When it comes to knowing how to maintain a road on a farm, you might be wondering why this topic is of any importance at all. After all, shouldn’t you be more focused on tending to your crops and livestock?
However, maintaining farm roads and driveways saves both time and money, allowing you to be a more successful farmer – and it’s also essential in case of an emergency. Here are some tips.
What You'll Learn Today
- Building Farm Roads
- How Can We Maintain Farm Roads?
- How Do You Maintain a Road on the Farm?
Building Farm Roads
Maintaining your farm roads starts with building the proper systems. Here are some tips.
Create a Solid Foundation
When you’re building your roadway, do so with erosion in mind. Roads tend to wear out from the top but truly fall apart from the bottom – because of this, you’ll want to make sure that the foundation of your road is firm.
Use materials that form a stable foundation and don’t settle when wet. These should be materials that hold up regardless of whether conditions are dry or wet.
Build from the Bottom Up
If a road has a poor foundation and poor drainage, you’re going to be constantly chasing your tail in an effort to maintain it. Instead, start with the best. Use geotextile fabric under your base, which can stabilize wet spots or add extra support to high-traffic areas.
Use Proper, Compacted Soils
Don’t cut corners when you’re looking for soil for your road. While the quality of the soil you use will likely depend on what’s available where you live and how much those materials cost, don’t settle for an inferior base material. It’s just going to need to be replaced.
Clay, for instance, offers significant strength when dried. Gravel can also work but can be more expensive. Do your research and consider using a combination of materials when available.
It’s also essential to compact all soils well. The denser a material is, the stronger it will be. A soil that is well-graded will work better than one that is loose. Keep in mind that particles that are angular are crushed work better than rounded ones, even those that are of the same size.
When you compact your soils, either with a rubber-tired piece of equipment or a sheepsfoot roller, be sure to moisten them first. This will allow for the best compaction and “staying power.”
What is the Ideal Width for an Access Road to a Farmyard?
The ideal width for your farm access road will vary depending on where you live, what materials you are using, and what kind of farm you have.
However, the ideal road will be at least 10 feet wide – but that’s a bare minimum and will only provide for one-way access. You may want to check with your local emergency departments to find out what kinds of roadways are needed in the event of an emergency. In some places, dirt roads aren’t accessible in the event of a fire or other emergency.
Design for Winter Maintenance
If you live in an area that experiences winter weather – even mild winter weather – plan ahead for it. Make your ditches wide enough to handle snowfall and spring thaws. Waterflow can be heavy at these times!
Plan for plowing, too, giving yourself plenty of room to maneuver.
Safety should also be a consideration when designing roads that will be used in the winter. Ideally, a driver should be able to see at least 75 feet ahead. Try not to add more than a 10% grade to make it easier to maneuver vehicles in slick conditions.
Create Roads with Traffic Loads in Mind
How do you plan on using your farm road? Design the road for the largest vehicle that will ever use it.
How Can We Maintain Farm Roads?
When it comes to maintaining farm roads, the very best tip is to work constantly and consistently to protect your investment. Roads need regular maintenance, from the most elementary to the most sophisticated.
Maintenance might include anything from patching, shaping, or blading the road to cleaning and repairing culverts and ditches.
It might include clearing brush, grass, and trees from the roadway or spraying for weeds that infiltrate. It can even include plowing (since allowing snow and ice to accumulate, even on a dirt road, can increase the likelihood of potholes and washouts forming).
How Can We Prevent Road Washout?
One of the most challenging aspects of caring for a far road is preventing washouts. Farms tend to be muddy – that’s no secret. Washouts can cause you to get stuck or worse, can injure you or animals or even damage equipment.
At their worst, a washout can make a road totally impassable.
Because of this, it’s essential to get water away from the road. The ideal surface drainage system for a road will have four parts – shoulders, culverts, ditches, and a road crown. Both the shoulders and crown will stop water from infiltrating into the road surface by diverting the water to the ditches.
Culverts and ditches, on the other hand, will draw water from the roadway to prevent damaging the road base.
It’s important that you include these elements when building a road but also check to make sure that they are clean, clear, and protected from erosion.
How Do You Maintain a Gravel Road?
When it comes to building and maintaining a gravel road, there are lots of things to take into account. Gravel isn’t always the best option but it can be in many circumstances.
This video has some helpful tools and techniques you can tap into if you find yourself in need of some extra help.
Caring for Dirt Roads: How Do You Harden a Dirt Road?
Dirt roads tend to be some of the most commonly found on farms around the world.
You can stabilize or harden a dirt or sand road by adding gravel but it can sometimes add more mud. Crushed stone can be more effective.
Starting with the tips mentioned above for building the best possible road is the best advice to follow. You can also build up the ruts and holes in your dirt road with commercial hardener as needed, then roll them out.
Keep your dirt road graded and make sure the flow of water is controlled for best results.
Should I Pave My Farm Road?
A common question that many farmers ask is whether they should pave their farm roads. While this can help to eliminate dust problems and to make roads more passable in the event of winter weather or an emergency situation, you should only pave the most well-built roads.
Paving a road that is made of dirt or gravel (or built on a weak foundation) just to reduce dust isn’t a smart investment. The road needs to be well-built and have good drainage prior to paving or you’re just going to be making a problem (or creating new ones).
Keep Good Records
When it comes to maintaining farm roads, vigilance and record-keeping are key. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the other chores you need to tackle on the farm and to let your roads fall by the wayside.
Make sure you record repairs – both the type and date – as well as what materials were used. That way, you’ll have the information should you need to call upon it later.
How Do You Maintain a Road on the Farm?
The best way to maintain a road on a farm is to keep at it constantly. Repair potholes as they appear and keep an eye out for areas that might be prone to washouts.
Believe it or not, road maintenance is one of the most important aspects of agriculture. If you don’t maintain your road, it can lead to costly and expensive repairs or replacements down the line. Follow these tips on how to maintain your farm roads – and you’ll set yourself up for success.