Although most people associate concrete or asphalt with the material used to create driveways, gravel is a popular option as well.
This is especially true of properties that have long driveways or homes that were built before cars were widely available.
However, even in today’s modern age, a gravel driveway is a popular option with homeowners as they can easily maintain them for a long by sealing it with blacktop.
Putting up a blacktop or hot-asphalt seal-coat layer is one of the easiest and most economical ways by which you can do this.
If you want you can also add a layer of crushed rock to enhance longevity.
Here in the article, I will be discussing gravel driveways, various reasons why they are still so popular, few drawbacks, and most importantly about the various different ways by which you can seal them for better looks and longevity.
So, let’s dive in…
Why Gravel Driveways are Popular?
The most obvious reason why gravel driveways are continued to be used is that they are a far less expensive option compared to concrete or asphalt.
The gravel itself is quite inexpensive and the preparation process is less involved.
This means that installing a gravel driveway will cost far less and do the job for a considerable amount of time.
In fact, many people will install a gravel driveway themselves. And it takes less than a week to complete the entire project.
Minimal preparation of the land followed by laying out the gravel or pebble stones is relatively easy in concept even if you have to put a little manual labor into the job.
Another factor to be considered is that gravel driveways create noise when they are driven on by vehicles.
This means as a security measure, it can be effective in alerting you to possible visitors.
Plus, a gravel driveway looks good, especially compared to a dirt track.
For those who have no driveway and want to increase the value of their property, a gravel driveway offers a simple, inexpensive means of increasing value.
Drawbacks to Having a Gravel Driveway
There are issues involved with having a gravel driveway, most notably how the gravel itself will move and cause pockets of dirt to form in high-traffic areas.
This means that your gravel driveway will develop dips, pits, and other imperfections (like developing ruts, gaps, and sinkholes) that only worsen over time.
If you reside in a colder region, difficulty in snow and ice removal can be another issue you can face with gravel surfaces.
In many cases, a gravel driveway may need more maintenance compared to an asphalt or concrete version and does not last as long.
However, it is so inexpensive compared to the other options that for many people this is worth it.
Especially if it is a long driveway that makes asphalt or concrete prohibitive in terms of cost.
But you may be able to minimize the movement of the gravel by using a good sealant.
How to Seal a Gravel Driveway? (Different Ways)
The first step is understanding that a sealant for gravel may not be what you expect.
To turn a gravel driveway into something more solid takes different materials which provide a good surface but have their own issues.
This means that you may be trading one set of problems for another.
However, that may be worth the extra expense depending on your needs.
This may be the most common sealant used for gravel driveways, although technically the asphalt will actually bury the gravel, not seal it.
Because gravel is a good base for asphalt, most of the work is already done.
You will need to even out the gravel to remove any issues with the surface and then apply the asphalt on top.
The advantages of asphalt are that it provides an attractive black surface to the driveway, which is harder, smoother, and requires less maintenance to maintain.
Another advantage is the black surface makes it easier to melt away snow and ice.
However, the biggest issue with asphalt is that it tends to crumble along the edges.
If you are adding asphalt to an existing gravel driveway, then the crumbling may actually be worse.
A professional company will need to apply the asphalt, which is sometimes called tar sealing.
Keep in mind that the asphalt will be quite hot when applied and will be sticky until it fully dries.
2- Epoxy or Resin
These are sealants the come in liquid form that is poured over the gravel in place.
The mixture will sink to the surface and reside mostly between the gravel stones.
Expect to apply several coatings of resin or epoxy to the gravel to get the best results.
You will need to prep the gravel by allowing it to be dry for at least three days before applying the epoxy or resin.
Plus, any weeds, grass, or plants that have grown inside the gravel will need to be removed.
Then you can pour the product over the gravel and apply numerous coats until you have the desired effect.
The advantage of using sealants is that the gravel will essentially become a solid surface. The stones will be kept in one place and not shift around.
Plus, the driveway is less vulnerable to water damage due to precipitation.
The downside is that the surface itself does not allow the moisture to pass through which may create additional issues.
This could cause the sealant to break apart over time which means you have larger chunks that cannot be raked back into place.
Plus, some sealants are subject to damage from the ultraviolet or UV rays of the sun.
The result is that the sealant becomes discolored and creates an unattractive look to your driveway.
3- Resin-Bound Surfacing
A compromise that will mean replacing your current gravel driveway is using stones that are mixed beforehand with resin.
This will layout like a standard gravel driveway, but the stones themselves are individually protected and allow the water to soak through causing less damage to the underlying ground.
This may be the best compromise that is more expensive than a traditional gravel driveway, but more resilient and with less maintenance compared to using sealant or resin poured over the surface.
Plus, it is less expensive compared to an asphalt driveway.
The best part is that the resin-sealed stones can be easily washed to maintain their like-new appearance.
Another option, although less popular is a tar and chip combination which is applied to the surface just like gravel.
It is twice as expensive on average compared to a gravel driveway, but it does make the driveway look better as a result even if you still have the same maintenance issues.
Blacktop vs. Asphalt: Are They Same or Different?
Both blacktop and asphalt are safe and durable when used for paving driveways.
But there are few differences between them that make them different.
The basic difference between blacktop and asphalt lies in how these are made, the materials used for making them, and their usage.
While blacktop and asphalt contain nearly the same ingredients (crushed stone and bitumen), blacktop will generally contain a higher percentage of stone than asphalt.
Also, because blacktop is heated at a much higher temperature it’s more malleable than asphalt which is mostly tough.
When it’s about usage, blacktop is more suitable for playgrounds, driveways, parking lots, pathways, and residential roads.
Compared to asphalt that is used for major roadways, blacktop is meant for lesser traffic and weight load.
Can You Tar-and-Chip a Gravel Driveway – Is it a Right Choice?
Installing Tar-and-chip over existing driveway materials like gravel will not be a problem if the underlying gravel is still in good shape.
Tar-and-chip may look like asphalt but the process to getting it installed is different.
- First, a gravel base is built
- Then over gravel hot liquid asphalt is poured
- Loose stones are then rolled into the bitumen and laid in the form of a finished coating
Depending on your personal choices you can choose from different colored stones to create a customized surface that looks unique as well as appealing.
Unlike asphalt, tar-and-chip driveways don’t require regular maintenance and repair.
In most cases, if there are smaller cracks, they will get fixed themselves.
You will only require to renew and reseal the surface once every 10 years.
The only drawback of getting a Tar-and-chip driveway installed is it’s not a DIY process that can be done easily.
Plus, it will be hard for you to find skilled professionals for getting this done, as Tar-and-chip installation is not as common as asphalt paving.
Keeping all the above in mind, tar-and-chip paving can be the right choice for you if you looking forward to an inexpensive informal material to stabilize your gravel driveways.
This can also help by preventing the gravel from washing off a driveway, provided you have an appropriate drainage system in place.
Before installing, you will however need to check with your local regulations as this material for driveways is prohibited in certain urban or suburban communities.
The bottom line
A good gravel driveway is inexpensive but must be properly maintained.
This is the reason why many homeowners consider converting gravel driveways to asphalt.
Remember, concrete or asphalt is far more expensive but far easier to maintain.
Choosing one or the other will, therefore, depend on your individual needs and budget.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.