This was one of the first things that had to be done and possibly the job that I was least looking forward to. Not only had I never made a driveway before, I knew that if I screwed it up it would introduce delays right at the start of the build. I didn’t have much time to spare.
However, it was part of the planning conditions that I included parking for two cars. It was also necessary for the building project that I have safe access for trucks onto the site in order to deliver materials.
So I had to make a driveway/parking area of about 50m2 and it had to be quick and cheap. At the same time, I needed to dig a trench for the water pipe (from the property boundary to somewhere a bit closer to the build).
I knew I didn’t need anything fancy and I wasn’t bothered about a few weeds springing up at a later date. Rustic was absolutely fine with me.
From information gleaned from French building forums I reckoned the driveway should be about 25cm deep. I would be using Calcaire (Limestone) graded at 0-30mm. The quantity needed worked out about 12m3 or approximately 18 tonnes (two truckloads).
The mini digger was hired for the weekend but was actually delivered on Friday afternoon, so I had en extra evening to figure out how it worked.
I took it very slowly and experimented with the various controls. One thing I didn’t know was how to change the bucket (two different sizes were supplied). Luckily a friend of mine came around on Saturday morning to show me how it was done and give me some driving tips.
Excavating the drive was a slow process. The fact that we were in the middle of a heatwave meant that the ground was hard and dusty. So it was more ‘scrape, scrape’ rather than ‘dig, dig’. It was also so hot (35 deg) that, after several hours, concentrating became difficult and it became even harder to coordinate the controls.
Nevertheless, by the end of the weekend I had shifted enough soil. This was just as well, as I had the delivery of stone arriving on Monday morning.
Rake, rake, rake
I was concerned that the stone delivery from the tipper truck would spill out onto the road, blocking it, and that I wouldn’t be able to rake it out fast enough to clear the obstruction!
As it turned out the stones did spill out slightly into the road but not enough to block it. With the help of my kids we started barrowing, shoveling and raking the stones out. The picture below shows it halfway through the process.
It took a while but eventually all the stones were spread out and it seemed like the quantity was about right. I didn’t compact the stones using a vibrating plate as I didn’t want to spend the time or money on it. Instead I would rely on vehicles and the weather to do that job. Likewise I didn’t lay a top dressing of finer gravel, the 30mm limestone looked ok and was easy enough to drive and walk on.
The total cost of the driveway was €1,235 (€478 for the digger hire and €757 for the stone).
I don’t know exactly how much a contractor would have charged for the job. From various website it seems that something like €50 per square metre is a realistic price (total cost €2500).
Even if I had used geotextile membrane, a compactor and a top dressing, it is likely that I would still have saved about €1,000 by doing the work myself.