Dear Angie: What's involved in maintaining a gravel driveway? — Richard M., Howell, Mich.
Dear Richard: There's no easy ride when it comes to selecting driveway material. Gravel is a great option if you like a rustic look and want to save money, but it could require more maintenance than you might assume.
Top-rated contractors tell our team that a gravel driveway can cost 90 percent less than one made from concrete, asphalt or pavers. Besides cost, there are other benefits. For instance, stones come in a wide variety of colors and textures.
But you'll need to replenish stones every one to five years, and they must be compacted with a weighted roller or hand tamper. Keep in mind a few other aspects of having a gravel driveway:
■ Unless you install a border or edging of some kind, you'll need to occasionally rake stones out of your yard.
■ Shoveling snow off a gravel surface will be more challenging, compared to other surfaces.
■ Depending on the style of your home and those in the neighborhood, gravel might not provide the same curb appeal as other materials.
To keep gravel driveway maintenance to a minimum, follow these tips from top-rated experts:
■ Place landscape fabric beneath gravel to reduce weeds. For added protection, pour sand on top of the weed-blocking material before the top layer of gravel is added and compacted.
■ Reduce dust by watering occasionally and driving slowly. A contractor may also suggest applying salts or binders, which will either absorb dust or make it denser.
Installation and maintenance costs can vary greatly, depending on the size of your driveway and depth of the gravel layer. Experts recommend about 6 inches. Some Angie's List members report paying $300 to $600 for maintenance services.
Because of concerns about drainage, and the need to have gravel compacted, you might want to hire a professional to install or maintain your gravel driveway. Service providers who work on gravel driveways include landscapers, stone suppliers and concrete companies.
Make sure the contractor you hire has a good reputation and is appropriately licensed and insured. Also, before you hire a company to install a driveway:
■ Get on-site estimates from at least three contractors.
■ Talk to the contractor about slope and drainage.
■ Make sure any underground pipes are accounted for.
■ Get job details in a written estimate. For an accurate estimate, create a sketch of the home and the desired driveway footprint. Walk and mark the site with the contractor.
■ Make sure the job contract includes all pertinent details, including payment schedule.