After working on it on and off for months we have finally finished replacing our driveway!
We love how it turned out and although it’s taken us almost a year to complete it wasn’t actually difficult or even that much work to do!
Most projects that we take on tend to take longer than we think, be more involved than we imagined and cost more than we expect, but amazingly laying our gravel driveway turned out to be much easier than we’d anticipated (although it was hard work at times).
Preparation (Aka. The hard work and dirty bit.)
Like most of our garden, the driveway used to be covered in tarmac that had seen better days so before we could even begin to think about laying a gravel driveway we inevitably had to get out our shovels and get digging.
Removing the first layer of already broken tarmac turned out to be easy and fairly quick but removing the rest of the surface was miserable.
There should have really been a firm foundation layer under the tarmac but it turned out to be more of a mixture of clay, soil and rubble. Not exactly ideal if you consider that it’s meant to be there to support the weight of cars.
A lot of digging and two full skips later the driveway was finally tarmac and dirt free (this is the part of the project that took by far longest to complete) and we could finally order some more rubble to replace the rubble we’d just removed.
Add the base.
It felt so mad to pay for skip loads of rubble to be removed only to end up paying for new rubble to be delivered, but the base of the driveway is really important and the quality of the aggregate you use has to be right. For driveway subbases, you should be using MOT Type 1 which consists of different sized pieces of aggregate that compact together to form a solid base that’s suitable for heavier loads.
At first, we calculated that two bulk bags of MOT would be enough to cover our driveway, but it wasn’t even close so we had to order another two bags, which still turned out to not be quite enough and we ended up having to order another fifth bag to reach the height we needed. Needless to say not one of our best DIY planning moments, but we got there in the end and after a few hours of shovelling and levelling out the base layer (it has to slope away from the garage) it was finally time to get out the wacker!
Yes, the wacker! We may own more than a few power tools, but unsurprisingly a wacker isn’t one of them. Luckily we were able to borrow one from one of our lovely neighbours who happens to be a builder and was kind enough to give me a hand getting things started.
I’ll totally admit that I was more than just a bit apprehensive about using the wacker, but actually, I shouldn’t have worried too much. Yes, it was really dusty, it was really heavy and it was really, really noisy, but it was easy to use and it only took about 15 minutes to compact the whole driveway.
As so often the prep work turned out to be the most time-consuming part of this project and the next steps were really quick. We forgot to add the layer of weed blocking membrane under the MOT, so decided to install it on top of it instead. When I say install, I actually mean spend 5 minutes rolling it out.
Then it was time to get shovelling. Again. Yep, we really know how to have fun around here! This time, we had to lay a level of sand over the MOT and weed membrane.
Jan was working away the week that the sand was delivered, so I had to shovel almost a tonne of sand myself in preparation for the gravel that was due to get delivered later that same week. Not exactly great timing or the most fun afternoon ever, but it was weirdly exciting to see more progress and the finishing line was definitely in sight!
Add the gravel grids.
Although we knew we wanted a gravel driveway, we really didn’t want to end up with gravel everywhere or end up with an uneven surface every time we drove or walked across it which is why we opted to install gravel grids. Basically, they are mats with little pockets that get filled with gravel and therefore keep your gravel in position and the driveway looking great. We used these gravel grids by MatsGrids.
Adding the gravel grids to the driveway was easily my favourite part of this project. It was so quick to do (I laid them on my own) and is probably one of the easiest DIY jobs we’ve ever done.
It is important that the sand is level (I used an offcut of timber to level and smooth it as I worked my way from one end of the driveway to the other) because it could otherwise be difficult to get the mats to lock together, but I had absolutely no problems at all and everything just slotted into place – literally.
There are little hooks on the edges of the mats and they just all lock into each other.
Even cutting them turned out to be surprisingly easy. I had thought I might need an angle grinder or something else heavy duty to cut them, but all I used was a standard fine saw.
It only took me 1.5 hours to cover the whole driveway, which is probably why I enjoyed this step so much (yep, you could call me impatient).
Laying a gravel driveway really wouldn’t be complete without actually laying gravel, would it? We followed the advice of MatGrids for the gravel (they recommend angular gravel up to 20mm for their grids) and decided to choose Dove Grey Limestone gravel.
It’s a soft light grey colour and it seemed perfect as we wanted something light and modern looking that would contrast nicely with the dark fence. Like the MOT and sharp sand, it came in big bulk bags (we used 3 bags – about 1.5 for the actual driveway and the rest for the area along the wall).
If you’d not already guessed it, I was well and truly sick of shoveling by this point, but with the project so near to completion and Jan back home to help it only took a few more hours (with a few breaks because of torrential rain) and were finally finished!
Materials & cost breakdown (to lay a gravel driveway that’s about 15m²):
MOT Type 1 £200
Sharp Sand £40
Driveway Control Weed Membrane £20
Gravel Mats £225 (ours were kindly supplied by MatsGrids)
We love how the driveway has turned out and as you can probably tell, there was nothing difficult about this project at all. Jan did most of the shovelling and I did most of putting things back together again.
Because this project has happened over such a long time, it’s difficult to remember just how far we’ve come so here’s the obligatory before and after picture.
My biggest concern about laying a gravel driveway was that it would end up looking untidy, but so far the gravel hasn’t moved and it’s still really tidy and level.
Do you also find that projects seem to take longer and cost more than to anticipated? Have you ever had a project that turned out to be easier than expected?
*Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with MatsGrids who kindly provided us with the gravel grids to complete this project. All opinions and thoughts are of course our own! Thank you for supporting the brands that make it possible for us to keep creating and sharing content here at Little House On The Corner.