November 20th, 2009

We got a refund out of our escrow account after our property taxes were reevaluated and lowered to reflect the actual purchase price of the house (actually a little lower due to the nosedive real estate market) instead of charging us the previous owners purchase price (which they have for a year and was WAY WAY WAY more than we paid). Another good aspect was that our mortgage payment was also lowered and now we are paying less for the house than we’ve ever paid in rent. So – good news overall.

The focus for using this little boon of cash has fallen on fixing up our crappy/weedy dirt driveway. Which is seriously Ghetto.

Here is a little layout map – and yes, our driveway is huge.

Driveway map

Here are some inspiration pictures I’ve been looking at to figure out what to do with the beast of a driveway.





19 house side

The Boy wants the whole driveway done in 1″ gravel. I want rectangular cement slabs with gravel divisions.

Like everything, it’s all going to come down to those DOLLARS. We definitely don’t want to overspend as this town is awful and going overboard probably won’t ever pay off.

If we go all gravel, we could totally DIY the driveway. If there are cement slabs, we will need pro assistance. We could always install those big cement pavers to kind of fake the look, and I know cement will cost way more than we should spend (We actually got a quote for $15,000 to do what I want to the whole driveway. WTF – we got other more reasonable quotes but that one just seemed insane).

It’s going to cost :

-$872.50 (including tax and delivery) for all the gravel.
-$250 for a 24 hour tractor rental to level and grade the dirt.

Thats $1,122.50 to DIY a full on gravel driveway.

So, my question for all you fabulous DIYer’s is this – what’s a good, cheap driveway solution? Have any of you gorgeous, charming, and witty readers put a driveway in and what are your do’s and don’ts?

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  1. Sharon on 11/20/2009:

    I've never put a driveway in … but the choice between $15,000 and $1,200 would make my decision easy! Gravel it would be.

    The picture with the grass growing up inside the slabs would drive me to drink … it would get overgrown and weedy real easily.

  2. Anonymous on 11/20/2009:

    I'm doing a cement and gravel patio using pre-cast air conditioner pads instead of having the cement poured into forms. I was warned that the gravel will move around and end up on top of the cement pads, which is dangerous for stepping on–causes slip-and-falls. But my ratio of cement to gravel will weigh in favor of gravel, so the danger may be less if you flip the ratio. The picture third from the bottom looks like cement and crushed red granite. I considered that, but it didn't contrast enough with the color of my cedar house. The granite was cheaper than the gravel, however.

  3. modfrugal on 11/20/2009:

    15k is ridiculous. Maybe get another quote? I'm investigating "driveable grass" for part of my driveway, but probably not very practical in the desert. Gravel certainly seems easiest…maybe you can upgrade to the slabs at a later date? Or, as a compromise, have some killer curbs poured to make your gravel seem neatly edged. That shouldn't cost nearly the slab price. Good luck!

  4. S@sha on 11/20/2009:

    A couple of things would probably help stabilize the gravel, whether you decide to use concrete pads or not– after leveling and compacting the soil, put down a couple of inches of crusher fines (similar to crushed granite) and compact that, then gravel on top. Make sure its angular gravel, not round too. Otherwise the gravel won't compact and it'll be like driving/walking on soft sand. Pretty annoying. Then sell your gravel driveway as the sustainable choice– permeable surfaces are always good in the desert!

  5. Tracy on 11/20/2009:

    we spent way too much on our driveway. concrete with a salt finish. but i do love it. and for our 'hood / resale we thought it worth it. i know peeps with decomposed granite and while a great enviro choice, it can ruin your hardwood floors pretty quickly. for our backyard patio we are doing large concrete pads (poured) with the same salt finish and gravel between them. i like the gravel. and $ wise – it sounds like it makes good sense.

  6. jamie on 11/20/2009:

    k i'm no help but damn "we are paying less for the house than we've ever paid in rent"

    maybe *we* should move to hemet.

  7. My Farmhouse Kitchen on 11/20/2009:

    WTF….15K….I'm confused….which way will you go? And what is the awful town you live in? Is it Hemet?

    I'll be watching….


  8. Anonymous on 11/20/2009:

    I've never been a fan of gravel because it's so dang messy. It scatters every time someone walks over it or drives through it, and it's a pain in the arse to keep sweeping it back into place. Plus when the rocks begin to migrate into your yard (which they will), your mower blades will get jacked up, and you'll have rocks whizzing through the air at warp speed! AND it causes more wear and tear on tires.

    My parents recently got a poly-pebble (epoxy pebble?) driveway. Affordable, low maintenance, DIY-friendly, and with tons of color options. My dad applied a glossy sealer, and now it looks even more stunning.

    Design idea: Looks like your driveway is plenty wide… If you go with a solid poured driveway, you could leave some squares punched out along the edges. (Think of what the edges of a film negative look like.) That would be a good way to incorporate some grassy action, and upkeep would be easy peasy.

  9. THE BRICK HOUSE on 11/20/2009:

    jamie – hemet is gross, that's why we're paying like $900 for the mortgage. We used to live in LA, so it's a lot cheaper. you could get a hella cheap house out here right now, my neighbors bought theirs for like $60k.

    where do you buy AC concrete pads? Those sound awesome.

    We have concrete partitions already poured that are about 4 inches tall, and I don't think we are really doing grass. To hard in this climate. But I would like to throw down some big concrete pavers if i can find them.

