Forget everything you know about driveways… Asphalt, concrete, crusher run gravel, railroad ballast, paving stones…
If you have a long driveway, or if you need a system of driveways on a farm, and you plan to go with those common methods of paving a driveway, you are going to need a separate mortgage just for the driveway (or driveways).
Believe me, I’ve been there. But no worries, I have a better idea for you. With a little bit of resourcefulness and work, you can cut your driveway expense significantly.
The Cheapest Way to Pave a Driveway…
My affair with driveways started after we bought our 20 acres of farmland. There was no access to the land, so for a while, we used the neighbor’s driveway every time we came to visit. This could not last of course, so I started researching how to build a driveway.
I was very ambitious, I wanted to be able to park our RV at the end of the field, so we wouldn’t be too close to the road. I thought “come on, how much can a 400 ft driveway cost? Surely not too much, it’s just a bunch of rocks…”
Well, try thousands!
How Much Does a Driveway Cost?
Asphalt, concrete and paving stone were out of the question – we couldn’t afford any of them. And who needs a concrete driveway on a farm anyway?
So we were left with railroad ballast (the larger rock) and crusher run gravel (the smaller rock that we see on most gravel driveways) and the widely known way of building a driveway. But wait, even then we couldn’t afford a 400 ft driveway, every truckload of rock cost $350-$400, and each truckload only covers about 50 ft.
You need a layer or two of railroad ballast (the professionals told me), depending on how packed your ground is, and on top of that a layer or, more likely, two, of gravel (4”-6”). This adds up, and don’t forget the price of a hired tractor man and his machine, cause you are not going to rake it around, ain’t nobody got time for that!
Paving a Gravel Driveway…
Please forgive me for the quality of the next few pictures, it’s a long story, but some pictures are better than no pictures.
So anyway, we compromised on a 50 ft driveway (as if we had any other choice, pahh!), and I convinced myself that maybe it wouldn’t be that bad to park that close to the road.
A 15-inch concrete pipe had to be installed in the ditch. It cost $322.60 delivered, I was happy to find out that the local DOT people would install it for free if I didn’t mind waiting a few days. I didn’t.
We have hard red clay around here, so we decided to dump the railroad ballast stone on top of it and skip the ground scraping step (if we had soft ground here, we would have had to scrape the top layer of the soil).
After the dump truck had dumped the stone, the tractor man used the box blade attachment to move the stone and create the driveway. His charge was $150 (which is rather low at $50 an hour).
Here is a closer look at the railroad ballast. The rock is larger than crusher-run gravel, and it is washed clean (no sand mixed with it). It’s supposed to make a good base for the gravel.
This is the length of the driveway one truckload makes. Approximately 50 ft long, 12 ft wide, and 2” thick (this is just the layer of railroad ballast). We had another truckload delivered which we used to widen the end of this strip so that we could maneuver the RV.
The total cost for the two loads was $822.66 + $150 for the hired tractor + $322.60 for the pipe = $1295.26 for a 50 feet driveway. And this is without topping the driveway with crusher run and finishing it all the way…
I was sitting at my house, happy to finally have access to the land, but realizing that my vision of a future house by the wonderful, clear-water, creek at the back of the property was in jeopardy.
It is at least 2500 ft to the back of our rectangular-shaped property. We just spent more than a $1000 on 50 ft, and this is without the gravel since we decided to let the railroad ballast pack a little before we ordered the gravel.
There must be a better, “not normal”, creative alternative, I thought. I just had to find it.
Then I did.
Cheap Driveway Alternatives…
A few weeks after we installed this driveway, we went to visit friends in Virginia. They have a beautiful 50-acre farm on the river with lots of outbuildings connected by driveways.
The moment I stepped out of my car I noticed their driveways were different. They were black, almost like asphalt but not exactly.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s grated asphalt,” our friends said and then explained that they have a friend who drives a dump truck. He was called to work with a road construction company, and after they had filled his truck with the grated asphalt, he was looking for a place to dump it. They paid him $100 a truckload to dump it on their farm.
It was the first time that I’d heard of an alternative driveway material. I had never considered it before and in my research, I did not find much information about it anywhere online.
Since that weekend, I’ve never looked at a dump truck driver the same. They were all my potential friends now.
What do you know, only a few days after we came back from that trip it happened. A construction company came to repave the parking lot next to our locksmith shop. My ex-husband (wasting no time), practically jumped on the dump truck driver.
