Fixing Potholes in Gravel and Dirt Driveways

A dirt road with several potholes filled with water.
What You'll Need
Rake
Shovel
Coarse gravel
Tamper
Dirt
Matching gravel
Car
What You'll Need
Rake
Shovel
Coarse gravel
Tamper
Dirt
Matching gravel
Car

A driveway should be a safe place for your car to rest and your friends to park, not an obstacle course or a danger zone. If your driveway needs repairing, it is important to take the bull by the horns and get that repair underway. A neglected driveway will only get worse, so the sooner you start the repairs, the sooner you will have your beautiful driveway back again.

In order to properly address and fix driveway problems, we should first address the reasons that potholes form in dirt and gravel driveways. In most cases the culprit is water that becomes trapped beneath the surface of the driveway. Therefore, part of your repairs should include improving the drainage in the area. These drainage improvements should be done before the top surface is finished.

To repair those troublesome and potentially dangerous potholes in your dirt or gravel driveway, follow these steps.

Step 1 - Remove Debris From Pothole

Begin by raking or shoveling any gravel, soil, loose stones, or other debris from the pothole itself. If the sides of the hole are loose, be sure to cut the hole straight down. Use a shovel to cut the edges of the hole straight, creating firm edges that will be easier to work with.

Step 2 - Fill the Pothole

Fill up the pothole with a coarse gravel to a depth of about about three inches beneath the level of the driveway itself. After the coarse gravel is in place, it should be tamped down using either a commercial tamper or a homemade substitute. An inexpensive and effective tamper can be made by nailing a small square of plywood (approximately 3/4 of an inch) to the bottom of a four-foot long 2x4.

If you are repairing a pothole in a dirt driveway, the hole should be then filled until the soil is mounded a couple of inches above the surface of the driveway. After the soil is in place, it should be watered thoroughly and then tamped down until it is as firm as you can make it. If this tamping causes the soil to drop below the surface of the driveway, add more until the level is once more a bit above the surface of the driveway; then, compact it again.

When making repairs to a gravel driveway, the last three inches of the pothole should be filled up with gravel that matches the color and texture of the rest of the driveway. The material should be mounded until it rises just above the surface of the driveway. Then, rake to make it blend in with the rest of the driveway surface.

Step 3 - Compact the Patch

The final step is to compact the dirt or gravel down still more. The fastest and easiest way to accomplish that is simply to run the wheels of your car up and down over the repaired spot a few times. A few runs are usually sufficient to seal the pothole.

Repeat the above steps for any other potholes you may have, and be sure to watch for the occurrence of new holes. Watch for areas of poor drainage after a rain, and take the steps necessary to improve drainage in that area. Addressing the reasons for pothole formation is critical to keeping the driveway in tip-top shape.

For proper drainage, it is best that the driveway have a crown in its middle, at least one inch for each four feet of width. If this is not possible, an alternative is to design the driveway so that it slopes mildly in the direction the water drains.

Fixing Gravel and Dirt Driveway Potholes FAQ

What can I use to fill potholes in my gravel driveway?

Potholes can be filled with any number of materials to fill and smooth the hole, making driveways safer to use. Concrete, gravel, asphalt and pavers are all effective solutions for filling potholes.

How do you fill holes in a dirt driveway?

To fill potholes in a dirt driveway, start by filling most of the hole up with coarse gravel. Tamp this down to compact it and then cover the hole with dirt.

Keep filling and add an extra three to four inches of dirt, because this will settle around the gravel. To smooth out the hole and make it level with the rest of the driveway, you will need to over-fill it with dirt so that as it settles, it will wind up being level with the driveway.

What is the best material to fill potholes?

Filling potholes is a necessity because leaving them untreated will not only make them bigger but could also cause damage to vehicles driving over the hole. In many cases, cold mix asphalt and quikcrete and highly effective for filling potholes.

In the case of gravel and dirt driveways, however, it is usually best to fill potholes with gravel. Potholes in dirt driveways should also be covered with a thick layer of dirt that will blend in and match the rest of the driveway.

Is it better to use sand or dirt to fill holes?

Both sand and dirt can be used to fill potholes but both have their own qualities and drawbacks. Sand drains far better than dirt and does not swell when wet.

However, sand is more expensive than dirt, which you can often find for free if you simply remove it from another area of your yard. Otherwise, you can buy a bag of dirt very affordably.

Is there a permanent solution for potholes?

Potholes are inevitable and there is no way to prevent them entirely. However, you can permanently fill and repair potholes to erase them entirely, rather than performing a quick patch job on them that is not likely to last beyond a single season.

If potholes are filled with material that is tamped down to be compact and then covered over with a material to match the rest of the driveway, this is a permanent repair. However, this does not mean that new potholes will not appear in the driveway in the future.