Gravel driveways look classy and aesthetic, but to be able to enjoy their rural appearance, you need to maintain them regularly, which is quite a bothersome task! Gravel is a tricky material and it won’t be enough just to sweep it now and then to keep dust away. You need proper maintenance that includes grading as well.
Today, we will tell you more about this part of gravel driveway maintenance. You will learn how to grade your gravel driveway and why it is essential to do this on a regular basis.
Also, we will explain what grading methods can be used and what they will give to you. You will get a detailed explanation of different grading techniques, which will help you understand the nuances of the procedure better.
After you read this article, you will learn not only what grading is but also how often you should grade your gravel driveway and what factors determine the frequency of this procedure.
How to Grade a Gravel Driveway?
If you have a house with a gravel driveway, your home automatically gains that classy look of old manors and estates. However, to keep your gravel wonder the same great-looking and usable, you need to provide proper maintenance to it.
If you have a gravel driveway on your property, then you know the common problems that come with them:
- Ruts develop, being uncomfortable and dangerous to drive over
- Heavy rain leaves washouts
- The gravel becomes compacted after a while
- The gravel on your driveway has to be replenished every few years
The best way to fix these problems once they occur is to grade your driveway regularly. It will not only help you keep its appearance in a good condition, but it will also even prevent any problems in the future.
However, the method you use for grading may vary. If you just have a few potholes on your driveway, they can be filled by hand, but you need to remember that this is a quick fix, and they will appear again later pretty quickly.
For a more long-term solution, we recommend you invest in a means of grading your driveway mechanically. It will allow you to not only fill in potholes but loosen gravel that has been compacted. As a result, you will save money on buying more gravel. Below, you can check out some tips for grading your gravel driveway.
Grade Your Driveway With Special Tools
If you have way too much work to do on your driveway, grading it by hand might be an unsuitable option. In this case, driveway graders will become more suitable.
Driveway graders (alternatively called box graders) are special machines that attach to your truck, ATV, or lawn tractor. They all have a straight leveling blade and sometimes some teeth to dig into the gravel and level it.
If you are planning on buying a driveway grader, remember to consider the following nuances:
- Its width (the wider the grader, the less time you spend grading)
- How deeply it can grade (it should grade at least as deep as your deepest potholes)
- What towing vehicles it is compatible with
Make Sure You Are Grading Correctly
Once you have chosen the grader that fits your needs, it’s good to learn a few handy tips on how to grade a gravel driveway to get the best results:
- Start by digging as deeply as you can to loosen all the gravel. You may need to add cinderblocks or heavy rocks to your grader to make it dig deeper!
- To grade the driveway, drive back and forth over it, starting on one side and working toward the other with each pass
- Once it is all done, check for washouts and sweep this gravel back onto the driveway
- Take another couple of passes to level out the gravel
Now let’s see how you can grade your gravel driveway with the help of a few alternative methods.
How to Grade a Driveway With a Tractor?
Before you use your tractor and box blade scraper, make sure you fill in any potholes and/or low spots with gravel.
Afterward, grade your driveway with a box blade scraper, following this scheme:
- Pull gravel from the left side of the driveway towards the center. For that, set the box blade scraper 1 ½ inch lower on the left side and pull the left side closer to the tractor at a 45-60° angle
- Drive along the left side of the driveway to let the blade dig in about ½ inch to move the gravel
- Repeat it all. Lift your blade and drive back to the point where you started. Make a second pass on the left side
- Pull gravel from the right side now, using the same settings as described above. Ride along the right side of the driveway, with the blade digging ½ inch deep into the gravel
- Now walk the center of the driveway with a shovel and remove any debris. Afterward, create a slight crown for proper drainage
- Level any gravel piles by going back and forth over the end of the driveway with the scraper blade being ½-¾ inches deep
- Smooth and set the gravel by removing the box blade and riding up and down the driveway several times
What if you don’t have a tractor and you also have to chance to rent it?
In this case, we recommend you check out the next option.
How to Grade a Driveway By Hand?
If you don’t have a tractor or box blade, you can still level a gravel driveway by hand. Before you begin, we suggest you assess all the problem areas on your driveway. More often than not, potholes are the main culprit.
