Last Modified: February 8, 2024

Installing a Gravel Driveway

Guide for DIY Driveway Construction

Gravel driveway with shrub borders

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist


Welcome to our step-by-step DIY guide about installing a gravel driveway. Gravel driveways can take many shapes and forms, ranging from simple and budget-friendly Cotswold gravel ideas to an opulent, marble driveway featuring onyx gravel.

This guide aims to walk people of any level through the steps required to plan and build a gravel drive. While it is more thorough than most blogs, we also keep each section as brief and easy to follow as possible. To accommodate people of all levels, we have included a summary at the beginning of each section highlighting the key points to save you re-reading irrelevant information. Quick links allow you to navigate easily, throughout the entire process, to any of the following sections:

As a do-it-yourself project, laying a gravel driveway can range in difficulty from moderate to hard. This depends on factors such as drainage, the length and slope of your driveway and the type of pre-existing driveway in place. However, it comes with many advantages, such as saving significant money, experiencing the feelings of pride and joy that come with the completion of any challenge, not to mention the avoidance of rogue tradespeople and the stress they can cause you and your family.

Nonetheless, we understand that some people, like ourselves, want more detailed information, so we have provided an in-depth compendium article titled Stone Chippings for Driveways. Ok, you have the drive to succeed, so let's roll!

Grey granite chippings drive

Key Takeaways

Polar white stones front garden parking

Why Choose a Gravel Driveway?

Gravel driveways come with many benefits. They are a beautiful addition that can completely overhaul the appearance of your property and add value at the same time. As a DIY project, they are generally more friendly than a concrete or block paver driveway due to the nature of gravel and the flexibility that comes with the use of loose-fill decorative aggregates. Here are some of the most compelling reasons for choosing a gravel driveway installation:

  • Versatile Aesthetic: Gravel comes in so many colours and textures which can be used to create a natural look that can complement any style of home, from modern to country cottage.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Compared to concrete, pavers or asphalt, gravel is a budget-friendly option. Although the price of decorative aggregates can range from budget right up to premium level, the materials and installation process for a gravel driveway are generally very affordable for most budgets.
  • Environment and Regulations: Gravel is a permeable material, allowing rainwater to filter through and replenish groundwater. This eco-friendly aspect reduces runoff and should align with in-coming sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDs) regulations.
  • Durable and Low-Maintenance: When installed correctly and maintained, they can last for decades making a gravel driveway a very cost-effective investment. Maintenance is also very easy and only required occasionally.
  • DIY-Friendly: As previously stated, people of just about any level of experience can succeed at installing gravel driveways as long as they have proper guidance and begin with proper planning.

Now that you have discovered the benefits of a gravel driveway, it's time to plan the feasibility of your project. The next section is a little bit longer than the remainder - but don't be daunted - it's as brief as it can be in covering this important topic.

Planning Your Project

  1. 1
    Consider the style you want.
  2. 2
    Decide on the driveway's start and end points.
  3. 3
    Mark an outline and measure up.
  1. 4
    Conduct a soil inspection with cable avoidance tool.
  2. 5
    Consider drainage and planning regulations.
  3. 6
    Be careful with drains and steep inclines.

Before you start anything, carefully planning out and making a design is the key to success. Consider the look you are going for, too; a winding drive can add a layer of complexity and cost, while a straight driveway can be an easier project. Do you want outdoor lighting, and what type? Are you thinking of adding any plants or trees? Does the plan allow for safe entry and exit, and avoid obstructing the road or any neighbour's properties?

While at first, it might seem daunting, it's actually quite fun once you get going - perhaps make a collage and get your family involved. You can make a sketch on grid paper and even use cut-out images of features, plants or elements that you want and stick them to the paper. This can also help to create a project that everyone feels invested in.

You need to decide exactly where your drive will start and end. Use marking paint or string to outline your drive and then measure up the length and width. If the driveway has a curve in it, lay string or rope around the outside edge and measure the string when it is straight. This will give you a more accurate measurement of the total length. Make a note of these dimensions for calculating how much gravel you'll need later.

Finally, it is important to conduct a soil inspection before continuing further. To avoid causing damage to any underground cables, a cable avoidance tool must be used to check the area. You should dig in and investigate the soil. If the soil appears sandy or too soft, it is recommended to compact additional hardcore in order to reduce the likelihood of drainage problems. Design your drainage to ultimately lead toward the street and stormwater drains. Remember that the streets serve as the principal drainage arteries and are ready-made for this purpose.


Regulations for sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDs) have come into force and apply to hard surfacing in front gardens over 5㎡. However, you can avoid the need for planning permission by using permeable or porous surfacing options that allow rainwater to soak into the ground. Gravel is a convenient and easy alternative as it usually don't require planning permission, although to be on the safe side, it's best to check your local council prior to proceeding.

