How to Grade a Driveway: Back to Basics
Every driveway is a little different. You may have dangerous ruts that make driving uncomfortable, or maybe your gravel is compacted and uneven, or rain washes out your drive, or there are deep divots – or any number of other unavoidable issues. The fact is, if you’re interested in doing a job that will mature seasonally– there’s definitely plenty of prep work to do.
You’ve got to examine, excavate and grade. But it’s easy to go overboard. It’s easy to over-purchase or under-evaluate.
So what’s the best practice? What really works?
A quality Grading job rests on two fundamental cornerstones: a solid sub-grade, and an attention to shedding and water drainage.
The sub-grade has to be stable. Every solid, lasting driveway is built with a firm foundation. In fact, your driveway is only going to be as good as the sub-grade beneath it.
Uniformity is key. The resting soil has to have the right composition and level of compaction. A one-minded, uniform attention to soil composition and compaction is the key to a quality sub-grade: A sub-grade that offers sufficient support and even thickness, and that can prevent settlement and structural damage.
If you find any soft spots, remove them and replace them with the right material – like rocks or gravel chips. Soils differ by area, and there are plenty of helpful professionals to consult if you’re unsure of how to approach an adequate sub-grade.
Water has to drain and shed correctly – otherwise you’ll end up with flooding or pooling or corrosion (and the list goes on). Water needs to flow out and away from your garages, sheds and building foundations.
Without the right grade for appropriate water drainage – your driveway may have an exceedingly short (and consistently troublesome) life.
So How’s It Done?
We’ve got the prep-work done, now what about the grading itself? What’s the best way to tackle the task?
Here are some top-rated tips on the whole of the process:
- Dig in as deeply and as comprehensively as you can. This loosens up the gravel. A good rule is to try to get as deep as your deepest potholes or washouts.
- Now go back and forth across your driveway. It may take a few passes, each way, to totally loosen up the gravel.
- Once it’s all been tossed and turned, scan for washouts or floating gravel. Sweep any excess gravel back into the body of the driveway.
- After you’ve scanned and swept, grade back and forth again across the driveway to even everything out. Distribute loose gravel evenly over the fresh surface.
People often grade in the spring, and then again in autumn. Winter does a bang-up job on driveways. It’s a matter of response and prevention. Even if you’re going to grade on a regular or seasonal basis, there are a few ways to consistently maintain your driveway:
- If potholes show up you can fill them with gravel or loose rocks. It’s a quick, temporary fix – but it does the job.
- Keep your eye out for any gravel that drifts off into surrounding areas, and sweep it in again.
- Maintain the crown of your driveway. It’s the high point in the center that helps with water drainage.
You May Want to Pave
If you’re planning on paving your driveway – it’s essential that you follow the same steps for the right pre-cement grade. It’s amazing how few people take care to grade their driveways correctly before paving them – and they feel the sting when the problems pop up.
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