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Cost of Gravel Driveway Installation
The installed cost of a new gravel driveway is $2.35 per square feet. That comes to about $2,500 for a driveway 40 feet long and 14 feet wide that widens to a parking area in front of a 2-car garage – a total of about 1,050 square feet.
Removing an old concrete or asphalt driveway increases the cost, but this is offset somewhat if suitable base materials exist beneath the old drive.
When you hire a grading contractor to do the job, you can expect them to mark and level the area for the driveway first. If you have grass already in the space, they’ll remove several inches of topsoil and grade it to a mostly level surface. If any drainage is needed, this is when it will be installed under the driveway. In some cases, they may also add a soil barrier between the base gravel and the dirt.
After the base gravel is dumped in place and spread evenly, it will be compacted with a roller or vibrating compactor before the top layer of driveway gravel is added. If an edging material is used it will be put in, leveled and squared to your driveway specification before dumping and spreading the final top layer of driveway gravel and compacting it. Once completed, they will cleanup your area and be finished.
Average Cost of a Gravel Driveway
Average Do It Yourself cost
$1.80 / Sq Ft
Average Contractor Installed Cost
$3.30 / Square Foot
Typical Cost Range
$1.85 – $3.70 / Sqft
Overview of Gravel Driveways
A gravel driveway is an affordable alternative to a concrete driveway or one constructed with asphalt.
The long-term maintenance of a gravel driveway can be a little higher than for concrete – vegetation control, filling low and washed-out areas if needed and having the driveway graded and compacted every 3-5 years when necessary. It’s roughly the same cost as having to sealcoat asphalt periodically.
Due to washout, plowing and general wear and tear, a fresh top layer of gravel might need to be spread and compacted every 5-10 years.
New gravel driveway construction involves removing existing soils to about a foot in depth to form the bed. Layers of material including stone of various size are added before 2-4 inches of gravel are installed to complete the driveway. Specific materials are based on local availability and in some cases, perforated drain lines similar to an outdoor french drain, will be installed beneath the driveway to drain the water that accumulates.
Is this outdoor home improvement project a DIY option? There’s a full discussion below, but the job would involve scheduling deliveries of the right materials in the right amounts and renting heavy equipment to spread and compact the materials.
Gravel Driveway Cost Factors
Consider these factors as you plan your gravel driveway cost budget in the range of $1.65 to $2.90 per square foot.
- Driveway Size – Check local requirements – or your driveway contractor should know – for the minimum driveway width. It is 12 feet in many communities. Length is a simple factor of the distance from the road to your garage or home. If you plan a parking pad in front of a 2-car garage, you’ll need at least 20’ x 20’. If you have large vehicles, consider 24’ x 24’. While total cost for large driveways is higher, of course, cost per square foot might go down a little.
- Materials Removed and Added – Topsoil and heavy clay must be removed because they are unstable and don’t drain well. The deeper the excavation goes – usually 8 to 16 inches – the higher the cost for both removal of materials and installing the new materials. If the soil already contains sand, stone and gravel, your costs will be on the low end of the price spectrum.
- Asphalt or Concrete Removal – Removing asphalt goes a little quicker than does busting up concrete and removing it. Both materials need to be hauled away. Expect estimates of $2 to $6 per square foot, with concrete removal on the upper end. But again, those driveway types require a similar base as a gravel driveway, so you might make up some of that cost by requiring less material brought in for the new driveway.
- Site Conditions – A sloped driveway costs a little more than a level drive of the same size. Low and wet areas need extra fill and might require drain tile installed. These factors increase gravel driveway price estimates.
- Equipment Rental – If you DIY, renting equipment such as an excavator, backhoe, skid loader and/or compactor can cost $300 or more per day and might eliminate any savings from doing it yourself.
- Time of Year – This is one of those projects that cost less during winter. So, if there is a slow season for excavation contractors in your area, like late fall or winter weather permitting, you might get lower bids during that time.
- Distance – Fuel costs have risen dramatically and are having a large impact on projects like this. Your home’s distance from the excavator’s equipment yard and where the materials are sourced will definitely impact cost.
- Does it Need Drainage? – If you need to add a drain to prevent water from collecting in low areas, expect an added cost. It’s going to be much cheaper to do so now, versus in a year or two and having to dig it up to install a French drain system.
- Tree or Stump Removal – Clearing trees and stumps from the driveway are additional costs.
Cost of Supplies, Gravel and Extras
The typical driveway is 12” deep, but 8” to 16” driveways are common. Here are the costs involved.
