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Posted by Mary in PA on 11/8/2009

On the rescheduled day for our driveway install I arrived bright and early before the excavation crew and was shortly greeted by the rumble of a very big truck and trailer. The driver jumped out and hurriedly started unloading the bulldozer, calling out over the engine noise, “I guess the office didn’t contact you?” Gee, that’s not what I was hoping to hear. Turns out they were delayed on a previous job and wouldn’t be starting until afternoon. He was just dropping off the dozer for later today. OK – not a problem.

First Lesson: As per The O-B Book, confirm the start date with your sub(s) the month before, week before, and day before to avoid surprises at the site.


As per that morning’s chat with the contractor, they would start in the afternoon and I would check in at the end of the day. I drove the hour back to the property that afternoon to find they had rough graded the driveway. It was really exciting to actually see something being done on the property. I must have just missed the crew so I called the excavator to confirm the plans for the next day, including the time John and I should be ready to put down the geotextile fabric. Before I left for the evening I got to enjoy a nice view as the last of the day’s sun lit up the view to the east while dark storm clouds passed overhead. Beautiful.


The next morning a whole herd of heavy construction equipment showed up to finish the work. John and I weren’t needed for at least an hour so I stayed out of the wind in the truck cab while John stood out in the cold to watch all the activity. I guess that’s a guy thing.


We got a good price from the excavator on this job, but he didn’t want to handle putting down the geotextile, saying “My guys just hate dealing with that stuff.” So we agreed that we would handle the geo. We hope that the geo will help create a really stable base for a long lasting - and easier to maintain gravel driveway.

Unfortunately, it was a very windy day – not what we were hoping for to spread out 670 linear feet of geotextile fabric. At first the construction guys, while waiting for the first load of gravel to arrive, jumped in and helped out with the geo. It was really nice of them, but they were moving too fast and unrolling too much of the geo before I could secure it – so of course when the stiff wind running perpendicular to the driveway caught the geo – it was like some giant black snake 12.5 feet wide and some 60 feet long took life right then and there. I was a little concerned that this was going to go very badly indeed, but some hardy running back and forth, staking down, and indeed lying prostrate on the geo, while my good husband dumped buckets of rocks to keep it down, soon won the battle. After that, the first dump truck of ballast stone arrived so construction guys let John and I on our own with the geo … which I think was good for all concerned.

Second Lesson: If you’re laying geotextile, bring twice the number of stakes you think you’ll need. Carry a knife to puncture a small hole in the edge of the geo or it will be nearly impossible to pound in the stake. Do not unroll more than you can control and stake in – and in a stiff crosswind you may be limited to 10-foot sections (unroll, stake, move on). When you need to cut the geo to fit it around the bends, be very generous in your overlap sections because you’ll need it when 24-ton dump trucks roll on by.


So we were progressing along and had about a third of the geo staked in when John noticed that the driveway was getting narrower. We had contracted for a 12-foot-wide driveway but it appeared to narrow to 10 feet around the first bend. Bummer. I asked the excavator about it. He checked the width in several places and then we all chatted and agreed that he would use the skid loader to carve out another two feet where needed. But John and I had to bunch up and weight down the geo that had already been laid to get it out of the way. We were running pretty hard to get it done and not hold things up. But it all worked out. The driveway was widened, we put the geo back in place, and got on with the rest of the work.

Third Lesson: QC! QC! QC! I should have measured the roughed-in drive for quality control the night before. I was on the site alone and could have checked the work without offending the crew and then I would have had the opportunity to raise the issue with the boss before work began. I’m glad I got this little life lesson in OB-land for only the price of a little extra sweat.


John and I were able to get the rest of the geo laid out without holding up the crew. It was a production line with John and I laying geo up front, then dump trucks of large stone, then the skid loader smoothing it, then a giant vibrating roller compacting it, another load of smaller stones and fines, more skid loader and compacting… and 17 dump-truck loads later... Voila! – a driveway! There was a lot of equipment on site and it was interesting to see the skill of the cross-trained crew jumping from one piece of equipment to the next to keep the pace moving along.


All in all a good first experience on site. I enjoyed the effort, the challenge, working side-by-side with my hubby, and of course, having a driveway when we were done. It’s a real motivator to kick it into gear on the rest of the site planning, so we’ll be ready for construction on the house next year.


Just me, the man in the moon, and a silent dozer. A half-day delay.
View from the road, roughed-in driveway.
View from the end of the 670-ft. driveway section. Will do final section next year with house construction.
View from house site at the end of the first day.
Start of second day has a herd of construction equipment on site.
Won the battle over the wind, 1st section of geo staked in. Notice increasing overlap of geo onto grass of inside bend. Driveway was out of spec, too narrow at bend. Bummer.
Rolled back first section of geo to enable skid loader to carve out inside bend to meet 12-foot-wide spec. A lot of extra effort, but worth it to get it right.
Got it all down! Ran out of stakes and had to resort to weighting with stones. Lots of extra work, but we got it done. Always bring more than you think you need!
24-ton dump trucks create ruts, even in the compacted surface. Crew came back at the end to fix these up.
You could feel the ground vibration from this roller/vibrator from about 40 feet away. Wow.
We needed to be on hand to fix up geo after construction traffic. End of the line - for now. Next section to be done with house construction.
End product: Tired feet and gravel drive.
Just a bit of clean-up work and this job is done. Topsoil pile with silt fence at end of drive. Imagine the bend of the drive continuing around to the right and you'll get a feel for the building site on the knoll.

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