A Driveway for One’s Home

When we moved into our new home, we knew there were some projects ahead of us. No house is perfect. Whether it’s insanely obvious, like a murder basement, or invisible to the untrained eye, like backward electrical wiring, every spot comes with its own “to-do” list.

 

Image Description: A small white house at night, lit up with white christmas lights along the gutters. The house has a cheerful red door and red shutters on the windows.

For our home, we knew we would have to deal with the moat of mud previously known as “the driveway.”

Our driveway had slipped into a state of disrepair – a squelchy quicksand of muck that held onto shoes, boots, dog paws, tire treads, and anything else unlucky enough to pass through it. The mud had been displaced by wheels in some part, creating a disarray of valleys and peaks sunk into the mostly clay soil.

Our little car couldn’t muster the ten or so feet of pure squelch and slippery muck to make it to the two strips of pavement that remained above the quagmire, so we opted for street parking.

After three weeks of parking on the street in front of our house, we received word from the powers that be that snow removal was in the forecast. Snow removal meant restrictions on-street parking, and restrictions on-street parking meant that we needed to address the driveway.

[REDACTED] hopped to and researched paving options. He found a nearby company that offered driveway paving services and scheduled an estimate.

If you had asked me how much it would be to pave a 10’x12’ rectangle of driveway, I would have guessed somewhere in the $500-$750 range.

Holy cow. I was so dead wrong.

The professional, who knew about the cost of labor and materials for driveway pavement installation, quoted us at about $3,000.

THREE. THOUSAND. DOLLARS.

For what is basically dirt, rocks, sand, and glue – three of those things we already had underneath all that mud!

I almost laughed out loud.

I would rather just pay the fines and park on the street! It would probably be cheaper (maybe not in the long run, but short-term…)

There had to be another option. And there was!

You know what else people use for driveways? Gravel.

You know what is a fraction of the cost of asphalt or cement? Gravel!

We were getting a gravel driveway!

Kind of.

We put in an order for gravel, making that gravel into a working driveway was up to us. It was a DIY driveway!

We did a bit of searching on Youtube and saw other homeowners successfully digging, arranging, and installing their own gravel driveways which buoyed our confidence. If they could do it, we could too!

There was just one small detail.

All of our Youtube gurus were working away in shorts and a t-shirt under bright blue skies. We were already a week into December, and there was snow in the forecast.

No matter! We moved our gravel delivery date back a few days, layered up in coats, hats, and gloves, and got to work!

As promised, our first day was grey and misty. We quickly discovered that the soil in our area is packed with clay and holds onto moisture with gusto. The extra water weight made the muck heavier, and harder to break apart.

Half-way through our scheduled morning of muck-raking, the mist condensed into a soggy snowfall.

In nearly 6 hours at work with a pickaxe, shovel, and wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of muck transferred to the backyard (that will be a project for the spring), we were able to adequately prepare a 2’x2’ patch of ground – that estimate is generous.

Clearly, our DIY project was not going well.

[REDACTED] was doing most of the heavy lifting. I felt less than qualified for the undertaking.

There had to be another option.

And….there was.

The next day, [REDACTED] called an equipment rental company and ordered a mini track loader. (I had to look up “small digging machine” to find out what the thing was called – one example of my limited knowledge of machinery.)

Image Description: Taken through an upstairs window, a bundled-up figure rides a miniature tractor up a very muddy driveway. The other driveways on the street look impecable clean in comparison.

The track loader arrived mid-morning and [REDACTED] got to work.

I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear that I did almost nothing in the hours that followed. I was home with a nasty cough and spent my day answering work emails while wrapped in a cozy blanket.

Armed with the digging machine, [REDACTED] dug out the ruts, removed the muck, and flattened the driveway.

When he was done, I helped lay out a weed barrier fabric. He secured the last corner of fabric just as the truck with our highly anticipated gravel delivery arrived!

In minutes, the truck had deposited it’s load and departed, I returned to my blanket and emails, and [REDACTED] took to the track loader to distribute the gravel, tamp down the driveway, and finish the job.

The DIY day was saved!

One of the beauties of being married to [REDACTED] is having him be good at things that I am not good at.

He is physically very strong. I have almost no muscle at all.

He has knowledge and experience working with machinery. I have a knack for recipes and ingredients.

I never think of our strengths or weaknesses as being inherently “better.” Even though driveway installation isn’t in my wheelhouse, I did single-handedly alter our old curtains for our new bedroom windows.

Our DIY days are far from over – we have butcher block countertops to seal from water damage, and shelves we are hoping to install, and another – even bigger – mud pit of a backyard to work on come spring.

For now, we’re still unpacking, [REDACTED] is in the midst of finals, I’m sanding and sealing our butcher block countertops, and life feels full of options.

 
Video Description: A big dusty truck tips back a load of gravel and drives forward, dumping three tons of red rock chunks all over the muddy driveway. 

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