Friday, June 22, 2012

# 290 - Rural Living - Driveway Top Surface Selection

My last post, #289, discussed the challenges with trying to decide upon which kind of road material we need to use for the private roads on our property. The comments after my last post gave me fantastic inspiration and direction for me to conduct further research on the topic. That research blossomed into other areas of research and a chain reaction had begun. By the end of the night, I'd felt like I'd been to a very informative class for Farm Life Lessons.

I can't wait to pass on much of the information I've learned because it just might help you with your own farming and ranching endeavors to save you M-O-N-E-Y, compliments of Uncle Sam.

Not really dressed for this kind of work, but my
gloves are on, my pink flip flops are under pressure
and I'm digging to plant my bulbs as we are driving
on our way out of the property to head back to
the Greater Houston area. You can see
our culvert down at the other end, bright white concrete.

First, I would like to back-track and make it known that my original dilemma in post #289 was tied to trying to decide which surface would be best for our private road on our acreage...concrete, asphalt, crushed shell, gravel, recycled tires or one of many other choices. Which way should I go?
The comments to that post were fantastic, there might still be more to come, but TEXAN from made a very good point about taxes. TEXAN recommends being thoughtful about your construction process with regards to property taxes that your structure might require, year to year.

I also found it a relief to read comments by Tombstone Livestock from about their own driveway made of gravel. They put some of my concerns at ease and prompted me to do further research on the topic of graveled roads which ended up helping me come to a decision for our acreage roads. There is no doubt, the selection for top surface materials on rural property roads is an important choice for any land-owner.

It appears that a gravelled road is in the top running for our land. But, let's go over some facts for gravelled roads.

#1 Gravel is substantially lower in price for installation when compared to concrete and asphalt

#2 Gravel can be installed properly to support cars, SUV's, RV's and not have ruts

#3 Gravel gives a porous top surface to allow runoff to be distributed into the ground

#4 Gravel can provide the rustic appearance for our country setting that I wish to maintain

#5 Gravel has a lifespan of approximately 60 years compared to 8-15 years for asphalt and 2-25 years for concrete.

#6 Gravel is rather easy to maintain, requiring replenishing for low spots about once every 8 years

#7 Gravel, as a desiccant (drying agent) might be eligible for an environmental upgrade tax break

#8 Gravel of appropriate weight is less likely to wash away and less suscepible to erosion

My research seemed to consistently highlight the fact that concrete is expensive, yet not always consistent in performance, even if poured expertly. Since our land is with hills and raw land that is covered with layers of natural compost, it might be more of a challenge to go with concrete, especially for the amount we will need. Also, concrete is very "invasive" to the earth as it covers it completely and requires rain runoff to find the nearest area of natural earth for absorption, which can create imbalance for drainage. Concrete is susceptible to cracking due to ground movement, again, our land is raw and very soft because it has either been tread lightly or not at all.

Best yet, if your purchased gravel is used for Farm and Ranch purposes, such as for access roads to areas of agricultural production or for livestock pens as a desiccant (drying agent), then it would be tax-free.


Later, in the next day or so, I will be posting a blog strictly on how to apply for a farm and ranch registration number that will allow you to make tax-free purchases on items directly related to agricultural production.

Also, delivery charges of this gravel would be tax-free because people furnishing, delivering or hauling dirt, sand, gravel or similar unprocessed materials are performing a NON-TAXABLE SERVICE!! Now, I am not a tax expert, but it appears that repairs and renovations are not exempt, so you would have to pay tax for that kind of work, but new roads and new construction with gravel is non-taxable, if you have the proper exemption certificate (which I will be writing about this week so you can get your form ready, if you don't have it already). Upon time of purchase, you provide this form and/or your Farm and Ranch Registration Number and fill out any paperwork needed by the supplier, then it is accepted in lieu of paying sale's tax when purchasing gravel for farm and ranch production purposes.


Our private road that will lead to our barn.

One thing that I am currently researching is the type of gravel to be used for the top surface. It's sort of like a Goldilocks situation, you don't want it too big, yet you don't want it too small...the size must be JUST RIGHT.

With my OCD, Micro-managing, anal-retentive personality, I have a strong need to understand this entire job. It's also imperative that I understand it because the facts are that I will probably be the one on the acreage who is providing construction over-sight. I've done it many times before and am willing and able to do it again. I need to understand enough details so that I can be aware enough to  double-check as the contractors are on the job.

