Fixing Potholes in Gravel and Dirt Driveways

A dirt road with several potholes filled with water.
What You'll Need
Coarse gravel
Matching gravel

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.