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How To D.I.Y. Driveways

Driveways can add convenience, value and visual appeal to any home. While hiring a contractor might be a scary thought, with the proper tools and some helping hands, it is possible to build your own asphalt, concrete, gravel or pavement driveway. By taking your time and planning ahead, you can learn how to DIY driveways that will last for years to come.

The first step in learning how to DIY driveways is choosing the material you want to use. While installation of any type of driveway will have some common steps, there are benefits and disadvantages to many materials that will decide which is best for your driveway.

Choosing a Material Type

  • Gravel – This driveway type is one of the easiest to install. However, it will require regular maintenance and does not make for easy snow removal.
  • Asphalt – This driveway type requires working with high-temperature materials and a multi-step application process. It does not work as well in environments with heavy freeze and thaw cycles.
  • Concrete – This is the classic driveway seen on many homes. Installation requires proper timing and clear warm weather for the best results.
  • Pavement – Provides easier installation than most methods with a good amount of flexibility. Great for nearly any climate or situation.

After choosing a material type, the next step in how to DIY driveways is the planning phase. By creating a complete plan before starting your build, you can save money on materials and labor while reducing the chances of any errors along the way.

Planning Your Driveway

  • Check local laws. Some areas will require specialized permits or require specific features to be included in your driveway. Determining these factors before starting can save potential headaches later.
  • Determine your needs. If you have a driveway on a hill or blind curve, a circular or cul-de-sac style driveway might provide added convenience. If you have multiple vehicles, a wider driveway can accommodate them without having to swap cars constantly.
  • Determine the best path. Using stakes and twine, mark off the intended path for your driveway. In ideal conditions, your driveway will slope away from the house to provide drainage.
  • Determine material costs and purchase supplies. Check with your local supplier for material availability and determine your needed supplies. Many stores will have experts on hand to help determine needs if you are unsure how to figure the numbers yourself. In general, you will measure the length, width and thickness of your driveway and multiply the numbers together. This will give you the volume of materials you will need.

At this point, all that is left in learning how to DIY driveways is getting your hands dirty. Installation will vary slightly from material to material. However, common steps include:

  1. Clearing your path of top soil and debris.
  2. Preparing the soil.
  3. Packing the surface with a plate compressor.
  4. Securing your edging or forms.
  5. Pouring your materials into place.
  6. Allowing your new driveway to settle and cure.
  7. Sealing your new driveway.

Tips for Specific Material Types

  • For asphalt driveways, you will have two layers of material to pour into place. The first layer is often a gravel base that must be packed tightly. Follow this with the standard asphalt mix.
  • For concrete driveways, running a broom lightly across the surface while it is drying will add texture and allow for better traction. Concrete driveways should be allowed three to seven days to cure before sealing.
  • For gravel driveways, choose multiple layers of gravel to provide a firm surface. Starting with a stone around 4 inches, create layers of smaller sizes until you reach the surface layer. Surface rock should be no larger than 1 inch.