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Types of Gravel (Ultimate Buying Guide)

Welcome to our types of gravel ultimate buying guide including the different products and which one is best for your home projects.
Cottage with pea gravel walkway Choosing a gravel for your garden or landscaping project can be challenging. The vast number of choices to consider can be overwhelming.

With so many different applications its important to get the right types of gravel, to save money, enhance durability, and have the project looking the best it can.

What is Gravel?

Gravel driveway and front yard Gravel is a simply crushed stone or rock. It is most commonly used as a construction and landscaping material. Deposits of gravel exist in nature where rocks have undergone erosion and weathering; these deposits are called ‘gravel pits.’

Gravel can also be man-made, and this material is referred to as ‘crushed stone’ To artificially create gravel heavy-duty machinery is used to break large rocks into smaller pieces. Almost any rock can be used to make gravel, but the most common rocks are sandstone, limestone, and basalt.

These pieces are sorted and sold according to size. Gravel is a versatile material that has many uses, including erosion and drainage control, landscaping, and driveway creation.

What Are the Different Types of Gravel?

Since gravel is a catch-all name for any type of crushed stone, there are many, many different types, and it isn’t always easy to keep them straight.

For one thing, they have names that sound like classified government projects, such as Item #4, Base Gravel #3, and #57 Crushed Rock. What distinguishes one gravel type from another?

Size, for one thing. Each type of gravel is associated with a particular size of rock. Jersey Shore Gravel, for instance, is usually composed of rocks around ¾” in diameter.

The other determining factor in gravel type is composition. Some gravel products are made only of rocks, while others have materials such as sand, clay, or stone dust mixed in.

The size and composition of gravel determine what type it is, and what it can appropriately be used for. Read on for descriptions of the most common types of gravel and their uses.

Base Gravel #3

As the name suggests, this type of gravel is typically used to form a base or foundation for a gravel driveway.

Base gravel #3

Their size (one to two inches in diameter) and shape (irregular) creates a sturdy, non-shifting layer that also provides adequate drainage.

Landscapers typically recommend that gravel driveways are supported by at least four inches of a base rock like Base Gravel #3.

The appearance is irrelevant, as they will be covered by more aesthetically pleasing types of gravel.

Item #4

This product is a mixture of stones, sand, and clay. Stones are typically described as ‘golf-ball sized’ and are 1 – 2 ½“ in diameter.

Gravel Item #4 The sand and clay help this gravel form a hard-packed surface, making it an ideal middle layer for a gravel driveway.

Smaller gravels without sand and clay tend to shift under the heavy weight of a vehicle, so a middle layer of a gravel product like Item #4 is needed to counteract that tendency.

Marble Chips

Marble chips are both aesthetically pleasing and serve a utilitarian function. To make marble chips, white marble is crushed into small rocks.

Marble chips gravel These chips can be used as the top layer in a gravel driveway or pathway, and are prized for their crisp white look and the way they sparkle in the sunlight.

Marble chips can also be used in the garden, in place of mulch. Not only will it look beautiful and inhibit weed growth, but it will also discourage insects from finding a home in your plants.

Quarry Process

The cheapest gravel available is known by many names. They include; quarry process, dense grade aggregate, road stone, and crush & run (sometimes incorrectly written as ‘crusher run’.)

Quarry process gravel It’s not the most attractive material and has a high percentage of stone dust. The rocks are, at most, ¾” large. This gravel is typically used as filler when completing excavation or as the base layer for roads.

Jersey Shore Gravel

The signature feature of Jersey Shore gravel is its yellow color, which looks like the sand on the beaches in New Jersey. It is available in ¾” and ⅜” diameters.

Jersey Shore gravel Jersey Shore gravel is obtained from gravel mines. The rock material under the water in the mines is pumped into a tower, where it is sifted into various sizes.

The versatile and abundant material is very popular for driveways in northeast America. In this region, Jersey Shore is one of the most affordable gravel options. It is also often used as a replacement for mulch, or as a border for gardens to prevent soil erosion.

River Rock

This type of gravel is composed of smooth-surfaced stones. They can be as small as ⅜” or as large as 5” in diameter. In nature, rocks break off of larger formations due to erosion near water.

River rock These smaller pieces of rock are carried downriver by the force of the water, being tumbled and smoothed along the way. Artificial river rock is created by tumbling and polishing stones in machinery.

The color varies based on the color of the original rock. River rock is smooth and comfortable to walk on but can be slippery. Smaller river rock gravel is often used in playgrounds because it has no jagged edges that could injure a child.

Large river rock is popularly used in and around water features, such as ponds, fountains, and waterfalls. Its slippery surface does not lend itself to being used in a driveway.

Pea Gravel

Available in diameters of ⅛ ” to ⅜”, or about the size of a pea, this type of gravel comes in a range of colors, such as gray, white, tan, and rust-brown. These tiny stones are perfect for filling in the area around larger paving stones.

