Arthur strives to balance aesthetics, functionality, and quality with costs when planning DIY projects in the home and garden.
While on holiday in Wales, we parked our car in the public car park to visit Carew Castle in Pembrokeshire. When we got out of the car, we were immediately impressed with the surfacing. Although a gravel car park, the gravel was contained within a mesh of plastic grids, making the surface perfectly flat and comfortable to walk on.
Upon returning home, my wife and I spent time sourcing the plastic grids for suppliers and cost. After some extensive research, we established that the grids used in the Welsh carpark were of a commercial grade, suitable for heavy Lorries and well beyond our price bracket. However, our local IDY Stores offer a cheap version, but on close scrutiny, I determined that the plastic used is so thin and flimsy that it wouldn’t be a suitable option.
Nevertheless, upon further research, I found a suitable product on Amazon which, although not as substantial as the plastic grids we saw Wales, are made with thicker plastic than the cheaper ones locally available.
Reason for Using Plastic Grids
Although the gravel drive is good in doing its job, there are a number of minor but irritating issues the plastic grids would help to resolve.
- Gravel wanders off the drive onto the pavement and road each time the car reverses out.
- Small ruts are made in the gravel by the car wheels.
By adding the grids:
- The gravel is trapped within and contained by the grids so that it doesn’t get picked up by the car wheels and deposited on the pavement and road.
- The plastic grids prevents the car from making ruts in gravel by keeping the drive perfectly flat and level.
Choosing the Right Product
It would have been nice to have used the heavy duty gravel drive grids like we saw in the Welsh carpark, but they are far too expensive for our budget.
I could have made do with the ones sold in local DIY stores. They were affordable, but what I disliked about them was that they were:
- Just thin plastic, and therefore not particular durable.
- The designs tended to be little more than small squares, so no lateral strength and not particular attractive.
The product I found on Amazon, manufactured by a Scottish Plastics firm called Ruddrascott Plastics, although 50% more expensive than the cheaper grids, caught my attention because:
- The plastic was thicker, and therefore stronger
- An attractive design
- More lateral strength, due to the honeycomb design
- Made from 100% recycled material, and therefore environmentally friendly
An Evolving Front Garden Driveway
When we bought the house it had a typical front garden for a traditional British semidetached outer urban city home. Down the middle was the conventional concrete path flanked by a gravel drive on one side and crazy paving on the other, and in the middle of the crazy paving was an ornamental wishing well. The side boundaries were hedges, and on the front boundary were gates flanked by walls. The whole garden, including the gravel drive, slopped towards the house.
After moving in, I replaced the hedges with fences, the crazy paving with patio slabs and the wishing well with a bird bath. I also added flowers and shrubs to the front garden by building a number of raised beds. Other than these alternations, very little changed in the front garden, until a few years later when my wife learnt to drive and we got our first car.
After my wife passed her driving test and we bought our first car, I overlaid the original gravel drive with proper concrete drive paving slabs, and at the same time levelled the drive so that it no longer sloped towards the house.
Then after my son passed his driving test and got his own car, we needed to enlarge the parking area in our front garden to accommodate two cars.
The two main options we considered were:
- Extending the existing drive by paving the whole area.
- Adding a gravel drive extension.
We opted for the latter primarily because I’m not a fan of concrete everything, and I felt using driveway paving slabs across the whole garden would have been too much. I felt that extending the drive with gravel would soften the driveway and make it more aesthetically pleasing. Although the other benefits in using gravel to make the drive extension are that it would be:
- Allows for natural drainage
Therefore, after removing the front garden gates, wall and flowerbed between the drive and path, I built a front retaining wall from recycled bricks and then back filled with a couple of tons of gravel to level off the new drive to the existing paved drive.
Having decided to use plastic grids and having sourced the product, the next step was to draft up a simple project plan. The benefits of doing this being that it helps to:
- Keep cost within budget
- Maintain the desired quality of the product and work
- Keep within planned time scales
With cost, quality and time being the three corner stones of good project management, good planning and preparation for project like this helps to:
- Provides a step by step guide
- Ensure the work is carried out in a logic sequence
- Reduce the risk of overlooking importance steps
- Identify any other risks that may impact on the task
For this project, the simple plan I drew up was:
- Measure and calculate the area to be covered by the plastic grids.
- Place the order on Amazon for sufficient plastic grids to complete the project.
- Once the grids have arrived, and when the weather is suitable, move the cars off the drive.
- Remove the top two inches of gravel from across the whole drive; the depth of the grids.
- Level the remaining gravel, using a spirit level as a guide.
- Lay the plastic grids.
- Fill the plastic grids with the gravel that had been removed in order to lay the grids.