Remember, if you're unsure about your abilities, it's best to seek professional advice before attempting to tackle steep slopes or poorly draining soil. These factors can make the process more complex and require more time and resources.

Planning and preparing tools for a creative project. Jpg

Selecting Gravel for Driveway Surfaces

  1. 1
    Choose the colour.
  2. 2
    Determine right gravel type and size.
  1. 3
    Sub-base materials.
  2. 4
    Base reinforcement for poor drainage.


Now, to the fun part – choosing your gravel! The range of decorative aggregates in the UK is quite vast, and thanks to Outdoor Aggregates, it has increased enormously. Our decorative aggregate encyclopaedia offers users access to 'the list' - with just about every type and size of stone chippings and gravel available in the UK. Every listing gives you comprehensive info that's presented in a clear and concise manner. In addition, they include links to useful guides and step-by-step DIY projects.

To top it off, Outdoor Aggregates brings together all of the aggregates available in your local area, making it a convenient and easy way to choose based on the price and stock availability. If you've noticed the colour picker in the sidebar but haven't clicked on it yet, it's also an easy and efficient way to locate the options available based on a colour, type or size. If you haven't tried it yet it's free to have a go! (feature coming very soon!)


Consider the size – generally anything up to 14-20mm is good gravel for driveway surfacing. The stones won't get stuck in your tyre treads if that is a concern for you. However, it can depend on the style you are going for. For example, if you want a surface that is quite level but less comfortable underfoot, you would choose an angular, crushed gravel. If you were looking for a gravel that was more suited to wandering in bare feet, or had a passion for a round and crunchy surface, then a larger pea gravel is a recommended gravel for driveway installation that may be right for you. If you are interested in building a slate chippings driveway we have an article all about it.


For the sub-base, you will need MOT type 1 sub base material or a limestone type 1 hardcore to establish a stable foundation. Aim for a depth of about 18cm (~7 inches) of hardcore for compacting down to ~15cm final depth. If the soil is sandy or particularly soft, it's advisable to reinforce the base with additional hardcore. Add another 5-10cm of MOT, but remember that that will mean you will need to dig a further 4-8cm.

At the end of the day it is about finding a balance between your objectives, such as the colour and texture of the aggregates, and the materials you ultimately choose in order to achieve them. The good news is that constructing a gravel driveway gives a lot more margin for error than building one out of concrete, so there is no definitive right or wrong approach.

Need to work out how much gravel your project needs? Try our free gravel calculator.

Gathering materials and tools for a driveway installation. Jpg

List of Materials and Tools

In this section, we cover the remaining essential materials required to build a durable driveway and follow that up with a list of the tools required for your project.

Materials List

  1. 1
    Gravel or stone chippings
  2. 2
    Hardcore for sub-base
  3. 3
    Edging materials (metal, bricks, wood, rubber, etc)
  1. 4
    Heavy duty weed membrane
  2. 5
    Landscaping pegs or spikes
  3. 6

Together with your chosen aggregates, your project will also require some of the materials. Edging is an essential part of containment, which keeps your chippings in place by creating a hard border. With the range of edging materials available, from prefabricated edgings made of metal, rubber or plastic to using bricks, stone, or railway sleepers, the options are virtually limitless. The issues to consider with edging relate to the durability of the materials and the ease of use for installation. We cover this in more depth with our article on edging for gravel.

When we talk about the ease of use, it comes down to the cutting of the edging. This could involve cutting steel or aluminium right through to large pieces of timber. If this doesn't seem like your cup of tea or you don't have the tools required, like a drop saw, then prefabricated edgings or bricks could be for you.

A heavy duty membrane is an integral part of a long-lasting driveway. While there are many types of weed fabrics out there, the thicker it is, the better, in this case. You will also require landscaping pegs or spikes for securing the membrane, as well as lengths of timber to hold edgings in place as you lay the chippings.

List of Tools

It's important to have certain tools on hand for smooth operations. Most of these tools are easily accessible and can be found in your garden shed or borrowed from someone else. However, it may be necessary to rent a compactor of some kind.

  1. 1
    Shovel and/or square-edged spade
  2. 2
  3. 3
    Rope, garden hose or string
  4. 4
    Garden gloves
  5. 5
    Boots or safety shoes
  6. 6
    Hammer or mallet
  7. 7
    Tape measure
  1. 8
    Lawn edger
  2. 9
    Garden rake
  3. 10
    Spirit level or laser level
  4. 11
  5. 12
    Axe or pruning shears
  6. 13
    Compacting tool
  7. 14
Selection of gardening and building tools in a wheelbarrow. Jpg

Step-By-Step Guide

Now that you have your decorative gravel and sub-base, and gathered your other materials and required tools, it's time to start constructing the project!!

1. Preparing the Site

  1. 1
    Dig the base for the foundation.
  2. 2
    Clear weeds and roots.
  1. 3
    Cut a step for the edging.

