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How to Grade a Driveway

grading gravel driveway

Regularly grading your driveway is key to keeping it in good condition and preventing damage to vehicles that drive on it. But having a driveway graded professionally on a regular basis can be costly, especially if you have a long driveway, or have a series of gravel drives on your property. In such cases, doing it yourself can be a great option. But first, you need to know how to grade a driveway.

Why grade your driveway?

Gravel and dirt driveways (and parking lots and roads) degrade over time. Rain, snow, and ice can all affect the surface of the driveway, as can dry conditions and poor drainage. Even just driving on dirt and gravel driveways can cause compaction and settling of the materials, altering the driving surface.

If you don’t grade your driveway, you may experience

  • Washouts during heavy rain
  • Washboard ruts
  • Potholes
  • Compaction of the dirt or gravel

These can pose problems for your vehicle, as ruts and potholes can wreak havoc on your suspension or bend your rims. It can also mean that you’ll have to replace the lost soil or gravel to make the surface safe and driveable. Regularly grading your driveway can prevent or mitigate these issues, saving you damage to your vehicle and the cost of replacing lost gravel.

How do you grade a driveway?

Grading a driveway is relatively simple, provided you have the right tools, and a solid understanding of how to complete the task. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to grade a driveway. 

Start with the Right Equipment

  • Driveway grader — a driveway grader (a.k.a. a box grader or motor grader) is a tow-behind tool that grades (i.e., smooths) dirt and gravel surfaces. Graders have front blades or teeth that cut down material that has built up above the rest of the surface and side or back blades or teeth that push the excess material into dips, ruts, or holes in the surface.
  • Lawnmower, tractor, or truck with towing capabilities
  • Quick-tach adapter, if using a larger tractor with Class 2 hookups or with a quick-tach system
  • Gravel rake
  • Gravel, if it’s necessary to replace missing gravel

Follow these 6 Steps to Properly Grade Your Driveway

  1. Attach your driveway grader to your towing vehicle.
  2. Set your driveway grader to the deepest possible grading setting to loosen the gravel or dirt, possibly adding weight to the grader.
  3. Perform two or three passes over each section of the driveway to ensure that the gravel is de-compacted
  4. Sweep any gravel that has moved off the driveway and into the yard back onto the driveway and fill in any washed-out areas.
  5. Set your driveway grader to a shallower setting.
  6. Perform another two or three passes over each section of the driveway. This should evenly distribute the gravel over the surface of the driveway.

How often should you grade a driveway?

Professionally maintained gravel and dirt roads are generally graded twice per year, once in the fall and once in the spring. This is generally to help prevent and mitigate damage that will happen to the road in the high precipitation and cold temperatures of the winter months, and then to repair some of that damage in the spring.

For a driveway, semiannual grading in the fall and spring is a good place to start. You may find that you need to grade your particular driveway with greater frequency, depending on your soil and weather conditions and the amount of weight and traffic your driveway sees. You may also find that you need to grade your driveway after large storm events or when significant ruts or potholes appear.

As a general rule, a driveway should be graded when its crown—the higher part in the middle—is no longer maintained. This is because the crown aids in effectively draining the driveway, ameliorating some of the effects of stormwater and runoff. When the crown of the driveway is flattened, potholes and ruts are more likely to develop.

If you need to grade a driveway, parking lot, or other dirt or gravel surface, look to the DS Series Driveway Scrapers. Available in three different sizes and with a couple of optional accessories, it’s a versatile tool that can help you get the job done easily and effectively. If you have any questions, contact our team online.

The material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only. You should not rely upon the material or information on the website as a basis for making business, legal or other decisions.