Gravel can be used in many decorative and useful ways around the outside of a home to enhance your overall landscaping scheme. Depending on the project you are doing, some will be better to use than others. Ask your stone merchant’s advice on selection.
Make sure the stone merchant you go to is able to tell you which gravels are suitable for specific jobs. Some merchants sell gravel but do not advise that certain gravel is not suitable for using on a driveway. If the wrong gravel is laid for a specific job it will not last, e.g. a hard winter can destroy gravel that has been used in the wrong situation. It is advisable to ask for a guarantee, which a reputable stone merchant will be confident to give.
You stone specialist will know which stones last and which ones don’t.
You may use gravel to cover driveways and pathways, or to finish the edges of paved areas. In a low maintenance garden it can create an easy care surface when spread over landscaping fabric rather than leaving bare soil. It can also be used to create informal areas suitable for setting out seating, instead of the more formal alternative, paving.
If you are looking for an affordable option for covering a large area, gravel is an economical material, which is easy to lay and therefore well within the capabilities of the DIY-er. Your stone supplier will be able to help you calculate the quantity required, and advise you which gravels will be suitable for your project.
How to choose which gravel colour to use?
There are so many colours available and it’s really down to personal choice which one you use. Think about the overall scheme: is it a contemporary or traditional design? Consider the colour of the brickwork on the house.
If your garden gets a lot of shade you might want to choose a pale coloured gravel. Furthermore, a light coloured path may help guide you in after dark.
Ask your stone merchant’s advice, as their geographical knowledge of stone sourcing may help if you want to match building stone and gravel by type.
At a stone merchant’s yard you will be able to view the stone before you buy it, and it’s a good idea to ask them to show you what it looks like wet and dry as it will look completely different in both states.
What size gravel do I need?
At a quarry selective sieving is used to calculate the size of gravel.
A 20mm stone is actually 10mm – 20mm. Anything that will fall through a 20mm hole but will not go through a 10mm hole.
10mm gravel is anything from 10mm down to 6mm, so there will always be a variation of sizes in a selection.
A medium sized gravel (20mm) is best for driveways and pathways as the pieces don’t move around too much (or get stuck in tyres), but they are still comfortable to walk on.
Smaller particles and much bigger ones are best used for low traffic areas for decorative purposes.
Larger stones, cobbles or boulders can be used in garden borders as features in themselves or to highlight planting areas.
How do decide I which type of gravel stone to choose?
For general garden use most gravel available will be fine to use. However, the harder, more angular shapes of stones such as granite are better for heavy traffic areas, as their shapes interlock slightly which makes them more stable, and less likely to shift and bunch up. Self-binding gravel is also very useful for this reason. The mix of particle sizes helps the mass knit together to avoid too much movement of the gravel.
Loose gravel looks great in any setting as a decorative covering whether contemporary or a country style garden. When using loose gravel it is wise to create boundaries so that the gravel is contained to prevent it wandering into other parts of the garden. It is also possible to ‘anchor’ this type of gravel by using a purpose made grid over landscaping fabric, and infilling the gravel into the grid. This will provide a structured area to prevent the gravel travelling.
How much gravel do I need?
The quantity of gravel required will vary depending on the situation it is placed in. At Stoneworld we advise the depth of gravel layer according to the size of gravel particle, so
For gravel with 20mm max particle size we recommend 12 sqm @ 50mm thick
For gravel with 10mm max particle size we recommend 16 sqm @ 35mm thick
Bulk purchases of gravel are delivered from your stone merchants in 1 tonne bulk bags.
Be careful when ordering that you don’t fall into this trap:
Tonne bags are not uniformly filled across the stone business, and it wise to be aware that some businesses, whilst offering you a cheap price per tonne, are not filling their bags as full as others, making it a false economy for you. At Stoneworld we fill our bags with 950-970kg of gravel, whilst some merchants only fill to 810KG, a 19% difference. What might look like a bargain price on the internet could leave you short of gravel that won’t be discovered til you’re nearly finished laying the drive. This could be a major inconvenience requiring a further order to finish the job properly.
What preparation is required before laying gravel?
For driveways, pathways and seating areas it is necessary to prepare a solid base before laying the gravel. This will ensure your surface is durable. You should also check levels for drainage and stability. An ideal sub base can be created using a 150mm layer of scalpings. Use a whacker plate to compound the material well before laying the gravel on top of this.
For planted areas it is advisable to level the soil, and cover with a weed proof, permeable membrane before covering with gravel.
Why is my new gravel dirty?
As ornamental stone is quarried stone, initially it may look rather dirty, especially if the order is placed in the winter when the weather is wet. This will only be excess sediment that needs washing off. If the stone looks discoloured, i.e. not like the sample you viewed at the stone merchant, don’t worry. Either allow it have several rain showers on it, or alternatively wash it down with a hose pipe.
From time to time it may be necessary to top up the gravel, as it will disperse slightly over time. Buying from a reputable merchant that does not change supplier will help when the time comes to ordering a top-up as you will be sure of a colour match that way.