- $0.25 – $0.50 per square foot | Excavating the driveway and hauling away materials
- $0.65 – $1.00 per square foot | Base layer: Up to 8” of stone of various size
- $0.50 – $1.00 per square foot | Top layer: 2” to 4” of road gravel
- $8.00 – $15.00 per linear foot | Drain tile, when necessary in low or wet area (not common)
- $800 – $1,000 installed | Drain culvert in ditch, where required
- $100 – $300 installed | Placing a 4” to 6” PVC pipe laterally beneath the driveway for future use for wiring outdoor lights or a sprinkler system line
Here are two other common costs you might encounter sooner or later – removing an old driveway to get started and refreshing your gravel driveway as needed, usually every 3-10 years based on rainfall, site conditions and how much traffic the driveway gets.
- $2.00 – $5.00 per square foot | Removal and disposal of a concrete, asphalt or paver driveway – a separate cost from the gravel driveway installation estimate.
- $0.80 – $1.25 per square foot | Adding a fresh layer of 2” to 3” of gravel, grading and compacting the driveway.
Permits, Inspection, and Labor Costs
Permits and Inspection
- $0 – $200+ | If this is a new driveway, you will likely need a permit and inspection to ensure that the driveway meets local size requirements, accounts for water runoff and is placed where drivers can safely enter and leave the roadway. A permit might not be required for driveway replacement.
Concrete Driveway Installation Labor Cost
Most excavators don’t itemize labor in their cost estimates. If the two were broken down, labor would account for about 40% of the total, or roughly $0.65 to $1.15 per square foot.
Keep in mind that poor weather will slow installation time, especially in spring when soils can be saturated and heavy. When weather allows, here is a timeframe for gravel driveway installation.
- 1-2 Days | Removing an old driveway, based on size, if needed.
- 1-2 Days | Installation of a gravel driveway of up to 80 feet long. An experienced installer will schedule trucks to haul away old materials and deliver new materials to prevent delays.
Here are several other common projects related to having a gravel driveway installed at your home.
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DIY or Hire a Pro
There are pros and cons to DIY.
The total job costs $1.65 to $2.90. RenoCompare prices it close to that at $1.40 to $2.85 along with HomeGuide’s broader range of $1.00 to $3.00 per square foot. Upgraded Home is more optimistic at $0.70 to $2.00, but those costs don’t factor recent cost hikes for all types of driveways.
Potential DIY savings amount to $0.65 to $1.15 per square foot. Homewyse puts labor costs at $0.75 to $0.90 per square foot, which is a little low. And as we’ll explain, those savings can disappear quickly.
If you do it yourself, you might save a little money. But you should know how to run heavy equipment. And it is crucial that you remove enough topsoil for your site conditions, or the gravel will sink into it, and the soil will rise to the top, creating a muddy mess.
Sloping or crowing the driveway to prevent puddling and sunken areas is also useful, and it takes an experienced operator using a front-end loader to accomplish this.
Missing the mark on those issues is a serious potential downside to DIY.
Also consider a couple of cost issues. First, equipment rental is expensive. On a large driveway, the cost might be worth it. But on a small driveway, under 750 square feet for example, DIY savings will probably be eaten up in rental costs.
Secondly, excavators get wholesale pricing not available to most homeowners. So, your material costs will be higher than theirs if you DIY. We’re aware of excavators that own their own gravel pit, and so their costs are even lower. To be competitive, excavators will pass along some of their cost savings to the homeowner in the form of lower driveway estimates.
Tip – You should be able to figure your potential costs pretty closely by getting estimates for equipment rental and driveway materials. Compare your DIY costs vs gravel driveway estimates to see what your potential savings might be.
Estimating Materials – Stone and gravel are sold per cubic yard or per 10-yard or 20-yard truckload (cubic yards). One cubic yard of material covers 81 square feet to a depth of 4”. That calculation will come in handy when you know the square footage of your driveway and how deep it will be.
Compare Costs from Leading Resources
- HomeGuide: $1 – $3, Per Square Foot
- Fixr: $4 – $10, Per Square Foot
- HomeServe: $2 – $5, Per Square Foot
- Inch Calculator: $1 – $3 , Per Square Foot
- Reno Compare: $1.40 – $2.85, Per Square Foot
- Houzz: $2 – $4, Per Square Foot
Common Questions and Answers
Can I Install a Gravel Driveway Over Asphalt?
In almost all cases, no. The old asphalt will need to be removed and dumped elsewhere. The only time it might work, is if the driveway was very old and improperly installed to begin with, allowing it to be broken into gravel itself, and spread around the lower surface.
Can You Installed a Gravel Driveway in Areas Where it Snows?
Yes. It’s not as good as having a hard surface driveway however, as shoveling and/or plowing will distrurb the surface of the gravel and require more frequent maintenance.