5 ways to reduce dust from your new gravel driveway

A gravel driveway can give your home a nice, rustic look. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Cynthia H. of Seattle)

A gravel driveway can give your home a nice, rustic look. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Cynthia H. of Seattle)

Gravel driveways can provide that perfect rustic touch for your property, giving you a beautiful lane for vehicle traffic without breaking your wallet like a brick or concrete driveway would. Soon after you've installed that gravel driveway, it can start to show its dirty side in the form of a huge dust cloud that rises up whenever anyone drives on it.

Dust is a natural part of a gravel driveway: It's simply the finest of the various rock sizes that comprise your driveway's material. But you can follow a few steps to greatly reduce the amount of dust that your new gravel driveway kicks up.

Water the driveway

Your gravel driveway will kick up dust only when it's dried out, so keeping it damp will reduce the amount of dust produced to a minimum. It doesn't need much water, just enough to keep the very top level moist, so in humid conditions just one application every few days will be enough. For many homeowners, just adjusting the trajectory of your lawn's sprinkler system will get the job done. However, in the long, hot, dry days of summer, the water may evaporate soon after you apply it, making this method fairly useless for dust control.

Proper installation and maintenance

Water may help control dust when applied evenly and lightly, but standing water has almost the opposite effect. Standing water — which forms from either depressions in the surface caused by wear or through improper drainage due to a poor installation — brings small dirt particles up from between the gravel and deposits them on the surface when the water finally dries. These particles then become dust as soon as they are disturbed and sent into the air.

You can fill in depressions as you find them, but you'll have problems trying to correct a poor installation. To avoid this particular problem, hire a well-referenced, licensed contractor to build the driveway in the first place. A contractor will know exactly how to build the driveway's foundation to ensure that water drains properly instead of puddling on the surface and creating dust.

Go slow

Studies have shown that increased speed of vehicles over a surface has a direct effect on just how much dust gets kicked up on a gravel road or driveway, and you can significantly reduce how much dust you create by just going slower. This may not be desired or possible solution for particularly long driveways. After all, no one wants to crawl for a quarter mile at the end of a long drive home, but any reduction in speed, even if it's just a few miles an hour, will reduce dusty roads.

Install windbreaks

Cars may be the biggest reason that dust gets kicked up from gravel driveways, but once it's up in the air, the wind really does the damage. Wind will transplant the dust elsewhere, like onto your house, and the lost dust will slowly weaken the gravel base in the driveway, causing more depressions and general wear.

You can greatly reduce the effect that wind has on your driveway by building some simple windbreaks on either side of it. The best windbreaks will let some wind through but will displace the airflow enough so that it doesn't scatter the dust everywhere. Picket and board fences work well, but so do beam fences or even rows of hedges or plants.

Deposit salt or binder

The most effective — and most expensive — way to control dust on gravel driveways is to treat the gravel with something that will either absorb water or make the dust denser. Salts, like calcium chloride, will absorb water from the air and from under the road, keeping the top of the gravel driveway damp and thereby reducing the amount of dust. Binders, like emulsified asphalts, resins, sulphonated petroleum and bentonite, attract the dust particles to each other, creating larger pieces of dust that are less likely to fly into the air when disturbed.

Because applying these salts and other chemicals to your driveway can be dangerous and they need to be applied evenly, you might consider hiring an experienced contractor to do the job. This way, you can ensure that the materials used are safe for you and your property and are applied in the correct way to keep the driveway's dust to a minimum.

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