To grade your gravel driveway by hand, you need to make a few rather simple steps:
- Begin by removing any debris and clearing the potholes with a shove
- Fill the pothole with coarse gravel until the hole is only 3 inches below the driveway
- Use a tamper to flatten the gravel
- Fill the rest of the pothole until the gravel forms a small mound a few inches above the surface of your driveway
- Compact the gravel mound by slowly driving over it with a vehicle (e.g.a car) until the gravel is level
- Smooth out slight bumps in the driveway with a rake
Like this, you will be able to make your driveway look neat again. But note that this method is more suitable for those cases when you don’t have to fix massive damage! If you have a very long driveway and/or it is seriously damaged and needs grading, you’d better opt for mechanical methods.
Make Sure You Maintain Your Driveway Correctly
As we have already mentioned above, a good-looking and neat gravel driveway requires regular maintenance and care to stay like that longer. But here is the question: how of ten shall I grade my driveway?
Well, most homeowners grade their driveways twice: in the spring and then once again in the fall. The spring grading includes cleaning up your driveway from the damage that winter snow has done. In the fall, you need to grade your driveway to minimize the damage for the next year.
However, in between grading sessions, you can still do a few things that will help you keep your driveway looking its best:
- If potholes appear, fix them by filling them with loose gravel. As an option, use a heavy-duty rake to loosen the compacted gravel around them and fill them with that
- Sweep or rake gravel that is scattered around the driveway back where it belongs
- Make sure you maintain your driveway’s crown (the high point at the center of the driveway). It will help your driveway to drain
With these simple tips, you will keep your driveway in decent condition easily.
What Determines the Frequency of Driveway Grading?
As you already know, grading maintains a driveway’s surface and keeps its geometry, restoring it if needed. But when you try to figure out how often your driveway should be graded, you can realize that it’s hard to find the right answer. There are many factors that affect this, influencing the frequency of your driveway grading.
The Original Design Of Your Driveway
The original design of your driveway impacts the frequency of its grading. If the original design is not optimal and is poorly constructed, you will need more frequent grading and reshaping of your driveway.
Always keep in mind that a properly designed gravel driveway must have crowned surface and shoulder areas, sloping away from the center. There should also be ditches on either side. This crowned shape is crucial for proper drainage and moisture control.
The Climate In Your Area
Any extreme weather conditions mean that a gravel driveway will require more regular grading. If your driveway is regularly affected by temperature fluctuations, rain, snow, and/or hail, note that it can cause potholes. If there is standing water at any place within the cross-section, it can also lead to distress and failure of a gravel road.
How Heavy the Traffic Is?
It also matters how heavy the traffic is on your driveway. Cars and trucks cause ruts, potholes, and displacement of soil and gravel by their tires and wheels. Of course, the more vehicles drive on your driveway, the more frequently it will need repairs. Also, if your driveway is used not frequently, it might need less attention.
The traffic volume is important, but the type of traffic also matters. Trucks and other heavy vehicles cause more damage to a gravel road’s surface in comparison to lighter vehicles like cars and motorbikes. Moreover, driving habits also impact gravel surfaces!
We hope this information will help you define how heavily your driveway is loaded with traffic and figure out how often it might need repairs and restoration.
So, now you know how to grade your gravel driveway and what methods can be used for that purpose. We explained in detail how grading is done and what tools and techniques are used for this purpose. Also, now you know what factors can influence the condition of your driveway and why grading should not be skipped.
It depends on who’s grading and the size of the driveway. But usually the grading crew prepares and grades the driveway within one day. If the driveway is long and you’re working alone, you may need more time. Grading a gravel driveway can cost between $4 and $8 per square foot. The cost to grade and excavate an average-size driveway will be around $700 to $2,500. There are no strict rules for how often a gravel road should be graded. But it’s recommended that roads with medium to low traffic are graded every three weeks to a month, and low-usage roads are graded at least once a season.
Frequently Asked Questions
⭐How long does it take to grade a long driveway?
⭐How much does it cost to grade a driveway?
⭐How often shall I grade my gravel driveway?
It depends on who’s grading and the size of the driveway. But usually the grading crew prepares and grades the driveway within one day. If the driveway is long and you’re working alone, you may need more time.
Grading a gravel driveway can cost between $4 and $8 per square foot. The cost to grade and excavate an average-size driveway will be around $700 to $2,500.
There are no strict rules for how often a gravel road should be graded. But it’s recommended that roads with medium to low traffic are graded every three weeks to a month, and low-usage roads are graded at least once a season.