For the record, when we were re-building our home after Hurricane Ike, we had a HORRIBLE sheetrock contractor on the job who didn't speak much English. I was complaining about his crooked lines at sheetrock corners. He was doing a terrible job in areas very visible to anyone walking into the house. He was purposefully sputtering in Spanish that he didn't know how to run a straight line and was doing "his best." Man...was he shocked as I began to speak Spanish good enough to get MY point straight. Then, in front of him and his entire crew, I grabbed my OWN sheetrock chalk line and popped a nice, clear red line by myself and said, "There's your straight line. A woman had to show you how to do it. Congratulations."

I walked off as all the guys were laughing and ribbing the "supervisor" of the sheetrock crew. I'm sure he never lived it down. But, I got my sheetrock line floated straight, finally. Of course, I know how to do these things because Deputy Dave usually does them and he sometimes lets me play alongside him as he does the sweaty stuff. But, I do pay attention. I ask, he teaches, and I remember.

Regardless, Tombstone Livestock gave some important information about actually living with a gravelled road to include a bit of maintenance details, and I appreciate it.

It appears that your gravel should be heavy enough to be less likely of being spun-out by a heavy gas pedal, which would also make it less likely for your vehicle's paint to be chipped. Also, the proper weight and size of the gravel would make it more difficult for a storm to wash it away and less likely for normal erosion to negatively impact your graveled road. The heavier it is, the more stable road material it will make.

On that note, it appears that crushed concrete has been suggested by some, but it has been mentioned that truckloads might give you chunks that are too large to use and the inconsistent size of the concrete pieces may create a nightmare.

Gravel is long-lasting, it is affordable, and since any dirt road will eventually settle, no matter how well it is compacted, gravel is a road surface that would be fairly easy to fill in at low points over the years.

I had previously considered asphalt, but after thinking about it more carefully, I considered the same aspects of asphalt when compared to gravel. Asphalt is more costly; it requires more maintenance; asphalt processing is damaging to the environment (STINKY!); after installation, asphalt leaches pollutants into the soil and groundwater; asphalt becomes very hot and in Texas, that is a major consideration because the asphalt could have melting tar seep back to the surface in very hot weather and this can become a messy issue in many areas; plus asphalt gives poor traction in winter. Finally, asphalt is not porous and would increase run-off issues, as would concrete.

We've also used crushed granite in some projects around our current house and it is pretty, for a while, but it washes out too easily. Therefore, it's out of the running completely. Limestone we've used on the property and it does harden to a concrete-type level, but still has considerable dust and is pricey.

On an interesting note with laying a gravelled road, an old "Hillbilly" method is to have loads of old carpeting on hand. Prepare the area for the graveled road, clear it out, compact the soil, then lay the old carpeting, cut to fit and put the gravel on top about 2 inches thick. Supposedly, the old carpeting works as a great base stabilzer. What do you think about that?

I'm all for supporting Hillbilly methods.


WhisperingWriter said...

Good luck with it.

I also like tax free.

Tombstone Livestock said...

Another thing I like about a gravel driveway ......... the sound of the crunch of the gravel under your feet or announcing the arrival of a vehicle, kinda old-timey like the bang a wooden screen door make when it closes. One thing to consider if you put up gates on your entrances, have someone do it that can weld the hinges on to the post so your gates don't just up and walk away. You don't show much on the lattice where you planted your bulbs, but at least that makes it look like someone is paying attention to the property and may keep the teenagers or the beer parties from using your space for themselves.

Another nice thing about the gravel you can get it in increments, once you know exactly where driveway will be get a load or two at a time, doesn't have to all be done at once. said...

Whispering Writer - Thank you! We have so much work in front of us that we simply must take it bit by bit to not be overwhelmed.

Tombstone Livestock - Ahhhh, I love the sound of that crunch as well. Reminds me of our family-owned properties in the country that I grew up with. There is something reassuring about it. Yep, I will have to get a slamming screen door somewhere on the the back of the house. It's another necessity for country living, as is the dinner bell attached to a front porch post! Another good call about the gate being welded to the post. If you see me make more posts about fencing and gates, feel free to remind me of this multiple times! Walk-away gates are surely not pleasant nor cheap. We do need to put up a front fence and gates as soon as we can so we can keep trespassers OFF the property. As for getting the gravel in increments, that is the best way to take the burden off of us because of all the areas that will need coverage. We will do what we can, as we can. We might have to make it stretch, then fill it in more properly as time and money allow.

