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Building a gravel road takes planning, preparation and the use of specialised grading and compacting equipment. Ideally, you want a smooth, uniform surface that can handle traffic flow, heavy loads and heavy weather without breaking up or dipping.
Whether you're planning to build a short stretch of road on a smallholding or a network of gravel roads covering a large area, you have to get the basics right if you want the road to last. Follow these basic rules of gravel road construction and you’ll be on the right track.
1. Assess road use: Before you start the construction process, it’s important to consider the types of vehicles that will be using the road. This will help determine the ideal path and width of the road, as well as the required depth of the base material.
2. Get the right machinery and operator: If you want to build a road with a long service life, it's obvious you need the right machinery. Also, all heavy equipment is safer and more effective when properly managed. What may be less obvious is the value of hiring an experienced machine operator.
3. Use suitable materials: You want a dry and stable base, so soils with high clay content or moisture are not suitable. The road top should have the best quality gravel consisting of a combination of fractured stone, sand and fine particles with a binding characteristic to form a firm surface.
4. Compact soils properly: Along with grading, soil compaction is the most important process in gravel road construction. It reduces the volume of water and air in the soil, creating a harder, denser, and more durable surface. A well compacted soil can more easily resist the stresses created by traffic flow and harsh Bulgarian winter weather conditions.
5. Build a solid base: A good road is built on a stabilised base. You can then compact the soil to create a firm foundation that will not collapse under the weight of traffic.
6. Construct in layers: The best gravel roads are constructed upwards in layers from a stable base. If you start with a poor base, the entire road is compromised, and no amount of top dressing or grading will rescue the situation.
7. Design for the worst-case scenario: Be sure to design and build your road with the heaviest vehicles, highest traffic volumes and worst weather conditions in mind. A clear line of sight is especially important in misty and high rainfall areas.
8. Proper drainage: Good drainage is absolutely vital. A road with proper drainage will last longer and require less maintenance. A properly shaped crown and shoulder, ditches, culverts and drains are all responsible for channelling water away from the road surface.
9. Maintain regularly: Maintenance in the form of regular grading keeps a gravel road in good, drivable condition, ensuring safety and allowing for efficient transportation.
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