1. Failing to plan

When you’re raring to get started on a building project, planning seems rather dull but it’s essential if you want to save time and costs down the line. The planning stage of a driveway project should include finding out if there are pipes or cables running under the area where you plan to lay the driveway and accurately measuring out the area.

How to clean and maintain a gravel driveway

Keeping your gravel driveway looking attractive and clean requires little effort. Here’s how you can keep your new driveway looking pristine all year round:

  • Semi-regularly rake your gravel driveway, especially during the Autumn months, removing unwanted twigs, leaves and other debris. This will also help break up any compacted gravel – a win win!  

  • Although a weed prevention membrane is in place, wind-swept seeds may occasionally cause weeds to form. Simply remove these by hand, using gardening gloves. In the areas affected, spray weed killer (or herbicide) containing glyphosate.

For more information about removing weeds from your gravel driveway, read our guide to weed busting.

  • After years of use, your gravel driveway may thin, creating sparse areas. Happily, this is easily rectifiable by topping up the affected areas with more gravel.

TOP TIP: It’s a good idea when ordering gravel to purchase an extra bag or two, that way you can ensure the gravel you use to top up with is the same as the stone used in the original driveway design.

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Gravel driveway benefits

Design Versatility – There are many gravel colours, shapes, and sizes to choose from, allowing you to be creative and design the driveway to complement your home and personality.

Low Maintenance – Gravel driveways help suppress weeds and don’t require mowing, trimming or watering.

Affordable – Compared to other driveway solutions such as tarmac, paving or turf, gravel is cheaper and easier to install and maintain.

Drainage – Gravel provides excellent rainwater drainage, leaving your new driveway puddle free.

Security – As a loose aggregate, gravel produces a distinct crunch sound when walked on, alerting you when someone is outside.

Simple to lay – Unlike other driveway surfaces which may require hiring a contractor or professional landscaper, a gravel driveway is an undertaking any novice DIYer can succeed at.

How much does a driveway cost?

A typical concrete driveway costs between $65 to $150 per square metre, with price variations due to materials and labour. A 1-car concrete driveway typically costs between $1000 to $2000 depending on the area size along with the quality and type of materials used, while a 2-car driveway typically costs around $3000. A quick trip to your local hardware store will allow you to get expert DIY advice and the right tools for the project. Additionally, if you want to outsource parts like the pouring and curing, you can employ a concrete professional through our loaded database of suppliers and services!

Can you do block paving on your own?

The four essentials for executing a block paving project on your own are time, skill, resources and confidence. The entire process calls for a lot of patience and hard work. Moreover, it must be done right as there is no room for revisions, at least not without a sizable cost.

None of that is a worry when it comes to hiring a professional block paving service. The precision and skill with which a professional service installs your block paving surface are absolutely worth the money you pay. Most importantly, a good service also offers you a warranty on the work done. The peace of mind that brings cannot be judged in terms of money!

How To Excavate For A Patio?

Before excavating, you can use spray paint to mark the areas that need to be dug. Make sure you make plans for water efficient landscaping and proper draining so that the pavers don’t hold water under them. Also take note of whether there are any underground cables or plumbing so that they can avoided while digging.

What are my block paving options?

There are two types of block paving you can choose, concrete and clay. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. While on the one hand, most homeowners prefer concrete block paving due to its lower cost and easy installation, clay block paving is far more resilient and even comes recommended by the BDA (Brick Development Association).

To make your choice easier, let’s do a quick sweep of the pros and cons of both types of block paving.

Pros:

  • It is cheaper to buy
  • It offers a wide range of shapes and textures
  • It is accurately sized
  • Several different block depths are available

Cons:

  • It is prone to colour fading over the years
  • Its aggregate material can stand exposed
  • It has an expected lifespan of 20 years

Pros:

  • It is tougher and much more durable
  • Its natural colour cannot fade
  • Pavers with various patterns are available
  • It has a far greater lifespan

Cons:

  • It is affected by moss growth
  • The accuracy of sizing is lower
  • It is harder to cut and difficult to work with
  • Its cost per block is higher
  • Block depth options are limited

Now that we know what are the things you’re going to need for executing a block paving project, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the actual process. There are various stages to this task and we discuss each one of them separately.

1) Preparation

Regardless of how major or minor your block paving project is or whether it is done by you or a contractor, it is always recommended to get a plan ready before you break ground. You can do this on your own or get it done from a design service. Preparing the plan beforehand fosters a good workflow and in case you’ve hired a contractor for the purpose, he knows just what you want.

The area where the paving needs to be done should be clearly marked out. It is good practice to leave approximately 300mm at all free edges as it allows for easier material handling and haunching of the edges. You can use sand, string lines and stakes or a spray marker to mark the paving area out. Also, ensure essential services like gas, cable and electricity are not affected by excavation, especially if you are doing this yourself.

2) Excavation

Once you’ve decided how much area you need to pave, it is time for excavation. How deep to dig when laying block paving is a question that many people struggle with. It is recommended to dig the designated part to a depth of around 150-200 mm. How deep you need to dig can also vary as per the land’s rise and fall. Also, keep an eye out for soft spots during the excavation and backfill them with compacted sub-base material.

The digging should be done in a measured slope so that water can run into the drainage system. When you hire a skip to remove the excavated material, beware that it grows in volume by almost 30%. As such, plan your skip hire accordingly. Remember that when it comes to excavation depth, it’s better to go deeper than shallower.