It's time to get started with preparing the site. Begin by digging a trench in the designated area, removing the top layer of soil to a depth of approximately 20cm (8 inches), checking the height of the trench using a tape measure or a pre-cut slice of timber along the way. To ensure excellent drainage, eliminate weeds and cut away any roots with an axe or shears. This stage is essential to laying a solid foundation.

To prepare for your gravel edging, cut a "step" into the wall or dig a separate trench. Ensure that the depth will result in the desired height of your edge jutting above the level of the soil surface. This can range from 1 cm to higher. Additionally, make sure it is cut to the approximate width of your edging material to achieve a flush installation.

Hint: 5cm is the ideal gravel depth, and 15cm will be for the compacted sub-base, making 20cm in total. Adjust this depth where necessary for additional subbase compacting.

Driveway renovation after

2. Drainage and Grading

  1. 1
    Importance of proper drainage.
  2. 2
    Additional grading MAY be wise.
  1. 3
    Don't forget your neighbours on slopes.

Drainage is important in any landscape project. Usually, a good sub-base in a level to slightly sloping situation will suffice. Proper drainage can prevent structural damage, settling, erosion and flooding of lawns and patios caused by rainwater or a watering system. Grading can mean a significant earth-moving operation or moving a small amount of soil to produce a slight slope for better drainage. Your project will likely fall into the latter category and MAY not be necessary unless it is in a 'bowl' or slopes toward a house, for instance.

If your property has a steep slope, it might be necessary to grade the land more extensively to ensure that water is directed away from your home or your neighbour's land. It's also important to consider where a torrent of water would flow in order to prevent flooding your home or your neighbour's property.

If the course of your driveway heads in ether of these directions, then our advice would be to seek a professional opinion on the best options, unless you are extremely experienced. Consulting your neighbours would also be wise for averting future disasters.

Panda gravel border around a level driveway

3. Compacting the Sub-Base

  1. 1
    Compact for stability.
  2. 2
    Minimum 15cm compacted depth.
  1. 3
    Level each section.
  2. 4
    Add more in poor drainage.

To ensure that your driveway is successful and lasts a long time, it is important to have a solid sub-base. It is recommended that the minimum 'compacted depth' in well-draining soils should be 15cm. A vibrating plate compactor is considered essential for achieving the correct level and profile of a sub-base and requires multiple passes with compacting equipment. The final surface should be even and accurate to a tolerance of ±10-15mm. To make sure that each section is level, use a laser level or a builder's spirit level.

Although it is best practice, it is not compulsory. You can also use a hand tamper or roller to create a stable and level surface but the results will rarely be as good.

Compacted sub base mot 1

4. Laying Weed Membrane

  1. 1
    Heavy-duty type recommended.
  1. 2
    Top with sand for sharp gravels.

While it is not mandatory, it is strongly recommended that you install a heavy duty weed membrane to enhance drainage, control weed growth, and prevent the chippings from mixing with the sub-base or soil. For this purpose, you should opt for a heavy-duty variety with a thickness of at least 120 microns, instead of a landscape fabric.

Lay the weed membrane sheets along the path, making sure to overlap them by 10-15 cm with the sheets underneath and the outer walls. Use heavy objects like rocks or bricks to weigh them down after laying them, and then trim the pieces until you achieve complete coverage. Leave an edge of approximately 10 cm on each side of the trench. To prevent movement once the chippings are laid, secure the membrane by pegging it every 50cm around the edges and on the base.

Crushed Gravel Installations (OPTIONAL)

Covering the membrane with a 2.5cm sub-base of fine-washed sand or gravel containing fine particles and gravel dust can prevent sharp gravel from creating holes in the fabric. Compacting both materials can also help reduce the downward movement of the surface gravel, further enhancing its effectiveness.

If you decide against the laying of sub-base or weed membrane, in both cases it's highly recommended that you tamp the soil as firmly as possible to create the most solid base for you to lay your chippings on. However, they will sink into the soil overtime and the driveway will most likely be a disaster.

5. Edging Your Driveway

  1. 1
    Importance of proper borders.
  2. 2
    Minimum 5cm compacted depth.
  1. 3
    Install flush with the ground.
Pink gravel drive with raised brick edging

Proper edging is a crucial element for constructing a low-maintenance gravel path. It provides structure and containment for the aggregates, especially for pea gravel which is prone to scattering. Additionally, it enhances the symmetry and the overall attractiveness of the feature. To prevent gravel from spilling over, the edging should be installed flush with the border.

Cut the edgings to size (where necessary) and place them into the already-cut step or trench to hold them, then tamp soil around it. Simple plastic, metal or heavy-timber edgings do not usually require reinforcement as the weight of the gravel will keep them firmly in place.

