23 May How deep should you dig for a driveway?

If you’re installing a new driveway, the process is more complicated than just laying down the new materials and hoping they’ll last. Instead, you’ll need to excavate and lay some driveway foundations before getting started on the actual driveway.

The depth of your driveway foundations will depend on the materials you’re using, the length and width of your planned driveway and the type of soil you’re working with. To learn about how deep you should dig for your driveway project, keep on reading to find out more.

Why do you need to excavate your driveway?

Removing an old driveway and installing a new one is an important part of garden maintenance and improving the exterior of your home. But why do you need to dig a trench before building your new driveway?

All driveways require a certain amount of excavation before the materials (e.g. gravel, tarmac, concrete) can be laid down. This will prolong the life of your driveway and ensure that it performs optimally. A well-excavated driveway should also be more level and robust.

Once you’ve dug the trench for your driveway, you can lay down a sub-base as a foundation. A sub-base is a layer of aggregate material that acts as the load-bearing layer under your driveway. The sub-base will strengthen your driveway and prevent distortion and damage, which is essential if you’ll have cars parked on your driveway for a significant amount of time. Usually, you should aim to have at least 10 cm of sub-base (and then an equivalent amount of the top material), but this amount could increase for driveways with heavy vehicles parked on them.

Building regulations

Before you get started with excavation, it’s important to check if your planned project complies with local building regulations. For most UK homes, making changes to your driveway is perfectly acceptable as long as building access stays the same or is improved. You should also ensure that you’re not compromising access to other buildings or public areas. 

However, if you’re living in a listed building or living in a national park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a conservation area or a World Heritage Site, certain changes to your driveway may not be permitted. If you’re ever unsure, simply ask your local council if you’ll need planning permission to install a new driveway.

How much do you need to excavate?

There’s no hard and fast rule for how much soil you need to excavate before installing your new driveway. The depth you’ll need to dig will depend on the material you use, the size of your driveway and the type of soil you’re working with. More substantial driveways may need more excavation.

Typically, you should aim to dig around 6 to 8 inches deep, although you may excavate up to a foot if necessary. Overall, the size of a proper driveway foundation is entirely dependent on your personal driveway project, so it’s worth asking a professional to survey your land and advise you. 

What about a gravel driveway?

Gravel driveways are aesthetically pleasing and simple to install, making them one of the most popular driveway styles in the UK. To install a gravel driveway, you’ll need to dig a deep enough trench to hold all of the gravel and also ensure adequate drainage.

Again, to calculate the size of the trench and the amount of gravel required, you should contact a professional to survey your land and look over your project plans. You should also remember to install a steep slope of 2 inches for every 10 feet of driveway length, as this will ensure proper drainage for your gravel driveway. The final step is to add driveway edgings as a border around your gravel driveway to maintain its shape – you could use paving stones, concrete blocks or even boulders for a more natural look.

How deep does gravel need to be for a driveway?

After you’ve laid down your sub-base in the trench, which should be at least 15 cm thick for a gravel driveway, you can add your gravel layer. The gravel layer should be around 5 cm thick to ensure adequate coverage. Therefore, the entire driveway should be around 20 cm deep, which is just under 8 inches. However, the type of soil you have will affect how you construct your driveway, so use these figures as a general guide rather than a set rule.

Should you dig manually or mechanically?

Once your plans are complete, it’s time to start digging. For soft, loamy soils, you should be able to dig the trench yourself with a shovel. And depending on the amount of soil removed, you may be able to simply use it in your garden rather than pay for it to be properly disposed of elsewhere. This could help you save a lot of money.

For larger projects, it may not be feasible for you to take on excavation by yourself. Plus, you need to think about the excess soil and rubble in addition to the work of digging the trench. All of this material will have to be removed and disposed of responsibly, which will involve hiring a skip.

If your land has rock underneath the topsoil, it may be impossible for you to dig the trench with just a shovel. Instead, you’ll have to hire a mini digger to break up the rock and rubble (which will then have to be disposed of properly). If you’re removing an old tarmac or concrete driveway before installing a new one, you may also need machinery such as a pneumatic drill to break up the old materials. All of this will mean hiring professionals to excavate your driveway, which will be more expensive but necessary.

Do you need a skip?

If you’re excavating a small driveway in an area with soft soil, you may be able to go without a skip and simply pile the excess soil into wheelbarrows. You can then use this soil in your garden or let friends and family take away some of the soil if they’re doing any work in their gardens.

However, for any larger projects, there will probably be too much excess soil for you to use. Plus, if there’s a significant amount of rock and rubble in your excess soil, it will need to be disposed of responsibly. This is when you should hire a skip to store the soil and rock – the skip company will then take it away when you’re done to dispose of the waste professionally.

Safety tips

If you choose to excavate your driveway yourself rather than hiring professionals, it’s important that you follow some key safety guidelines to ensure you don’t hurt yourself in the process. Whenever you’re taking on a DIY project, you should wear protective gear like safety goggles and gloves to protect your eyes and hands from flying debris. If you’re using loud machinery such as a drill, you’ll need to wear professional ear defenders to protect your hearing.

Digging a trench for your driveway can be very difficult if you try to take on this project alone. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to contact professionals or ask for help from family and friends. Don’t injure yourself out of stubbornness!

Completing your driveway with driveway gates

Laying the foundation for your driveway is just one part of the overall process. Once you’ve dug a trench and laid down a sub-base, you’ll have to install your driveway material, add adequate drainage, add driveway edgings, and clean and maintain your driveway. This will involve tasks such as cleaning oil from the driveway and removing moss, as moss buildup can reduce grip.

Finally, you can complete your driveway with high-quality driveway gates. There are so many types of driveway gates and driveway gate materials to choose from, including:

The right driveway gate can add so much beauty and character to the exterior of your home, whilst also improving your privacy and security.

Need help choosing the right driveway gates for your new driveway? We can help you pick the best driveway gates for your home and craft them to the exact specifications of your new driveway. Contact The Expert Gate Company to discuss your driveway plans.