top layer gravel volume you need. Once again, add on about 4% to allow for natural settling.
Order the gravel and prepare the site
Order the hardcore and sand and when it arrives, lay a layer of hardcore onto the subsoil. Using a plate compactor, push the hardcore into the ground to provide a stable and robust foundation.
You also need enough sharp sand to fill in between the hardcore. This operation is known as “blinding the hardcore”. Once you’ve laid enough sand to blind the hardcore, compact it to produce a smooth surface.
Order the gravel from the supplier, which probably takes at least a couple of days to come. While you wait, lay the weed proof membrane.
Lay the weed membrane on top of the hardcore/sand layer. Tuck the membrane tightly into the corners of the excavation and allow it to upstand above the level of the surrounding ground. Don‘t worry, you can cut the excess off later.
If you need edging stones, curbstones, or wooden edging, now is the time to fit them. Place a bed of mortar around the edge and place the curbs in place, using them to hold the membrane in place.
Spread the 40mm blinding on top of the membrane. Then, compact, using the plate vibrator until the layer is about 150mm deep.
Build up the layer in the centre to produce a slight gradient towards the edge. The slope allows collected rainwater to run-off to the side. Finally, make sure the entire layer is compacted.
Lay the top layer of gravel
Lay the gravel on top of the base to a depth of around 50mm. It isn’t easy to walk or drive on a layer deeper than this.
Rake the layer, making sure there aren‘t any hollows or hills. Shape the top surface as you want. But, ensure that the gravel at the sides lies at about the same height as the curbstones.
Over the next few days, the gravel settles and falls below the curbs. But, don‘t worry, you can add extra gravel as necessary.
Every few months, you might want to add a bit more gravel to top up the level. Similarly, tidy the edges as well.
Apart from that, all that‘s needed is to trim the weed membrane level with the top of the curbs.
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How long does this job take?
Disregarding the time spent measuring and ordering the stone, and assuming you have a mechanical excavator handy, the entire job shouldn‘t take more than two or three days.
Use the first day for excavating, laying the hardcore, and blinding with sand. Use about half a day for laying the membrane and curbstones. And, the rest of the time to lay the sub-base and top layer. Some of the jobs are easier if you have an extra pair of hands, so ask a friend to help.
Apart from labour, you only need a few simple tools and a small supply of gravel.
Keep a supply of your chosen gravel in a bag, so it remains clean. You can then fill in holes or ruts as soon as they appear.
Keep a shovel handy to move the gravel from one place to another and help level out the surface.
You also need a steel tined garden rake to clear weeds and fallen leaves. And, you can use the rake to level the gravel too.
Remember, it‘s much easier to do a little bit of weekly maintenance on your gravel driveway rather than save it up, and fix everything, once or twice a year. If you leave it until then, weeds have taken root, and the gravel will be thin.
Regularly remove weeds. Don‘t just rake gravel over them, as they will continue to grow and lengthen their roots.
Gravel always moves when you drive on it. So, try to maintain a slight gradient from the centre to the edge. Then, the surface continues to look good, prevents potholes, and helps divert surface rainwater.
No matter how much you clear and rake the surface. Over time, the gravel somehow disappears, leaving the surface looking bare. Before this happens, place more gravel on top of the existing layer. You won‘t need as much as before. But, use enough to maintain the 50mm depth.
Building Regulations & Planning Permission
You won‘t need Planning Permission for resurfacing or building a driveway, as long as the surface is permeable, such as gravel. Or, if the rainwater diverts to the lawn or a flowerbed. Or, if an impermeable driveway has an area less than 5m2. The SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage System) regulations ensure that surface water run–offs and flooding are kept at a minimum by mimicking natural soil drainage.
If your driveway needs fences, walls, or gates, you might need planning permission. But, if you intend to build a driveway in a location where there wasn‘t one previously, you definitely need permission. Especially, if you intend to drive over a footpath to the main road. Then, you must have the footpath strengthened and a dropped curb installed. This is to protect the underground services, beneath the footpath. Only a contractor, approved by your local council, can install a dropped curb. And sometimes, the council insists on doing the work themselves and giving you a bill.