3) Edge restraints

Edge restraints border your block paving area. The blocks themselves are held in place by a concrete foundation, which gives the strength required to support the weight of people and vehicles. You can create this foundation using a concrete mix made up of six parts ballast and one part cement. After the concrete sets, lay the paver blocks on a mortar bed to serve as an edge course. A taut string line, positioned at the paving level’s finished height, should serve as a marker in the process.

The concrete should be mixed roughly 25 to 30 mm below this line with the edge course placed on top. Use the mallet to gently hammer it in and use the line to check the level. Now haunch the edging in by applying concrete on the outside till the halfway mark.

4) Sub-base

The sub-base for block paving acts as the principal support, which means the layer should at least be 100 mm thick. A 100 mm or thicker sub-base layer ensures heavier weights are supported easily.

Begin by evenly spreading the sub-base within the edge restraints followed by raking it evenly. Do this at 50 mm intervals and use a compacting plate in-between to firm the layer down. Compacting helps lay the paving blocks evenly and extends their lifespan considerably. Six to seven passes of the compactor should be enough to pack down the sub-base layers.

5) Laying sand

Now fill-up sand in the gap between the compacted sub-base and final paving’s line. While doing so, make sure you are following the slope or any other angle that you’ve chosen for the paving. When buying sand, opt for the sharper variety that is also moist enough to be easily moulded into a ball with your hands. After spreading a layer of this sand over the sub-base, use a compactor once to set it down.

6) Screeding

This is a very important step before the laying of paving blocks. The sand layer you’ve spread needs to be levelled off using a pair of screed rails (even timber works). The purpose of screeding is to produce an even and smooth surface to lay the block paving on by removing excess sand.

7) Laying paving blocks

You can begin laying the paving blocks from a corner or even the main edge of your building/house. Each block should be put to the face and glided down smoothly. Avoid bunching them together on the sand as you won’t be able to line them up. An easier way instead is to put each block in its designated place. For edges where full blocks may not fit, use a diamond disc saw or block splitter to cut a block to required size. Once the entire area has been covered, use a bar tool to check the blocks’ alignment. Finally, see if the top of the blocks is 10 to 15 mm above your planned line; this ensures the blocks can be compacted down after all of them have been laid down.

8) Jointing & compaction

After you’ve checked the blocks’ alignment and carried out cutting-ins and before you compact the blocks, you need to joint the newly paved area. Jointing involves spreading kiln-dried sand over the pavement and sweeping it into the block joints with the help of a soft brush. Compact the blocks after one round of jointing and repeat the process until all block joints have been sealed with sand. After you are done sweeping off any excess sand, your new block paving surface is ready for use.

In some cases, the jointing sand might settle down after a few weeks. You should top it up with more sand if that’s the case. And while regular maintenance is enough to keep the pavement in good condition, you can also consider using a sealant to prevent accidental staining.

Restraints

Once your trench is filled with sand and gravel and compacted, you should place base restraints to prevent your base and pavers from shifting due to age or weather conditions. Restraints are normally made from back polymer or plastic and can be purchased from any gardening center.

Place the restraints along the edges of your pavers. They should be dug in every 16 inches and dig them into the base at different angles to secure them.

How wide does a driveway need to be in Australia?

A one car driveway in Australia must be at least 2.5 metres wide, while a two car driveway needs to be at least 5 metres wide. These council requirements refer to the part of the driveway that passes over the footpath and meets the road. Additionally, the maximum width permitted is typically 3 metres for small lots under 450 sq, 5 metres for standard lots with a double garage, and 4 metres for standard lots with a single garage. Nowadays, 3 metres for a single car is considered to be the Australian standard driveway width.

Image via Mudtech

Should You Get a Builders Excavator?

You’ll need to consider the width of your driveway and whether you need it to conform to current regulations regarding vehicle access. If you’re planning on excavating for an asphalt or concrete driveway, then a mini-digger is going to be your best bet.

If you want something more traditional like a gravel driveway with bricks down each side, then you’ll probably be better off with a regular digger.

If you own your plot of land but not the house and have to ask permission for any excavations, don’t assume that it will be granted. If your neighbour has recently moved in or is planning to build soon, they

Manual or Mechanical?

Once you know how far down and how wide your excavation needs to be, you need to decide whether you are going to do the job by hand or get some mechanical tools in. Often the bulk of the work is carting the rubble away and disposing of it rather than the actual digging. But that also depends on the type of ground you have. (Read our article Waste Disposal When Making a Driveway on this site.)

If you have soft, loamy soil, and you can make use of it in the garden, you may be better off saving some money. Just get a few friends and family in to help dig out the soil and take it to its new home in wheelbarrow loads.

If you live in a mountainous area, and there’s solid rock under your topsoil, you may well have to get specialist in. That could blow the driveway budget out of the water, so do some exploratory digging before you commit to the job.

4. Ignoring potential drainage issues

“No, we don’t need to worry about drainage” are words anyone who lays a driveway will come to regret saying. Drainage is one of the key challenges to creating the perfect driveway. Making sure the driveway falls towards the drainage points is a vital stage during the planning process. It may be necessary to create additional drainage capacity by installing a soakaway. Wrapping the soakaway in a professional drainage membrane, such as drainage geotextile fabric DRAINTEX, will also help tackle this issue.

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