How to Make a Gravel Driveway: A Step-by-Step Guide (2024)



Learn a new skill while beautifying your home.

Time to complete

10 hours

Time estimate varies based on the size of your driveway and the tools you use.



Only buy supplies if you’re comfortable with advanced-level DIY.

What you'll need:


  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel with a sturdy trough
  • Hard metal rake
  • Work gloves
  • Bulldozer (optional)
  • Mechanical compactor (optional)
  • Backhoe (optional)


  • Landscaping stakes
  • String or twine
  • Weed barrier
  • Base layer of rock (1 to 3 inches in diameter)
  • Middle layer of rock (2 to 3 inches in diameter)
  • Top layer of rock (⅜” to 2 inches in diameter)

A gravel driveway offers a budget-friendly, low-maintenance driveway option with a classic look. Plus, handy homeowners can install a gravel driveway themselves, unlike many other types of driveways. Learn how to make a gravel driveway and install each gravel driveway layer.

Keep in mind that the project can be physically-intensive work if you don’t rent larger equipment. Consider hiring a dependable driveway company if you want professional help with this project.

Prepping to Make a Gravel Driveway

Before you lay your gravel, you’ll need to map out your driveway, calculate the amount of gravel you need, and gather your tools. Putting these pieces in place makes for a smooth, seamless project.

Decide Where to Put Your Driveway

Survey your land and decide the future location, length, and shape of your driveway. Determine if you want to have a parking area or other features.

When picking a location, be sure to consider how the driveway drains. Rainwater should run off the sides and away from your house. If your driveway has a steep slope, you may want to install a drainage system, such as a French drain, before creating your driveway.

Apply for a Permit

Depending on your local ordinances, you may need to get a building permit before constructing a driveway, or pay certain taxes. Check with your city or county offices before beginning the project to determine what type of permits you need and the total cost.

Decide on Your Gravel Driveway Layers

The most stable gravel driveways have three rock layers, though you can create a driveway with two layers. The base layer should be crushed stone, limestone, or concrete with irregular shapes and a diameter of one to three inches. The middle layer is typically two- to three-inch stones. The top layer can be pea gravel, crushed stone, or limestone, ranging from ⅜ inch to 2 inches in diameter.

Calculate the Amount of Gravel for Each Layer

Next, measure your driveway's length and width. If it's a curvy driveway, measuring it in smaller sections and adding it together may be easier. Then, determine the depth of each rock layer, usually at least four to six inches. Convert the depth to feet by dividing the number of inches by 12.

For each layer, multiply the length (in feet) by the width (in feet) by the depth (in feet). Divide the total by 27 to determine that layer’s cubic yards of gravel. Calculate the amount of gravel for each layer the same way.

If you want to add a border of bricks, landscape edging, or timber, determine the total feet of the driveway’s perimeter. The total should include all the edges you want to cover with your border material.

Schedule Your Gravel Deliveries

Now that you’ve done the hard work of calculating your gravel needs, it’s time to purchase and start building your permeable driveway. Order your gravel, ideally with separate deliveries for each layer of stone, scheduled two or three days apart.

This tiered approach allows you to spread each layer and let it settle before spreading the next. Sometimes delivery trucks can help spread the gravel or place smaller piles along the driveway for easier spreading.

Rent Excavation Equipment

You may want to use larger tools to make the job faster and easier, such as a tractor for spreading gravel or a mechanical compactor to press down dirt and rocks. You can often rent tools from a local home improvement store or tool rental company. Be sure to have your other tools and materials set, including your weed barrier and any border material.

  1. Stake the Driveway

    Once you have a potential design for your gravel driveway, it’s a good idea to outline it to ensure it works with your space. To mark one long side of the driveway, insert landscape stakes or sticks every eight to 10 feet. Place the second set of stakes at least 10 to 12 feet across from your first set, marking the width of your driveway. Tie string or twine across the stakes to form the outline of your driveway.

    A straight, rectangular driveway is often the most straightforward, cost-effective design. A wider driveway is more expensive due to more gravel needed, and a curvy driveway is more time-intensive to build.

  2. Clear and Dig the Area

    To prepare the ground for gravel, remove grass, topsoil, shrubs, or other vegetation from the staked area. In general, you should dig four to six inches of soil for each layer of rock.

