New Year, old driveway blues

The driveway from hell.

I knew before daylight dawned that I would not like what I would find in our driveway.  After battling the torrential rainfalls that kept washing out what some call the “most infamous driveway in Floyd County,”

I had managed to restore the primary path to our house to a hardened rain-resistant state but the slow-melting from from the Dec. 18 storm softened the mixture of gravel and clay and a hard rain was the last thing we needed.

Daylight brought the truth.

Washouts down more than 200 feet of the 450-foot long driveway.

Gravel washed into the field.

An off-road trail masquerading as a driveway.

Unfortunately, the upcoming week promises more moisture and the possibility of up to a foot of snow on Friday.  The mud, gravel and clay needs to dry some before I can attempt regrading.

Driveway vs. nature: Nature wins again.

14 thoughts on “New Year, old driveway blues”

  1. Poor Doug. You just can’t win. Glad to see new pictures of the drive and I see the BIG problem. In the top picture I see clearly that you have no ditch on the right side of the drive. I see that you have landscaped right up to the edge of the drive though it looks good you are going to have problems until you cut at least a 2 foot deep ditch (3 would be better) on that right side. It can be made nice looking and last longer by lining it with rocks like the parkway does. Lord knows there are plenty of rocks around Floyd to do the job.
    Good luck.

  2. The guys who you rely upon to select your gravel size never took a physics class. You knew that didn’t you? Get some ballast down as base. VDOT 357. Slope the driveway to the left. Use nothing smaller than VDOT 57 on that slope. Forget that “crush & run” stuff.

  3. I appreciate the comments but:

    –There was a ditch but the washout filled it in, all the way down the driveway, and then starting carving ruts in the driveway. The problem came when the prolonged snow and ice along with a slow melting process weakened the soil and the ditch caved in.

    –The mixture of gravel and clay (commonly called “slurry”) is deemed best for steep driveways like mine. The driveway was sloped but the constant battering of winter took its toll. Last year’s unending deluge of heavy storms required massive regrading but the driveway survived the fall storms without a problem until the Dec. 18 snow hit.

  4. We use crusher run for our driveway and don’t have problems now that it’s had 2 years to solidify and compact itself. Of course, our driveway is not quite 100 feet long and not quite as steeply sloped either, so that helps. I’ll be getting another load of it to lengthen and widen the driveway this spring, but not until the threat of snow has passed.

  5. “The mixture of gravel and clay (commonly called “slurry”) is deemed best for steep driveways like mine.” By the guy who sells you aggregate?

    Take a bucket full of water and put in a shovel full of your “slurry”. Swirl it around. See that mud and grit moving around? That’s your driveway washing down hill with moving run-off. Now try the same with a shovel full of thumbnail sized gravel. Clay makes a terrible road base. It absorbs water at the microscopic level, swells, softens, and washes. A freeze cycle exaggerates this effect and makes the clay extra vulnerable to erosion. That is why the problem gets worse in the winter.

    • Bob writes:

      ““The mixture of gravel and clay (commonly called “slurry”) is deemed best for steep driveways like mine.” By the guy who sells you aggregate?”

      Nope. Slurry was actually recommended by a resident highway engineer for VDOT.

  6. Doug, my neighbors and I are struggling with the same issues. My sympathies. We live on a relatively steep (and long) gravel driveway as well. North facing to compound the problem.

    Bob, I think you have a valid point regarding the “slurry” and it’s associated problems with weather like we’ve seen in the last year. It does absorb the water and become rather muddy. It’s what we have on our driveway. Works great in dry weather and compacts to an almost concrete-like substance. However, in wet weather, it washes out and you get ruts like Doug and I have.

    The bigger “clean” stones that you are talking about would probably perform better if moisture and freeze/thaw were the only variables. However, the 57’s or similar “loose” gravel comes with it’s own set of problems on an incline because it will tend to spin out easily w/ non 4 X 4 traffic.

