How to Plan a Successful Driveway Project

At the top of the list for many homeowners when they are building or updating their homes is curb appeal. The first interaction anyone will have when approaching your home is with your driveway. If you live in the country, chances are you have come across some rather rough entrances. Many are damaged from weather or overgrown and crowded by trees and brush. A driveway is something most people use daily so it’s an important part of your home to invest thought and time. Be sure to properly prepare the site and double check all measurements before ordering your chosen material. When making plans for your driveway consider efficient placement and note what kind of vehicles will be using your new road. Consult your county for permits or inspections. This is especially important if your driveway lets out to a county or state roadway. If you live in an area that has a Homeowner’s Association they may need a copy of your plans and request that you to stake out your plans for their approval.  

There are several things to plan before breaking ground, this is where consulting a professional is helpful. When visualizing the path you want your driveway to lead, note any large obstructions such as trees, boulders, or large brush. Consider whether you will remove what is blocking the path or whether you will navigate around it. Identify any potential utilities that may need to cross your road. Planning for power or water lines before laying down your road will save a lot of time and headache later on. Studying your property during harsh weather will teach you a lot about trouble areas. Water can be destructive so you must deal with the areas of heavy run off and low spots that hold water. Sometimes a ditch can be dug and filled with large rocks to slow the speed of moving water. A culvert may be necessary to allow water to cross your road.

There are many material options for building a road or driveway. Your options may be limited by your HOA so be sure to check what’s allowed in your area. Most common driveway materials are concrete, gravel, and road base. Other kinds of materials include pavers, asphalt, recycled materials such as brick, and even crushed shell. These are less common options but can be an attractive alternative. When comparing your choices, always take into account the cost of material and the labor costs. Labor costs may vary depending on the difficulty and skill required to install. Another factor that can be overlooked is the time it will take before you can use your road. If you are building a new home, it wouldn’t be a big deal if you couldn’t use the drive for a week while your concrete cured. In other cases, it just wouldn’t be an option for the roadway to be unpassable for that long.

Concrete is overwhelming popular in cities because of its clean look and low maintenance. In rural areas it can be a challenging option because of problematic land conditions. Concrete can easily destroy a budget when covering a large area. Consulting an experienced contractor is vital for this type of project. A local contractor will be familiar with preparing your concrete to withstand the typical weather changes in your area. They will be able to point out any concerns with your landscape that you hadn’t considered. Although it is easy to maintain, concrete requires some intense prep work. This includes building forms, adjusting the base soil to support the weight, and adding reinforcing steel such as rebar. A contractor with an experienced team is essential for most people taking on a large project like a concrete driveway. If it is going to be used by heavy vehicles it is usually recommended to be at least 4 inches thick and allowed to cure for at least 4 days. If you live in a cold climate area that gets a lot of snow you should think about steps you can take to prevent cracking. A supportive base soil will be key to extending the lifespan of your driveway. The topsoil will need to be removed along with any organic materials such as leaves and sticks. Then heavy equipment run over it to compact the dirt and identify any low spots that will need attention. When installing a concrete road or driveway on a rural property, the area around the new road will likely need to be cleared. Trees that could have a large root system could damage the driveway if it’s not dealt with right away.

Gravel requires the lowest initial investment and it is the easiest to install. But this initial savings will be combatted by the maintenance costs. Gravel rocks can be displaced by heavy rains so material will need to be added every few years to low spots. This is not a good material choice if you ever have to remove snow from your drive. This is an environmentally friendly option because rain can still be absorbed by the soil underneath. It can also be damaged by weeds or silt. To prevent weeds or silt from compromising your gravel you can lay down both weed and silt barriers. It is recommended to vary the size of the gravel with every layer you put down. First being large baseball size rocks to small thumbprint size pebbles on top. After 2 to 3 layers of gravel it should be at least 10 to 12 inches thick. A border material would also be a smart option to keep your gravel in place and discourage the surrounding landscape from the edges.

Road base is a popular option in rural areas where driveways are usually much longer than what’s normal within city limits. Road base is a material that is usually used as a foundation layer under a different heavy material. It can also be built up to stand on its own as a road surface. If you change your mind and decide to add concrete or asphalt at a later time your current road base driveway will provide a perfect foundation. It requires occasional maintenance like adding material or leveling to maintain proper grading. Although it may produce dust during excessively dry seasons this is an excellent option that is sturdy and affordable. Material is delivered by the truckload, spread and rolled repeatedly to compact the material. Road base will withstand more wear than looser materials like gravel and can stand strong despite any elevation changes.

Taking the proper preparation steps for your chosen material choice is important to be sure you have a reliable road surface. Hopefully the weather has been kind to you and your road has had the time needed to settle or cure well. Having a reliable and visually appealing driveway will add convenience and considerable value to your home. Proper planning and investing some hard work will ensure a driveway that will last for years to come.

 

1 thought on “How to Plan a Successful Driveway Project”

  1. We are wanting to improve the curb appeal of our home because we will sell it in the spring. Thank you for suggesting that we contact a professional before we break ground to redo the driveway. It is also a good idea when you said that we should consider whether or not to remove trees that could potentially get in the way. We wanted to do it ourselves, but with so many considerations, we will probably hire a concrete driveway professional.

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