Feb 1, 2024
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What Causes & How to Fix Potholes in Gravel Driveways

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Gravel roads don’t experience potholes in the same way as paved roads, meaning they don’t form the classic circular depressions with sharp edges. However, they can develop similar issues that cause unevenness and bumpy surfaces, often referred to as depressions, ruts, or washboards. These issues come with similar problems as potholes, making them important to address.

What causes potholes in gravel roads

While gravel roads don’t experience potholes in the same way as paved roads, they can develop similar depressions and unevenness that cause similar problems. Here are the main culprits:

  • Water: It’s the biggest enemy of gravel roads. Rainwater and groundwater can seep into the loose gravel, then freeze and expand during cold weather. This freeze-thaw cycle weakens the roadbed, leaving voids that get filled with more water and further deteriorate with repeated cycles. As traffic rolls over these weakened areas, the gravel gets displaced, creating depressions.
  • Traffic: Heavy vehicles or high traffic volume put a lot of stress on the gravel, pushing it around and creating ruts and depressions. This can be exacerbated by sharp turns or braking, which concentrate the force on specific areas.
  • Insufficient maintenance: Regularly grading the road to smooth out the surface and adding new gravel to fill in gaps is crucial. Without proper maintenance, the road becomes more susceptible to the effects of water and traffic.
  • Other factors: Poor drainage, inadequate foundation, and the type of gravel used can also play a role in pothole formation.
    Here’s a summary of the key points:

Remember, preventing these issues is easier (and cheaper) than repairing them later. Proper drainage, regular grading, and responsible driving habits can go a long way in keeping your gravel road smooth and safe.

How to fix potholes in gravel driveway

Gravel driveways offer a rustic charm and affordability, but potholes can turn them into bumpy nightmares. Fear not, fellow driveway warrior! This guide equips you with the knowledge and steps to tackle those pesky potholes, whether you prefer a DIY approach or seek professional help.

Understanding the Enemy

  • Severity of the potholes: Shallow, isolated ones might be addressed with a simple DIY approach, while extensive or deep ones may require professional intervention.
  • Your budget and DIY skills: Basic repairs are budget-friendly but require some effort, while professional services offer expertise but come at a cost.
  • Desired level of permanence: Temporary solutions might work for infrequent use, while long-term fixes are better for heavily used driveways.

DIY Solutions

For small, shallow potholes, you can be your own driveway hero:

  1. Simple filling: This involves clearing the pothole, adding new gravel (compacted in layers), and smoothing it out. Pros: Budget-friendly, easy for small potholes, good learning experience. Cons: Not permanent, susceptible to washout, may require frequent repairs.
  2. Road base and gravel: Similar to simple filling, but adds a stabilizing layer beneath the new gravel. Pros: More durable than simple filling, good for medium-sized potholes. Cons: Requires more effort and materials, less permanent than professional solutions.
  3. Gravel driveway edging: Installing edging helps contain gravel, preventing potholes from forming at the edges. Pros: Relatively inexpensive, helps prevent future potholes. Cons: Doesn’t directly fix existing potholes, requires some effort.

Pro Tips

  • Edging Restraints: Keep your gravel in check and prevent future potholes by installing edging along the driveway.
  • Gravel Sealant: For heavily used driveways, consider a sealant for added stability and dust control.
  • Regular Maintenance: Grading and adding new gravel regularly prevents future battles.
  • Choose the right type of gravel for your driveway; crushed rock mixed with fines offers better compaction and stability.
  • Address drainage issues if water contributes to the pothole problem.
  • Regularly maintain your driveway by grading and adding new gravel as needed.
  • Consider the long-term cost when choosing a solution. A seemingly “cheap” temporary fix might end up costing more in the long run due to frequent repairs.

When to Call in the Cavalry

For extensive, deep potholes, or if DIY feels daunting, consider professional help:

  • Grading & Resurfacing: Professionals use specialized equipment to level the entire driveway, adding new gravel and compacting it thoroughly. Pros: Most permanent solution, creates a smooth, even surface. Cons: Most expensive option, may require temporary driveway closure.
  • Geotextile Fabric & Gravel: Similar to resurfacing, but adds a fabric layer beneath the gravel for better drainage and stability. Pros: Very durable, minimizes future pothole formation. Cons: Second most expensive option, requires professional installation.


  • Choose the right gravel type – crushed rock with fines offers better compaction.
  • Address drainage issues to prevent future problems.
  • Consider long-term costs – a cheap temporary fix might lead to more repairs down the line.
Have you tackled potholes in your gravel driveway? Share your tips and tricks in the comments! Which DIY method seems most appealing to you? Why? If you’re unsure about fixing your potholes, leave a comment, and I’ll try my best to assist!

Picture by Andrew Ashton

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