    You can use a shovel or backhoe or hire a local excavator to handle this part of the project for you. Clearing the ground can be labor-intensive depending on the tools, so don’t hesitate to hire a pro for the prep steps.

  3. Grade the Driveway’s Surface

    After digging out the top soil but before laying any rock, level the surface of the driveway with a backhoe, metal rake, mechanical compactor, or another tool. The surface should be relatively even to prevent water pooling, but elevate it 2% to 5% in the middle to promote water drainage.

  4. Put Down a Weed Barrier

    To prevent grass and weeds from growing through your driveway, lay down a fabric weed barrier. This step will also create a cushion layer of support for your vehicles, preventing irregular surfaces that can damage car tires.

    Cover the driveway, aiming to create a flat layer without any areas bunching up. You should aim to lay the weed barrier immediately after leveling and compacting the soil surface.

  5. Create Your Border

    The next step is constructing your gravel driveway’s border. If you're using bricks, landscaping stones, or timber to line your driveway, place them before laying your rock. If you’re not placing a border, you can skip this step.

  6. Spread and Compact the Base Layer

    Using a wheelbarrow, spread a layer of base rock across the length of your driveway. Use a shovel or hard metal rake to spread the rocks evenly across the width of your driveway.

    Then, compact the rocks with a bulldozer roller, heavy truck, or mechanical compactor to create a solid foundation for your driveway. Keep in mind that this step requires operating heavy machinery, so don’t hesitate to hire a pro for this part to ensure your safety.

  7. Add the Middle Layer

    One layer down, two more to go. Spread and compact your next layer of rock the same way as your base layer. Neaten the perimeter of the driveway with a shovel and rake. If you're only making a two-layer driveway, skip this step.

  8. Install the Top Layer

    How to Make a Gravel Driveway: A Step-by-Step Guide (1)

    Photo: Noel/Adobe Stock

    Almost done! Spread the top layer of gravel onto your driveway and smooth it down to eliminate bumps or divots. Be sure to grade the sides so that they’re slightly higher than the middle to allow for effective rainwater drainage.

    If you’re satisfied with your work, it’s time to clean up your tools and materials, including removing stakes and twine markers. The only step left is to maintain your gravel driveway year after year for durability, longevity, and appearance.

Building a Gravel Driveway Yourself vs. Hiring a Pro

With some heavy lifting, time, and experience, you can create a DIY gravel driveway. However, this project involves renting heavy-duty machinery and exerting plenty of sweat equity. Plus, any errors made during the installation process may be difficult and expensive to fix.

In addition to the cost of the gravel, about $1.25 to $1.80 per square foot, you’ll need to account for some basic supplies (wheelbarrow, shovel, hoe, steel rake, etc.) plus the cost to rent an excavator if you need to dig up grass and topsoil, which is about $350 per day. There is also the cost of renting a mechanical compactor to settle the stones, which costs $100 per day to rent. Ultimately, the gravel driveway cost to DIY might not be worth it for the average homeowner.

If you want to ensure the job is done faster and more accurately, consider hiring a local driveway paving contractor. The price of driveway paving labor costs $30 per hour on average.

Frequently Asked Questions

The total depth of a gravel driveway should be 12 to 18 inches thick. Each layer should be four to six inches thick—three layers are best for durability and longevity. Grading the ground and laying a weed barrier before the gravel layers prevents driveway drainage problems and the growth of grass and weeds through the driveway.

How to Make a Gravel Driveway: A Step-by-Step Guide (2024)


How to build a driveway step by step? ›

How to build a new driveway
  1. Step 1: Outline the plan of your new driveway area. ...
  2. Step 2: Excavate topsoil and level out driveway area. ...
  3. Step 3: Lay wooden forms around the driveway area. ...
  4. Step 4: Add in sand to firm up soil. ...
  5. Step 5: Compact gravel and soil. ...
  6. Step 6: Lay steel reinforcing mesh or bars.

What is the best base for a gravel driveway? ›

#2 Limestone gravel is most commonly used as the base for gravel driveways. These small rocks are able to form a solid and dependable foundation while providing adequate drainage. Both of these factors are an essential part of constructing a gravel driveway.