6. Adding the Gravel

  1. 1
    Check gravel distribution is level.
  1. 2
    Minimum 5cm depth.

Hooray, you are at the business end of construction! Now it's time to add the chippings! Start by using a wheelbarrow or large buckets to transport the chippings into piles that are spread throughout the trench. This will minimise the distance required to rake the first layer. Spread the gravels evenly, aiming for a depth of 5 cm (2 inches) using a garden rake. This will help create a smooth and even surface. Keep going until you have a level surface that falls just below the line of the edging.

Great work on a big job - you're finished!

You have great drive!

Addressing Garden Inclines

  1. 1
    Use larger-sized aggregates.
  2. 2
    Higher edging or terracing for stability.
  1. 3
    Gravel grids for containment.

Key strategies include using larger-sized aggregates that are less likely to shift, incorporating edging or terracing to provide stability or gravel grids for containment. Remember, if the slope significant, it may be more practical to consider alternative materials or routes and the advice of an expert.

Laying red stone chippings. Jpg

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. 1
    Insufficient depth of aggregates.
  2. 2
    Miscalculating gravel requirements.
  1. 3
    Poor sub-base preparation.
  2. 4
    Importance of edging.

Avoiding these common pitfalls can save you time and money:

  1. 1
    Insufficient Depth: Skimping on the depth of the gravel layers can lead to instability and quick deterioration. Aim to add aggregates at the recommended minimum thickness.
  2. 2
    Poor Drainage Planning: Neglecting drainage can lead to water pooling. Ensure your driveway has appropriate gradient for runoff.
  3. 3
    Inadequate Compaction: Each layer of hardcore needs to be well-compacted. Inadequate compaction can result in a loose, uneven surface.
  4. 4
    Ignoring Edging: Edging is essential to keep the gravel contained and maintain the driveway's shape.

It's important not to underestimate the amount of gravel required and then settle for what you ordered. It's recommended to order some extra gravel, as the path will require occasional top-ups as it settles. Purchasing small amounts of gravel after the fact can be costly, which is why it's best to use a gravel calculator and place the correct order from the start. Plus, there are plenty of beneficial uses for leftover gravel.

The significance of proper drainage cannot be overstated. Inadequate drainage can cause water to erode the gravel, leading to more severe issues that can even impact the stability of buildings and other parts of your garden over time.


  1. 1
    Occasional raking and inspection required.
  2. 2
    Keep surface level and weed-free.
  1. 3
    Replenish gravel over time.

Like any garden feature that experiences traffic, the driveway will require occasional upkeep to keep it looking great and functioning well. While it is mostly confined to occasional raking to keep the surface level, you will also need to add extra aggregate to keep the depth, especially towards the start as the gravel settles, and in areas of high traffic going forward. Keep an eye out for weeds and pull them as soon as possible to prevent them taking hold.

Click here if you want to find out more about how to clean garden stones.

1raking a slate chip parking area


You now have the knowledge to build a long-lasting and cost-effective gravel driveway for your property. It's important to keep in mind some hard and fast rules when laying a gravel driveway, which we have outlined in detail. These include compacting a sub base, ensuring proper drainage, and being mindful of how water will flow in relation to your home and your neighbours' homes.

Once you have taken these issues into account, laying a gravel driveway is achievable for almost anyone with basic skills. Simply follow our step-by-step instructions and seek professional advice when necessary. Also, don't forget about our aggregate-matching technology, which can help you find the perfect colored stone and the best prices. Simply dial in your preferences in the sidebar, explore the options, and start your project today! (Feature coming soon)

1pea shingle driveway in front of a row of houses


How do I prepare the ground for a gravel driveway?

To prepare the ground, remove grass, weeds and topsoil to a depth of 20cm (8 inches). Level and compact a sub-base before installing a weed membrane for weed control and stability.

How thick should the layer of gravel be for a driveway?

The base layer should be 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) thick, the middle layer should also be 10-15 cm (4-6 inches), and the top layer should be about 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) thick.

Can I install a gravel on top of an existing concrete driveway?

No, it's not recommended to install gravel directly on top of concrete. The gravel will shift and drainage issues could occur. Removing the concrete first is the most appropriate way to go.

How do I prevent weeds from growing through the gravel?

Use a high-quality, heavy duty weed membrane between the sub-base and the gravel. Routine spot weeding should keep them under control for the long term.

What are some common challenges when installing a gravel driveway?

Common challenges include achieving proper drainage, the solid compaction of your sub-base and the prevention of gravel displacement on slopes, which can be ameliorated by using gravel mats for driveways.

Can I install a driveway on a steep slope?

Installing a gravel driveway on a steep slope is challenging and requires careful planning for drainage and stabilisation. It may be advisable to consult with a professional if you have any doubts.

We have every type of gravel available to choose from in the UK. Check them out!

About the author 

Ben Parrot is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.