Building Regulations don‘t usually apply to driveways, except that any alterations must not make access to the house more difficult than it already was. For example, suppose the alterations need steps where none were before. In that case, the steps need to comply with the building regulations.
Gravel Drive FAQ
Is a gravel driveway cheaper than concrete?
A gravel driveway is much cheaper to install than one made from concrete or even paving. The amount you save varies depending on the driveway’s size and the type of gravel you use. But, you can save up to about half of the cost of other types of surfacing.
How long does a gravel driveway last?
Suppose you look after a properly constructed gravel driveway, by maintaining it and replenishing the gravel as necessary. In that case, a gravel driveway can last for up to 100 years.
What is the best base for a gravel driveway?
After excavation down to sub-soil level, add a layer of hardcore (100mm to 150mm stone) and compact it using a vibrating plate compactor. Next, infill the cavities between the hardcore with sharp sand to make the surface level. Then, add a weed membrane to prevent vegation from pushing through. Next, add 150mm of 40mm to dust quarry stone. And finally, compact this using the vibrating plate compactor.
How do I make my gravel driveway solid?
The best way is to use a plate compactor to vibrate the gravel into a hard layer. Some people suggest you should add some cement to the gravel to make it more substantial. But, if you do this, you might break the SUDS regulations regarding driveway drainage. However, if you provide other means of collecting and diverting surface rainwater, this becomes less of an issue.
How do you plough a gravel driveway?
Very few places in the UK see enough snow to worry about using a snowplough to clear a typical domestic driveway. But, if you find yours covered in thick snow, and you have the use of a snowplough, use the following procedure.
- Keep the blade a few centimetres above the gravel surface.
- Start at the centre and follow the driveway along its route, pushing the snow to one side.
- Move to the edges, and push the snow onto the garden on either side of the driveway.
- Lay some road grade rock salt to melt the thin layer of snow that remains.
Can you chip seal a gravel driveway?
Chipsealing involves placing a layer of bitumen or asphalt onto a solid driveway and covering it with washed gravel.
It might look good at the start. But, in the long term, is it any good?
- As there is only a very thin layer of gravel bonded to the asphalt, it won‘t be long before the asphalt shows through.
- Also, you have the problem of creating a layer that is impermeable to rainwater. This might cause your driveway to contravene the SUDS planning regulations.
So, in theory, you can chipseal a driveway. But, it might not be a good idea.
Do I need fabric under a gravel driveway?
It‘s a good idea to use a weed membrane underneath your gravel driveway. The membrane is a specially designed fabric. It prevents weeds and other vegetation, while allowing rainwater to permeate to the ground beneath.
How thick should a gravel driveway be?
In the UK, the recommended depth of gravel for a driveway is:
- 125mm to 150mm of compacted 40mm to dust quarry stone to form the base.
- And, 40 to 50mm of loose gravel on top.
How do I keep weeds out of my gravel driveway?
- Excavate the area down to subsoil level.
- Weed the area by hand to remove all remaining, visible vegetation.
- Lay a weed membrane to prevent vegetation, in the future, from growing up through the base.
- Compact the base gravel.
- Regularly weed the top gravel layer to prevent any seedlings from gaining hold.
- Regularly wash the top layer of gravel to prevent windblown soil from settling between the stones.
How do you harden a gravel driveway?
Compact the sub-base using a plate compactor. Then, avoid using smooth, rounded gravel as the top layer. Use washed crushed stone with jagged edges. Then, the gravel interlocks with other pieces and creates a hard and difficult to move surface.
Get Quotes From Local Experts
Suppose it‘s time to replace your driveway. Or, if you haven‘t previously owned one, perhaps it’s time to build a driveway. Maybe, you should consider using a professional to install a gravel driveway. The cost of a gravel driveway installation is much cheaper than one made from other materials.
So, complete the form on this page, and you‘ll receive 3 or 4 quotes from reputable and experienced driveway installers near you. They will be more than happy to build a driveway, of which you can be proud.
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