Adding a dedicated parking area to your property helps you to accommodate guests and protects your yard from tire damage. While you could use a number of materials to make your parking area, using gravel is a cost-effective option that provides you with a structurally sound end product. There's more to building a gravel parking area than simply dumping gravel on the grass, however. Proper planning and preparation will ensure that your new parking area stands up to both heavy use and heavy vehicles.
Things You'll Need
Backhoe or other excavation tools
Gravel of various sizes
Before You Start
As you make plans to add a parking area to your property, there are a few things you'll need to do before you can start in earnest. Check to see whether your plans are affected by local building codes or other regulations, and find out if you need a permit to begin working on your parking area. You also need to call 811 at least 24 to 48 hours before you intend to start to have any buried cables and other underground utilities marked; you can't begin work until any lines on your property are identified. You should also familiarize yourself with backhoe operation if you plan on doing the excavation yourself.
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Failure to have underground lines and cables marked can result in hefty fines and may be dangerous as well. You're also responsible for the cost of any repairs if you damage buried lines.
Excavating the space for your parking area is essential to prevent sinking, shifting and other problems associated with simply dumping gravel on the bare ground. Topsoil is more compactable than the soil beneath it due to it being broken up by roots and insects, and this leads to settling as the weight of the gravel and vehicles parked on it compress the soil over time. Excavate the area to a depth of 8 to 12 inches to remove the topsoil and lay your foundation on the much more compact subsoil beneath. Run a compacting roller over the excavated area to smooth the surface and compress any loose soil that remains, and then place a layer of geotextile fabric on top of the compressed soil to create a barrier to settling once the gravel is added.
Topsoil typically has more organic material and is more nutrient rich than subsoil, meaning that the soil you remove should be suitable for planting and gardening. Save it for use in other projects.
Adding the Gravel
To ensure the most stability from your parking area, multiple sizes of gravel are needed. Start with large, rough gravel around the size of a baseball or softball and create a layer approximately 4 to 6 inches deep within your excavated space. These pieces will grind together under the weight of the gravel above them, locking them in place and creating a firm bedrock for your parking area. Top this with another 4 to 6 inches of smaller gravel, approximately the size of ping pong or golf balls. Place crushed gravel on top of that, running the compacting roller over it to create a smooth surface for your parking area.
If you want to designate individual spaces within your gravel parking area, paint landscape timbers to create wheel stops and use spray paint to create parking lines. Drill holes in the timbers and hammer 1/2-inch rebar or long metal spikes into the gravel if you want to prevent the wheel stops from moving.