Spreading gravel on a dirt driveway is an easy way to make a serviceable access road to a country home, and it can add a pleasant rural element to an urban homestead, but it won't stay serviceable without regular maintenance. Potholes, corrugation and washouts are some of the problems that develop with gravel driveways, and although you can't always prevent them, you can keep them under control by spreading extra gravel and grading periodically. You'll need a tractor or a tow-behind box grader, or you can hire the grading job out to a contractor.
A gravel driveway is basically little more than a graded dirt roadway with a layer of crushed rock. The rock stays in place best if it's small -- approximately 1/4 inch in diameter -- and angular, but even so, it gets pushed out of the way during regular use, so it's important to have a supply on hand. To repair potholes and keep the driveway properly graded, you also need a vehicle such as a pickup truck to transport the gravel and shovels and hard rakes to spread it.
When Potholes Develop
Potholes are virtually inevitable on a gravel driveway, and many people try to correct them by filling them with gravel from another part of the driveway. This just creates a weak spot that soon gives birth to another pothole. A longer-term solution is to widen the existing pothole to prevent it from caving in any more than it already has, then filling it with layers of new gravel, compacting each layer in turn with a plate compactor or by driving over it.
Dealing with Washboard
When corrugations develop that make your car bounce up and down uncomfortably, slowing your vehicle down and wearing out its shocks and suspension, it's usually because of poor water drainage. If you simply scrape the road flat, the problem quickly recurs. It's better to improve drainage with proper grading.
Decompress the existing dirt and gravel by towing a box grader over the roadway with its actuator set to dig as deeply as possible. Make two or three passes, staring on one side of the driveway and finishing on the other.
Redistribute material that has fallen to the side of the roadway, using a shovel and broom. Flatten the roadway with a rake or by raising the actuators and towing the box grader over the roadway again.
Add gravel to the center of the roadway to create a slope toward the edges. Ideally, the road surface should slope from 2 to 5 percent. Compact the gravel with a plate compactor or by driving over it, and add more as needed to maintain the slope.
Keep your driveway in good condition by using it sensibly and conducting a few routine maintenance tasks. To keep your gravel driveway healthy and last longer, every one to two years add a fresh layer of gravel on top of the top layer.
- Rake the driveway weekly to remove branches and other debris. This prevents the debris from getting pressed into the gravel and forming weak spots.
- Edge the driveway with pavers or some other type of edging material to keep the gravel in place.
- Watch the flow of water and dig trenches as needed to direct it away from the driveway and prevent it from flowing across the surface. Severe drainage issues may call for installing a culvert under the driveway.
- Drive slowly, especially around curves. Spinning tires spray gravel off the driveway. Moreover, you make problems such as potholes and washboard worse by driving over them at high speeds.
- Control weeds by pulling them or applying a weedkiller to the driveway's surface.