- Sweep down, let the gravel settle, and top up.
Here is how you should go about putting in your plastic grids.
Removing Surplus Gravel to Required Depth
Having bought the plastic grids and moving the cars from the drive, the first task was to remove the surplus gravel down to the required depth of two inches, e.g., the height of the grids.
For this endeavor, I used a shovel and a garden rake, placing the surplus gravel in a pile on the adjoining concrete slab driveway; periodically checking the depth with a tape measure and keeping the pile reasonably tidy with a garden brush.
Levelling the Gravel
Once I’d reached the required depth, I levelled off the remaining gravel with a garden rack in combination with a spirit level to ensure that it was flat and level right across the whole drive.
Laying the Plastic Drive Grids
On a flat level and firm surface laying the grids is easy and quick. They firmly interlock in place with a simple snap in action when laying them; creating a great stability even before they are back filled with the gravel. The grids are also easy to cut to shape and size with a handsaw, where required around the edges of the drive.
As the far end of the drive (nearest to the pavement and road) would take the greatest pounding from the car, I started laying the grids in the corner at that end.
As it happened, it was a near perfect fit along its length, so I only needed to cut the grids to size and shape on the side next to the flower border.
Backfilling with Gravel
Once all the grids were in place, it was just a simple case of using a shovel, garden rack, and garden brush to back with the gravel piled up on the adjoining concrete slab drive.
Then after working the gravel into place (to fill up any voids) with a stiff garden brush and walking over it to tamp it down with my feet, I then filled any gaps left and then repeated the process several times until I was satisfied that the gravel was reasonably bedded down.
Because the plastic itself takes up space, and partly because the gravel backfilled into the plastic would need a little time to bed down completely, there was some gravel leftover. What was leftover I simply added to the existing gravel in drain well in the middle of the concrete slab driveway; so that at a later date I could use some of that to top up any voids that may develop as the gravel beds down in the plastic grids.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you think plastic grids would be suitable to fill with top soil and grass seed to support a grass drive?
Answer: Yes, the grids are designed for that purpose as well; and should do a good job.
Question: Can I turn cars regularly on these plastic grids?
Answer: They will perform better than just gravel; but if you intend to be frequently turning cars on the same spot then certainly the ‘Heavy Duty Commercial Traffic’ Gravel Stabilisers, such as the type used in carparks, will withstand such pounding. But the type of grids used for ‘Commercial Traffic’ is a lot more expensive and unlikely to be found on Amazon because it’s a specialist product. Core Landscape Products in England is one such reputable Company that specializes in drive grids, including heavy-duty commercial grade quality grids.
Question: What price per square meter are plastic grids meant for gravel driveways?
Answer: We paid £16 per square metre; but the price varies, dependent on the manufacturer/seller and quality. We opted for a mid-range product, rather than a cheaper one.
Question: How did you manage to get the edges curved with the square grids?
Answer: The grids are only plastic, and therefore can easily be cut to size and shape with an ordinary saw.
Question: As we have a long driveway leading up to our parking spaces, do you think it's possible to put two 1m wide strips of grid down to drive on and then do the full parking bit? I would need another 80sqm to do the whole drive and it'll never be driven on.
Answer: Yes, I don't see any problems with that, as long at the top of the two 1m wide strips were at ground level e.g. dig a shallow 50mm (2 inch) ditch in the ground to place the grids in before filling them with gravel or soil; so that they end up being level with the rest of the driveway.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on May 25, 2019:
Yes, I just checked myself, and their website is unhelpful; although they did have an on-line chat/help facility, so you could contact them directly as ask them.
Or, try searching for "plastic drive grids" on the Amazon website; as a starting point, if you can't find the same product currently available, there may be a similar products on Amazon that has good reviews, at the right price which you like!
jill TEITELMAN on May 25, 2019:
I can't find this product for driveways via Ruddrascott website.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on April 15, 2018:
Thanks Jo. Yes it’s amazing what products you can find these days for all sorts of applications, if you spend the time researching. I was aware of similar plastic grids commonly used for stabilizing grass banks, and used for planting sedums on green flat roofs, which are popular in some builds in the UK these days for people who like to build environmentally friendly structures. But it wasn’t until we saw it used on a public gravel car park in Wales that I realised the potential of using such a product for domestic driveways.
Jo Miller from Tennessee on April 14, 2018:
Very interesting. I've never heard of this product. Amazing what you can find on Amazon.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on April 08, 2018:
Thanks for your contribution Mary; I’m not that keen on concrete either, so in recent years we’ve replaced our side path and part of our patio by the house with decking.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 07, 2018:
This is interesting. I don't really like using concrete in the cottage so this looks more like what I want.