What Kind Of Gravel Is Right For Your Project?

by Ben Bowen

How To Choose Landscape Gravel

I don't know why you are looking for gravel, but I can probably guess:

You are building a pathway, or perhaps a patio, maybe a pad for a hot tub or shed. You might even be dreaming of a modern gravel garden or Japanese influenced dry garden.

Whatever the case may be, you don't want to mess it up.

To help you out I have put together a list of the most common gravel choices available here in Portland. For each I will also suggest uses, pro's and con's, and approximate prices. Enjoy!


Gravel Available in Portland:

Pea Gravel.  $30-40 per yard. Small round rock, like miniature river rock, with the largest one being about 1/4". This is a very popular rock and is very easy to use. You can buy it in bags at Home Depot or have it delivered.

Some people find it attractive (I am not one of those people).

It can be used in a landscape in a lot of ways- but none of the ones we are discussing here. Don't use pea gravel for a path, pad, or patio. It is round, so it will never compact. Walking across it leaves footprints. If you drag your foot at all you will kick the rock into the surrounding landscape.

Think you hate gravel for landscape hardscape? You probably just hate pea gravel. You are not alone. Keep reading for better options.

1/4"- Path and Patio

1/4"- Gravel (that's "quarter minus"). $30-$45 per yard. This is basalt that has been chewed up into little pieces by a machine. The largest pieces are 1/4" and then there is a mix of other sizes, all the way down to "fines" (basically stone dust).

It is available in gray or black. I consider it a neutral product aesthetically. Choose this material for its function and flexibility.

1/4"- works well for paths and patios. It compacts well, and over time becomes very hard. Weeds struggle to take root in it but water can drain right through. If you have hardwood floors beware: it will scratch them if you track it in on your shoes!

Decomposed Granite in a Japanese Garden

Decomposed Granite. $80-$100 per yard. Granite (either tan or gray) that is naturally weathered. It is very similar to 1/4"- in composition, but the texture is softer somehow.

This is a fairly uncommon choice in Portland, no doubt due to the price. There are now several stone yards that carry it, so availability is not usually an issue. DG is the aggregate of choice for much of California and is gradually making its way north.

Paths and patios are beautiful with DG. The tan color works well with modern homes and drought tolerant gardens. If cost is no option this is the gravel you want.

How Do You Keep Gravel Contained?

There are many choices for edging paths and patios. Without edging the gravel will slowly migrate into the landscape. With the wrong edging your path will be inelegant, or just downright ugly.

Avoid plastic edging at all costs.

Steel edging is our top choice. Steel yards will deliver 20' sections of 1/8" steel. Use stakes or short sections of rebar to hold it in place. The steel will make beautiful curves, giving your hardscape a sharp defined edge.

Gravel Path and Patio Maintenance?

The maintenance requirements are usually pretty low. Keep them free of weeds, give an occasional rake, and add a thin coat of fresh gravel as needed. You can expect to refresh your gravel every 4-6 years.

How Much Does A Gravel Patio Cost?

Gravel is an economical choice for paths and patios. You can expect to pay a Portland area landscape contractor $4-$10 per square foot. Pavers, for comparison, are $18-$25 a square foot!

More on Portland area patio costs here.

Which Gravel Is Right For You?

You are wise to consider 1/4"- and decomposed granite for your project. Stay away from pea gravel and plastic edging. Install properly and enjoy for years to come!

Have questions about installing gravel? Feel free to leave a comment below or contact us today.