After all of this, I will be sure to pay attention to every gravelled driveway I come across and to see which ones have less ruts, which ones have less wash out and which ones are easier to walk across. I will still have flagstone or concrete walkways, but the driveways will be gravel. Thanks for helping me learn about this!


Dreaming said...

We had country property on a gravel road. We enjoyed hearing the traffic - maybe 6 cars a day. It was far enough away from where we camped, but still made us feel like we weren't totally alone in the woods! When the county paved the road we were saddened. It meant more traffic, but no more crunch!
We used crushed concrete at another house. It looked great and performed well. It seemed that the dust in the concrete and rain made the driveway more stable, almost reconcreting it. BUT, there was a lot of trash in the concrete. I was forever picking up odd bits of wire, pieces of rebar, bits of plastic. That part was a mess.
I don't know about carpet as a base, but a friend used it in the walkways around her raised garden beds. It was effective weed barrier - and that would be welcome on a gravel road, too.

LindaG said...

If you get the carpet for free, I guess it could work.

All very interesting, Lana. Have a blessed weekend! :o) said...

Linda - that's what the Hillbilly method does, they go around and get old carpets to save up and use it as the base. I'm not sure how it works, but I guess the carpet underlay gives stability, etc., For us, it would take FOREVER to save up enough carpet.

You have a blessed weekend too. I can't wait to get more details on your transition! I hope the chickens will be following very soon!


Vickie said...

Lana - all good points. We haven't needed a road yet on our place, but... we are sitting on sugar sand mostly. I'm afraid gravel would sink in the sand gradually - but I DO like that carpet idea. That might work!

Anonymous said...

Decide which inlet/outlet you want the most and do it first. You may wait years to do the other one , if ever.
Don't worry about the ruts already in there...they will fill up with the gravel and make it more firm.
You could just put gravel down the two lanes where the tires are actually on when you drive in.
My husband suggested whatever the locals won't stick out like a sore thumb and it will probably be the most economical.
There will be dust from the gravel, so you could do something less dusty closer to the house and it wouldn't be obvious to passers by that they might find womething worth stealing back a gravel road as much as maybe a paved or concrete one.
Around here concrete is just as cheap as paved and lasts will never have a concrete or asphalt driveway without cracks eventually.
You can always pave/concrete later if you want will need a gravel base anyway. Beth said...

Vickie - we might change the location of our roads because the current one I show in pictures is rather long. There's actually a shorter route we could develop and it would take less to maintain. For now, that one road to the barn location will be last. The road to the cabin location will have to come first. But, I don't think I want to put it in before construction because it will be installed just to be torn up. That's why we really need to go into construction mode when the weather is good, so the ground will be less likely to be soggy. But, I don't want to be building in the middle of August either, not here in Texas!

Beth - you made excellent points. I think we'll get concrete bids for the driveway directly to the house, but it probably isn't affordable for us to do the long drive and the ground moves too much. We're like Vickie with sandy soil. They trucked in clay for around the lake area, but the rest of the land is sandy loam. ?? Hope that's correct wording. The wheel tracks is a good idea, we might have to do just that in some areas. I don't think anyone around our land has concrete, most is limestone on top of earth to harden the surface. I think you saw the post that had the Dodge sunk into a pit this past summer. There are a couple of REALLY iffy points on the road that we avoid at all costs. It's funny cause this driveway topic, along with culverts and fences, now has my attention as we drive by properties...OH, LOOK AT THAT CULVERT or FENCE CORNER POST! Ha Ha. What is wrong with me? Why can't I just be happy with the mall, like "normal" women??????

Lana said...

PS Beth --- I do think it will take YEARS to do most of what we will need and want to do. I walk around other people's ranches and farms, in amazement, knowing that each area took a lot of time, money and effort to get into place. I've tried to do a "Master Plan" for our land, so we can do it in phases. That's one great area with blogging, my blog buddies are amazing for advice and for helping to keep me on track, especially when I start to get frazzled and go thru an impatient moment. Speaking of...I do need to get Deputy Dave to work on drawings for a new chicken coop, so if this house sells any time soon, we won't be scrambling to do last minute preparations for our laying ladies!!!



Anonymous said...

They will be fine in the one you have till you get one built there...just take it with you.
But, yes, another thing to think about. Beth