wikiHow to Maintain a Dirt or Gravel Drive or Road

After trying lots of approaches to maintain my long gravel drive, I finally discovered what works. I also maintain about a mile of road in my development the same way as the driveway. Basically, a box scraper will take care of about 90% of your needs. The details follow:


  1. Image titled Maintain a Dirt or Gravel Drive or Road Step 1
    Limit speeds on your driveway/road. If drivers stay below about 20 mph (32 km/h) (hence the 15 mph (24 km/h) sign since everyone speeds), then the road will not "washboard," pothole, or otherwise deteriorate as fast as with higher speeds.
  2. Image titled Maintain a Dirt or Gravel Drive or Road Step 2
    Get a tractor. The tractor is probably the most important (and, most expensive) piece of equipment needed. The front loader is very valuable if you want to move gravel or dirt. It can also be used for some snow plowing.
  3. Image titled Maintain a Dirt or Gravel Drive or Road Step 3
    Get a 'box scraper'. It is important to have enough tractor horsepower to pull the selected scraper. Recommendations are usually for about 5hp per foot of scraper width. You can get by with somewhat less horsepower as long as your transmission is strong-enough and you go slower.{{largeimage|Cat Scraper.jpg} "Professional" Version -- Far smaller ones are available for use behind a small tractor.}
  4. Image titled Maintain a Dirt or Gravel Drive or Road Step 4
    Have a chain harrow. A chain harrow is useful for smoothing. You won't need it for every maintenance session, but it is invaluable for smoothing out washboarding during dry periods. You will be limited as to when you can work on the road as it ages -- basically unless you have professional-level equipment or a loose surface, you will need to wait for rain or snow to soften the surface. The harrow can help in the dry season, but the box scraper is the ultimate tool.
  5. Image titled Maintain a Dirt or Gravel Drive or Road Step 5
    Use a grader blade. The grader blade is useful to move gravel or dirt back toward the center of the road. Traffic, snow plowing, and even the box scraper tends to move material out towards the edges of the road. Periodically, if you run the grader blade (set at an angle) along the edges of the road, you can move the edge material back towards the center of the road. This will reduce you costs for gravel for resurfacing. Remove the pin to allow the blade to rotate along the axis of the tractor (the back pin on the grader blade).
  6. Image titled Maintain a Dirt or Gravel Drive or Road Step 6
    Work on the road/driveway. Unless the surface is loose (loose gravel or soft dirt), you will probably have to wait for it to be what is call "juicy" (wet after a soaking rain, basically). The grader blade can be used to return gravel/dirt back toward the middle of the road -- if you don't have much gravel or loose dirt on your drive/road, then this can reduce your costs for buying gravel.
  7. Image titled Maintain a Dirt or Gravel Drive or Road Step 7
    Use the box scraper on the surface. Running the box scraper will do about 90% of the work of maintaining your road. Leave the tines in the "up" position and just use the blade on the bottom to scrape the surface. Depending on the width of your scraper and your road, you simply run up/down the road until the entire surface has been scraped. What happens is that the scraper will pick up gravel and dirt until the box is full. Then, the material will be redeposited on the road in an even layer. This will scrape high points and fill-in low points. For the first time, you may need (want) to run over the surface a few times -- after initially getting the road (relatively) smooth, monthly maintenance for heavily-traveled neighborhood roads and quarterly maintenance for a driveway works well.
    • The scraper works well when set to simply level with the road surface. You can adjust the "bite" by raising/lowering the top hitch.


  • Rocks are not your friend. Ideally, these should have been removed when the bulldozer initially created the drive/road. Small ones don't cause a problem, but large ones will either stop the tractor or bend your equipment (or both). If you have large rocks, either get rid of them or add enough gravel to cover them.
  • The gravel purchased should be "road gravel" which seems to be crushed limestone with a mixture of sized aggregate. If you buy sized gravel, use larger sizes (1.5" or so) since that slows traffic down. Most people will prefer more like 1" or less as that is smoother to drive on.
  • Adding a layer of gravel every year or so will probably be necessary for at least a couple of years. Aim for about 1" or so over the entire surface (or, at least the middle since new material tends to move toward the edges).
  • When buying gravel, make sure the company you buy from knows that it needs to be spread on a road/driveway. Not all truck drivers are good at doing this. You do not want a pile of gravel that you have to move around! Even with a front loader, you will not be able to move very much gravel very far.
  • A 3-point hitch is very valuable on a tractor. If you don't have a 3-point hitch, there are scrapers, etc. with wheels that can be used with ATVs or tractors by only pulling from a single-point hitch.
  • If you get a John Deere, get the hydraulic option for the front loader when purchasing even if you do not get the loader -- it is far less expensive to add a front loader if you have the hydraulic option preinstalled.
  • Dirt is your friend! Getting some dirt mixed-in with the stone gravel will stabilize the surface. You may get more dust with the dirt (the 15 mph (24 km/h) will help), but the dirt helps reduce maintenance of, especially, wash boarding.


  • Care is always required when around equipment. Read the directions.
  • Follow the directions!

Things You'll Need

  • 15 mph (24 km/h) Speed Limit Signs.
  • Small tractor with 20hp or more -- 4-wheel-drive, three-point hitch, and front loader are all desirable.
  • Box scraper sized to tractor horsepower. Look for one smaller than your horsepower divided by 5.
  • Chain harrow.
  • Grader blade (optional).

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Home and Garden