How deep should gravel be for a driveway? ›

The total depth of a gravel driveway should be 12 to 18 inches thick. Each layer should be four to six inches thick—three layers are best for durability and longevity.

What should I put down before a gravel driveway? ›

Before the first layer of gravel is delivered, level the path of the driveway. You can do this by hand or with a backhoe. Also, we recommend laying down a weed barrier to prevent grass from growing through your driveway.

What is the process of making gravel? ›

Creating construction-grade gravel undergoes a lot of processes. The process begins by gathering large rocks and breaking them down into smaller fragments using heavy machinery. What you're left with are small, irregular-shaped fragments that can form a pliable yet durable surface.

How many layers for a gravel driveway? ›

As stated previously, you will be laying three separate layers of stone. Be sure to compact each new layer down as you add to the driveway.

How to make gravel hard like concrete? ›

There are a few ways you can compact the gravel in a gravel driveway. For smaller driveways, you can drive a heavy vehicle over the driveway repeatedly. You can also use a mechanical compactor for more professional and even results.

What is the formula for a driveway? ›

Once you know the length, width, and thickness of your driveway, you can plug those measurements into a basic formula (length x width x thickness = volume in cubic feet) to get the precise quantity of concrete needed.

What should I put under my gravel driveway? ›

We strongly recommend applying a layer of MOT Type 1 to your gravel driveway base. MOT Type 1 aggregate is a bulk fill and levelling material that will ensure your driveway remains stable and doesn't sink under the weight of vehicles. The size of the aggregate ranges from 40mm to dust.

Do I need fabric under gravel driveway? ›

Is it really necessary to put fabric under my gravel driveway? Yes, if you want your driveway to last. Having geotextile driveway fabric under your gravel driveway will prevent you from continually needing to add more aggregate base to your road since the rock will drop into the subgrade layer.

How to cheaply edge a gravel driveway? ›

Consider using one of these inexpensive gravel driveway edging ideas to help you achieve the look you want.
  1. River Rocks. River rocks are well-suited for gravel driveways as they offer a smooth and rounded surface. ...
  2. Bricks or Pavers. ...
  3. Strip Edging. ...
  4. Wood Edging. ...
  5. Stone Edging.
Jul 20, 2023

What is the cheapest way to do a driveway? ›

Generally, gravel is the cheapest material, with resin and concrete being the most expensive.

How much will 20 tons of gravel cover? ›

Using 2 inches for the depth, the following measurements are a guide to the amount of gravel coverage per ton: 1/4 to 1/2 inch gravel, 100 square feet per ton; 1/2 to 1 inch gravel, 90 square feet per ton; and 1 1/2 to 2 inches gravel, 80 square feet per ton.

Do I need drainage for a gravel driveway? ›

Different from concrete driveways, gravel driveways do not require channel drain. Instead the solution is to lay some land drain or twinwall underneath the gravel in a French drain system and redirect the water to a suitable outlet.

How to prepare ground for gravel? ›

Surface Preparation for Gravel

For decorative purposes, clear the surface, flatten it, and use a weed-suppressing membrane to prevent weed growth. Lay your chosen gravel on top, adjusting it to achieve your desired look.

Do you need a grid for a gravel driveway? ›

We highly recommend that you use a cellular grid system for several reasons. Firstly, it helps to retain the gravel. Some people are put off having gravel driveways, thinking that they will be messy. Well, this can be true if you don't use a cellular grid system.

What to lay under gravel? ›

A weed membrane fabric is a cover or sheet that can be laid on top of the soil that is beneath your decorative gravel, slate or stone chippings. It blocks the emergence of weeds growing and becoming visible within the gravel surface.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Twana Towne Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 6217

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (64 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Twana Towne Ret

Birthday: 1994-03-19

Address: Apt. 990 97439 Corwin Motorway, Port Eliseoburgh, NM 99144-2618

Phone: +5958753152963

Job: National Specialist

Hobby: Kayaking, Photography, Skydiving, Embroidery, Leather crafting, Orienteering, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Twana Towne Ret, I am a famous, talented, joyous, perfect, powerful, inquisitive, lovely person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.