  10. Anonymous on 11/20/2009:

    my parents have a gravel drive way and it is a major pain in the ass. it gets EVERYWHERE!

  11. jamie on 11/20/2009:

    would i have to say hella if we moved out there? 😉

  12. THE BRICK HOUSE on 11/20/2009:

    no. i don't know where that came from. i'm not from the bay area or anything, i need to go eat lunch.

    move out here and make help hemet awesome. we need more rad people and less meth.

  13. THE BRICK HOUSE on 11/20/2009:

    Thats what I've been saying to the boy – it's going to get everywhere. it's better than dirt, but i've never lived with a gravel driveway and i feel like it's going to be a nightmare.

  14. ryan on 11/20/2009:

    I hate gravel, but have been thinking of using some of it in both a walk way and/or patio area. However, car tires and gravel seem like a bad mix. Up here it snows in the winter so that affects my opinion since gravel + snow shovel = mess. I love the drivable grass. The pic above with the red house (i remember it, maybe from dwell?) is one of my favorites. instead of grass though, think other hardy plants- does thyme grow in your region w/o too much water?

    My driveway is crap (and cracked) almost as big as yours. Technically it's a shared driveway so my neighbor is supposed to share the cost and has to give permission for me to do anything to it. Since it's currently a rental though, and the owners have no equity in the property, I think it will be a long time before our driveway changes.

  15. paula on 11/20/2009:

    we have pea gravel in our garden and it does make a mess. although i do have 2 children who think it's fun to play in so I think they are the main problem. I do love the way it looks though. If you do it then make sure you put some sort of border around the edge to keep from spillage. It helps a bit.

    Oh, and I so wish our mortgage payment would drop:)

  16. Anna at D16 on 11/20/2009:

    "move out here and make help hemet awesome. we need more rad people and less meth."

    LOL. Then can they move to Newburgh so we have more rad people and less crack?

  17. shayna on 11/20/2009:

    What about decomposed granite? You could rent a uhaul truck for $28/day and shovel it in yourselves. I think you might need to hire someone to roll it/tamp it but it should be waaaayyy less than 15K and kicks gravel's ass.

    Also, you make it sound as if the bank just casually lowered your mortgage cause you have such good taste. How'd you work that magic???

  18. THE BRICK HOUSE on 11/21/2009:

    Oh no, our taxes and insurance are built into our mortgage (they go into our escrow account) – less taxes equals instant lower mortgage payment. We were paying like $400 a month in taxes and now we are paying $52.

    Not like they lowered the principle – that would be AMAZING.

  19. Anonymous on 11/21/2009:
  20. Anonymous on 11/21/2009:

    If you google permeable, pervious, or green driveway, you'll see lots of options. Also, a great resource is www dot regreenprogram dot org. You can click the top tab for "Resources" and also click on the link to download the pdf "ReGreen Guidelines." It's an awesome document and you might find it very helpful for many of your projects. Finally, does California or your county have some kind of rebate or incentive plan to encourage or facilitate green choices?

  21. Anonymous on 11/21/2009:

    I forgot to include "porous" as another word that's often used along with "permeable," and "pervious", as well as "pavement" instead of "driveway."
    Another resource you should know about is www dot toolbase dot org. If you search "permeable pavement" on their homepage, you'll get a helpful document.

  22. Kati W on 11/21/2009:

    One more resource: If you google "Austin Energy Green Building," you can find a lot of resources and helpful links, including a "Sourcebook."

  23. Anonymous on 11/21/2009:

    What about having more garden less driveway?

  24. Anonymous on 11/22/2009:

    hey, i like the concrete pads with rocks in between but small rocks are a pain as stated above. my parents had a gravel drive at a cottage and we had to bring in gravel on a regular basis because it seemed to disapper. So what about larger rocks that don't get so displaced – which appears to be what they have in 1 and 3. It might cost a bit more but perhaps less maintenance. I do love the sound of gravel under the car.

    Are you planning to be there for years? If not I would go the way of the cheaper solution…

    my neighbor did the 5th one and it looks nice but we can grow grass.

  25. abby jenkins on 11/22/2009:

    We have a gravel drive and I love it. BUT the last time we had a load dropped off (it does seem to disappear and I don't think it is because of my paperwhite project poaching) the new batch of rocks were so sharp they would get stuck in my shoes, and you had to wear shoes as it was a disaster trying to walk barefoot, like shards of glass in your tootsies.
    My suggestion is that you check out the actual gravel they will be delivering so you don't get the same surprise we did.

  26. J. Fudo on 11/23/2009:
  27. Anonymous on 11/23/2009:

    You might be able to get the AC pads from a Home Depot or Lowes, but we got ours from a pre-cast cement supplier. Our builder hooked us up.

  28. Anonymous on 11/24/2009:

    we have gravel and one thing to watch for is that is gets dragged into your house very easily. It gets stuck to the dog, our shoes, and any bag/package that we put down on the driveway. So watch out if your wood floors start at the entrance way, it might get scratched due to the gravel.
    It also tends to get big ruts in it when it rains, so there is a bit of maintenance there. That being said, I would go $1200 over $15k any day. Good luck!

  29. Anonymous on 11/24/2009:

    I thought you might like to see these:

    I thought the grey ones (in a grid pattern) looked cool…

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