Your driveway is literally your road to log home dream fulfillment. Ensure you’re on solid ground during construction and beyond.
Your log home driveway. Digging it is the first step in your log home construction journey and paving it is typically your last. And depending on its length and your site’s topography, it also can come with a sizeable price tag, so you’ll want to get it right. Heed these tips and you’ll stay in the driveway driver’s seat.
Since log homes are often built in remote locations, the approach to yours might be more of a private access road than a driveway. As you and your builder are mapping it out, be sure to take your property lines into account and comply with any restrictive easements — even ones that may be planned but not yet implemented. The last thing you want is the unexpected added expense of relocating it after it’s laid.
Your builder or excavator is likely to throw around two terms — “cut” and “fill” — when discussing your driveway and your build site. The “cut” refers to the ground that’s being dug up, and the “fill” is the dirt or other material that’s added. When it comes to prepping your drive, the pathway needs to be dug down to solid ground with all topsoil removed.
This will create a stable, firm base to support materials, such as asphalt, concrete or pavers, that will serve as your finished layer. If you don’t have that firm foundation, your driveway will eventually sag or crack. Once the access is cut, most builders will prepare the driveway for construction equipment by laying a thick layer of gravel.
Gravel offers good drainage, it provides traction and can support the weight of the heavy trucks and cranes that will be necessary to deliver and build your log home. Some log home owners opt to keep the gravel as their driveway’s finishing material, especially if the house is on a mountainside.
Others choose to pave it. If you opt for the latter, keep in mind that asphalt averages about $3-4 per square foot installed. Concrete costs $4-6 per square foot for basic installation and stained concrete with a smooth-coat finish can run upwards of $15 per square foot. (Prices vary by market.)
If you’ve ever planted anything, you know that buying a bag of dirt at your local nursery or big box store isn’t cheap. Though the topsoil you remove from your driveway excavation is too soft to be reused as supportive backfill, you can use it as your final layer for landscaping. This is the good stuff. Don’t let it go to waste.
No driveway should be perfectly flat. If it is, it won’t shed water properly and could cause you to slip or your car to skid. To keep yours from becoming a seasonal swimming pool or ice skating rink, it needs to have a subtle slope and grade. Building codes call for 1 inch of slope for every 12 feet of surface (that’s both length and width). If your site is as flat as a board, contractors can achieve the necessary slope by building it up with a gravel underlayment.
Some builders suggest pouring concrete for the driveway at the same time the foundation is poured, saying it saves time and money since the materials and the crew are already onsite.
As we pointed out earlier, concrete is roughly double the cost of asphalt. Dan Mitchell, a Tennessee builder and the owner of Eagle CDI, says that no matter what material you choose, you should wait until construction is over and all the building equipment is gone before applying that finishing touch.
“I believe that laying the solid surface on a driveway is the last thing you do in the construction process,” Dan says.“Construction equipment is heavy and could potentially crack the material. And the jobsite itself is a dirty place that’s prone to spills. When my clients approach their finished home for the first time, I want that experience to be memorable — and that starts with a pristine driveway.”
Dan Mitchell is a builder and a Log & Timber Home University professor. He owns Eagle CDI, a construction firm based near Knoxville, Tennessee.