Gravel driveways provide a cost-effective, elegant alternative to traditional concrete. In choosing gravel as a driveway material, you have the option of various shapes, sizes and colors, giving you unprecedented control over the appearance of your driveway. The gravel ranges in shape and size, from finely crushed gravel – known as “crush and run” gravel – to larger stones several inches in length and width. The color, shape and size are virtually without limit, constrained only by considerations of budget.
A landscaper might, however, recommend that you limit yourself to using stones from local quarries, lending a natural look and feel to your property and, as an added bonus, likely limiting costs, as imported stones bear the heavy additional costs of transportation and importation.
Gravel driveways are easily and quickly installed, without the labor-intensive laying of concrete. They are also significantly less expensive to maintain than traditional driveways: due to the porousness of the material, water’s expansion into ice poses no threat to gravel driveways, making these durable driveways ideal in colder climates, where temperatures regularly dip below freezing. Additionally, in icy or snowy conditions, driveways made of asphalt or concrete tend to freeze over, creating a slippery surface; not so with gravel, which provides excellent traction in all but the worst of weather conditions.
Although the maintenance is less costly, it tends to be more frequent: harsh winds, winters and regular automobile usage all distort the shape and layout of the stones over time. However, this is easily corrected with a driveway rake, which can be used to create intricate patterns on the driveway surface. For significantly larger gravel driveways, a large rake-like extension can be outfitted to the back of a car or small tractor, speeding up the upkeep.
In addition, the subsurface of the driveway collects dirt and dead grass, and without regular pruning can become infested with unsightly weeds. Over a period of many years, gravel driveways might lose their density, as individual stones are scattered and lost. At this point, it becomes necessary to purchase additional gravel, but it should be noted that such repairs are typically considerably less expensive or time-consuming than repairs to asphalt or concrete drives.
Gravel is an ideal surface for creating a rustic look, for covering large surface areas at minimal expense or for creating a temporary driveway in a short amount of time. One benefit of gravel that is often overlooked is the additional security it provides a home: cars and people cannot trespass over a gravel surface without making noise, or, on finer surfaces, leaving behind footprints or tire tracks. Anyone looking to use gravel on steep hills or extremely windy areas should consult a contractor for professional advice.
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