We got three (as in 3, just to make sure we are clear on that) full dump trucks of grated, scraped or whatever you want to call it parking lot asphalt for….. Wait for it…. Wait…. $50 (as in 50 dollars for all three, just to make sure we are clear on that).
Then we used our new tractor and box blade to shape the material into a driveway (since we now had access to the land we wanted to start working it so we purchased a tractor).
This was our 200 ft or so driveway in town (we don’t live there anymore), which was also suffering. You can see that we still had some work to do, organizing the rocks on the sides, smoothing it further and so on.
I want to point out a few things…
First, of course, is the difference in money spent ($1000+ vs. $50).
Second, the first driveway is 50 ft, and this one is 200 ft.
Third, since the railroad ballast is a bigger and cleaner rock, weeds grow in between the rocks so I had to deal with them. The parking lot grated material has sand mixed in it, so weeds don’t see the sun, therefore, I don’t see them, we don’t meet, no one needs to kill anyone and everyone is much happier.
Lastly, this was not perfectly milled asphalt, it was what came out straight from the parking lot.
We ended up with a pile of bigger asphalt pieces. In the beginning, I was a bit terrified, it didn’t look good in the driveway and our neighbors gave us the evil eye (we shared the driveway with two other families). But we ended up removing the larger pieces by hand.
Where to Get Cheap Driveway Materials?
Since the visit to our friends in Virginia, and this driveway saga a whole world had opened to us. We ended up purchasing a dump truck and we started building driveways for others on the side for extra income.
We were able to save a lot of people a lot of money. We don’t do this anymore but I sure learned a lot from the few years we installed driveways.
Obviously, we had to find a reliable supply of cheap driveway material. We looked around and found a quarry in our city that recycles asphalt. We were able to get it for $8 a ton (compared to $17 a ton for gravel. Those were the prices at the time of my writing of this post. Obviously things might have changed).
I still think that the best thing is to get in touch with someone who drives a dump truck and ask them to notify you if they are called for a paving job. You can ask friends on Facebook if anyone knows a local truck driver.
As far as I know, a lot of these drivers are independent contractors. It’s their responsibility to find a place to dump the waste and in most cases, they need to pay to be able to dump it.
If you offer to pay them instead… It’s a big win for them.
But if you can’t find a willing dump truck driver, call quarries around where you live and try to find a place that recycles. You will then have to find a truck driver to haul the material for you.
You can, in some cases, find drivers on Craigslist, but you can also ask the quarry if they provide this service. If they don’t I am sure that they can give you a few numbers of drivers that they know.
Even if you live out in the country, I am pretty sure that you can save some money by purchasing the asphalt millings and paying a driver to dump it at your place.
Another idea is to call paving companies around your town and ask if they are looking for a place to dump their waste. Many of them will be happy to dump it at your place instead of paying to dump it somewhere else.
Other Costs Associated With Paving a Driveway…
Please don’t forget that material is not your only expense when paving a driveway.
After having some experience and learning how to pave a driveway I have to admit that, more than anything, you have to make sure your driveway is not going to wash out.
You can buy the more expensive rock or the cheaper driveway alternatives, but if you don’t dig that ditch on the side of the driveway, or if you didn’t lay enough material so your driveway is higher than the land around it, the material is going to wash.
So take into consideration the cost of ditch-digging (if you need one), soil scraping, the cost of a concrete pipe (if you need one), the cost of the material and the hauling of the material, and the cost of the spreading of the material if you don’t have a tractor and a box blade and can’t do it yourself.
We were able to save a lot of money because we were able to do all the work ourselves.
I hope this post will give you some ideas. Even if you end up saving just a little bit, I’m happy I shared this info with you.
One Last Note About Cheap Driveway Paving…
After we started working with the local quarry, we found out that they were also recycling concrete.
Recycled concrete was even cheaper than asphalt millings ($6 a ton) and we ended up installing a crushed concrete driveway for the farm and using it in many other jobs.
Both recycled materials packed and held very well.
Please take a moment to scroll through the many comments below. Many people have great ideas and thoughts on this cheap way of paving a driveway.
And if you are the kind of person who likes to think outside the box, you might also like my alternative building methods post which goes over 12 alternative ways to build structures.
Hi! I’m Lady Lee. I help homesteaders simplify their homesteading journey while still producing a ton of food! I am a single mother of four, I was born in Israel and raised in an agricultural commune called a Kibbutz. Now I homestead in central NC.