6 Things to Consider Before Installing a Gravel Driveway in Essex
There are many reasons why you might consider installing a gravel driveway at your Essex property.
When installed correctly, a gravel driveway is a fully permeable SUDS (sustainable urban drainage system) compliant form of driveway surfacing that will prevent the need to install additional drainage, as it will allow rainfall to pass through naturally to the ground below.
From an aesthetic point of view, gravel driveways look fantastic, too, particularly for traditional and aged properties as they can really complement the surroundings of this style of home.
When compared with certain other forms of driveway surfacing, such as block paving or resin bound gravel, they are also cheaper per square metre. This makes a gravel driveway an ideal choice for large areas or for those wishing to create additional parking in the most cost-effective manner.
But is there anything you should consider before taking the plunge and installing a gravel driveway? Well, to get the most out of your new driveway and ensure that it proves to be a fantastic investment in your property, the answer is yes. But, don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a list of 6 key things to consider before installing a gravel driveway in Essex, to help you avoid any potential issues. So, without further ado, let’s begin.
1. Will you use a cellular grid system?
We highly recommend that you do. But what exactly is a cellular grid system? Well, it is a series of plastic honeycomb panels that quickly and easily clip together to form a solid platform which you fill with the aggregate of your choice.
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. The honeycomb grid retains the gravel and minimises movement, preventing dips and ruts. It will also help prevent areas of gravel build up, which can be difficult to walk through.
Secondly, cellular grid systems help to prevent the sub-base from being visible through the top surface. Typically, we use MOT Type 3 granite as a sub-base material. If you were to put the gravel directly on top of the sub-base, over time you’d start to see the granite aggregate from the unbound sub-base mixing up with the decorative gravel and it would start to look unsightly.
Also, cellular grids will give your driveway a nice flat finish. We only install 20mm of gravel on top of the grid system, which leaves the driveway looking nice and flat, rather than wavy, as it can do without the grid.
Finally, honeycomb grids can also increase the strength of your driveway. You may think that a plastic grid system is flimsy and wouldn’t support the weight of a vehicle; however, you’d be wrong.
Once filled, cellular grids have a load capacity of up to 500 tons! When you consider the average car in the UK is typically no more than 2 tons, it’s safe to say the grid system will be strong enough!
The only downside is the additional cost. Cellular grid systems cost anywhere between £14 and £20 per square metre, but we certainly think they are worth the investment as you’ll have a gravel driveway that will look and perform at its best long into the future.
2. Will you use a raised edge?
Unless your driveway is running up to a closed edge, such as your property, a fence or a boundary wall, then you really should consider installing a raised edge to the perimeter of your driveway.
Although the cellular grid system is really good at retaining the gravel and keeping it in position, installing a raised edge is an extra line of defence to prevent gravel from spilling out at the edges of the driveway. And it will work the other way, too, stopping anything such as soil from beds or a lawn area from spilling onto the driveway.
On top of this, it also provides a much neater finish.
All in all, we highly recommend installing a raised edge to the exposed perimeter edges of your driveway.
3. Will you install paving to the entrance of your driveway?
When installing a new gravel driveway, it’s also important to carefully consider whether you will install a form of paving in the driveway entrance.
Again, we recommend that you do. This is for two reasons. The first is that it acts to retain the gravel, as we have just discussed. The second reason is aesthetics. Installing paving at the driveway entrance looks good and will enhance the overall appearance of your property and give it the wow factor when you first pull onto your driveway.
When it comes to the type of paving, you have plenty of options.
Block paving these days comes in a huge array of styles and colours, and then you have lots of types of natural sett to choose from, such as limestone, sandstone and slate.
However, by far the most popular type of paving to use for a driveway opening (in our experience) is the humble granite sett. It’s extremely hard-wearing, which makes it ideal for withstanding the impact of vehicles bumping across the front of the driveway, and their aesthetic appeal just works really well alongside gravel. It’s certainly our first choice!
4. Will you install a paved border?
In much the same vein as installing paving at the entrance to your driveway, you may also wish to consider installing a border to frame your driveway.
There aren’t really any reasons to do this other than aesthetic ones, although the pavers can help retain the gravel.
There’s little doubt about it, if you choose a form of paving that complements your home and its surrounds, then it will enhance the appearance of your driveway.
The only drawback is that it adds additional cost and therefore, if you’re on a tight budget or want the best bang for your buck, then you could pass on a paved border as, like we said, it’s certainly not essential.
5. Will you install a boundary wall?
One of the best times to repair or rebuild any perimeter boundary walls is whilst you are having a new driveway installed.
This is because it is the most cost-effective time to carry out these works. A new gravel driveway installation will involve excavating the existing surface using a mini digger. So, whilst the machine is there on site, it makes sense to make use of it and demolish walls and excavate any necessary trenches for footings.
You’ll save on waste disposal costs, as any old walls can be disposed of in the same grab lorry that is typically used to dispose of the driveway excavations.
Sometimes, if your existing walls are in really poor condition, the act of excavating the driveway can cause further damage and you may find that you are forced to rebuild a wall. This isn’t necessarily through carelessness by your chosen driveway contractor, it’s just that sometimes excavating the driveway means it’s unavoidable. Therefore, it’s important to bear this in mind when having your new driveway installed and to reserve some of your budget, if necessary.
So, if you have any aging brick walls in your front garden, consider replacing them at the same as building your driveway.
6. What type of aggregate will you choose?
The final thing on our list of things to consider before installing a gravel driveway is, of course, the gravel itself.
Again, you have plenty of options here, too.
There’s brown gravel, grey gravel, granite chippings, Cotswold stone and black ice, to name but a few.
The best type of aggregate to use is an angular stone, as they will lock together and prevent movement. Most types of gravel are rounded, but as long as you choose nothing bigger in diameter than 20mm, this is also a great option.
We do recommend that you avoid slate chippings as they are very much prone to sliding and can also break easily under the weight of a vehicle. This form of aggregate is best left to pedestrianised areas only.
There is a wide range of aggregate to choose from that is ideal for use on driveways.
Regarding size of stone, we recommend that you opt for a 20mm aggregate. Some of our clients prefer the look of 10mm, which is fine, but bear in mind that this size of stone is prone to getting stuck in the tyres of your car and, over time, this will cause you to gradually lose aggregate, meaning it will need topping up. A 10mm aggregate also tends to attract the local cats who’ll think that you’ve kindly installed them a giant litter tray!
As you can see, there’s lots to think about before you take the plunge and install your new Essex driveway.
If you want to discuss your project, and you’re based in the Essex area, then why not give us a call on 01245 697688? We’re always on hand to help, even if it’s just for a friendly chat.
We can discuss your project and give you ideas on how to get the most out of your new driveway. We can also arrange for a free site consultation and no-obligation quote.
If you have any questions or comments, don’t forget to leave them in the comments section below, and thanks for reading!