    I spent many a day in my childhood with shovel and wheelbarrow moving this type of gravel back up the hill after being spun out by normal wear and tear. If there is a perfect solution I haven’t seen it yet.

    Paving prevents the wash out and spin out but it’s expensive for long driveways and can be even worse in the ice than gravel.

    Friends that live the burbs don’t have these problems

    • Limestone gravel tends to round and move. All aggregate driveways require regular maintenance, more so if there is a lot of vehicle traffic. If you live in Floyd Co. I recommend the “black rock” sold by Shooting Creek Quarry. It has a rougher surface that seems to lock down better. It also tends to create it’s own “fines” to aid in compaction.

      • Thanks for the recommendation Bob. I’ll check that out.

        Shooting Creek is where I’ve gotten my gravel from in the past, is there a technical name or size number that I should reference? Or will they know what I’m talking about if I mention “black rock”?

  7. Doug I would call Chester at S&S Paving and ask him how much it would be to surface treat your driveway. I am willing to bet its not as much as you may think, and he will get it graded for good drainage then put a few layers of tar and gravel, which should help you immensely.

    But if that happened and your driveway got fixed, I wonder what else you would write about? 😉

      • are you talking paving or surface treating? those sound like asphalt prices to me. My parking lot and entrances for last year were estimated at 84k, down from 93k the year before.

  8. Doug, regardless of what the VDOT ‘engineer’ told you about driveway construction, I tend to agree with Bob. I live in an area where torrential rains is part and parcel to our way of life; ie, the Pacific Northwest.

    Hell, slurry to me is the stuff that’s washing down a sluice while the miners are lookin’ for some gold in the gravel… :))

    You just can’t put gravel on top of soil regardless of it’s composition. I have a long sloping driveway. When I had the drive put in I had a guy with a cat cut down a foot or so a channel to the hardpan. After that I had quite a few 11 yard truckloads of pit run rock to create ballast or a serious roadbed as Bob recommends. Once I had about a 8-10 inches deep of this coarse, fist sized irregular, interlocking rock laid out on the drive I then had them roll it out so it packed it hard and locked up. Then I went with a finer layer of the same and finished the top of with the rock they use in asphalt except with the fines left in. The asphalt rock is washed rock so there no fines, but the fines are necessary so it will cement the 3/8 x 5/8″ with the fines left in. The asphalt rock is specified with “no minus” meaning the fines. The trouble with that type of rock is that it would roll around like marbles on the top. You want the finished drive to have a crown on top; ie, higher in the middle, arcing to the edges. Also the drive should have been engineered to be wider than your need for traffic so at least a couple of feet on each side is simply the coarse ballast rock providing a way for water rushing downhill to take the path of least resistance without eroding the soil rather than the driveway surface. Also the coarse pit run ballast rock will allow water to safely percolate under the driveway without destabilizing the roadbed.

    My drive is now 31 years old and is as good as the day I put it in with some freshener 3/8 x 5/8 with the fines put down over the years on top; ie., a couple of inches worth; ie., about the load found in one 11 yard truckload.

    Over the years I’ve had to have well drilling rigs drive up to the house. The guy’s rig weighs 20 tons. After servicing my well concerning a new screen he made the comment about my driveway that he’d never driven on such a firm gravel roadbed in his life. It was still the late wet season when he came out. He said usually he feels driveways and roads undulating beneath the weight of his rig.

    Asphalt and concrete surfaces are nice close to the home, but for an entire rural drive it will turn into a maintenance nightmare over the years with the need for prepping the surface from the ravages of the weather. My neighbor has one and he’s always having the surface treated with tar on a regular basis in the summer. It makes their driveway unuseable until it sets up due to its sticky, tarry nature. A well constructed gravel driveway of some length will do the job just fine.

    Carl Nemo **==

  9. Our driveway is about .8 mi. It’s constructed much as Carl described. At 10 years old it’s in good shape. Last year we did some regrading, cleaning of culverts and put in more water bars. Water bars really work for carrying water away from long steep grades. They also serve as speed bumps.

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