Pea gravel Since pea gravel retains moisture well and inhibits the growth of weeds, some gardeners use it in place of mulch. Lining the outside of your house with a border of pea gravel will discourage rodents from burrowing there, as they can’t dig through gravel.

Like other small gravels, pea gravel needs to be contained by edging or borders, or it will get carried into the rest of your yard by the first heavy rainfall.

#57 Rocks

#57 rocks gravel The stones included in a load of #57 rocks will be coarse in texture and range from ½” to 1” in diameter.

#57 rocks can be used as the base layer for a gravel driveway. These types of gravel rocks drain very efficiently and is often used as bedding for pipes.

Crushed Stone #411

When #57 stone is mixed with stone dust, a new product is created called Crushed Stone #411. This workhorse gravel is used as a base for retaining walls, driveways, and even gravel roads.

Crushed stone #411 Over time, the stone dust settles in between the stones, providing extra stability without compromising drainage.

Gravel Cost

One of the cheapest gravels available is quarry process, which costs, on average, $0.40 per square foot.

At the other end of the price spectrum is marble chips. Expect to pay $2.00 per square foot for this high-end material.

River rock is a little less expensive, averaging $1.50 per square foot.

Rock base, including Crushed Stone #57 and Base Rock #3, generally costs around $0.65 per square foot, while pea gravel can be found for $0.60 on average.

Jersey Shore gravel can cost around $1.80 per square foot, but if you live outside the American northeast, the delivery costs may be prohibitive. Crushed gravel patio with outdoor dining table A gravel patio design can cost about $5 per foot when you consider the price of basic gravel along with installation costs.

A small 200 square foot patio sitting area would cost about $1000. This price can fluctuate based on the types of gravel, your location and local labor costs.

How Much Does a Dump Truckload of Gravel Cost?

Dump trucks can hold between 13 and 25 tons of gravel (depending on the size/weight of the gravel), which is about 14 cubic yards. Transport costs are often reduced if you are ordering a loose load of gravel to be delivered in a dump truck.

A dump truckload of quarry process should cost about $150, while a dump truckload of marble chips should cost around $800.

If you’re ordering river rock by the dump truckload, expect to pay around $550.

For a dump truckload of Jersey Shore Gravel, your price should be in the range of $700. The cost per dump truckload of rock base is approximately $250.

Best Applications for Gravel

There are many different applications for gravel for the home. Here are the most popular options.

Gardens

Gravel walkway in vegetable garden While it might surprise you to hear it, gravel is an excellent medium for plants that grow in rocky soil. Gravel backyard gardens are common in Mediterranean climates because they can withstand both the harsh heat of summer and cooler, dry winters.

Gravel garden landscaping Gravel protects plants from pests and inhibits weed growth, making it popular with low-maintenance gardeners. It also helps stop soil erosion, so landscapers commonly use it for edging flowerbeds or garden paths. Since it is low maintenance gravel makes up a large part of desert landscaping.

Construction

Gravel base under paver patio Gravel is known in the construction industry as a type of aggregate. An aggregate is a building material composed of particulates.

Other examples of aggregates include sand, recycled concrete, and slag (a byproduct of smelted metal.)

When excavation has been completed, aggregates like gravel are used to partially fill in the hole before covering it with the loosened soil.

This is called ‘backfilling’, and without it, the ground over the excavated area won’t be stable, since it has been loosened by the excavations process and is no longer compact.

Driveways and Paths

Home with gravel driveway Concrete and asphalt driveways are impermeable, meaning water can’t reach the ground underneath. This often leads to pooling at the sides or end of the driveway, and during heavy rainfall, can even contribute to flooding.

Gravel facilitates the return of rainwater to the ground in an efficient way. It can be used as a border between your lawn and driveway, to prevent pooling and erosion, or the entire driveway can be made out of gravel.

Paths can also be made out of driveway or, where paving stones are being used, can help fill in the gaps between stones for a more level walking surface.

How Much Gravel Do I Need

Gravel is sold by weight. The amount of gravel you need depends on the project you’re completing. For example, a driveway requires gravel to be 12 inches deep, while a simple garden path only requires four.

The best way to calculate how much gravel you need is to ask your supplier. They may even have a calculator available on their website that can do the math for you.

Often, these calculators can tell you how many bags of gravel you will need to buy, the total weight of the gravel in tons, and even give you an estimate of delivery. The calculators and bag sizes vary a bit from one retailer to another.

The typical driveway is 16 feet wide and 40 feet long and needs 12 inches of gravel. According to several gravel suppliers, 32 tons of gravel would be needed to finish the job.

Note that for large orders (more than 10 tons) it is sometimes more cost-effective to order a ‘loose load’. This is gravel that gets delivered in a dump truck rather than individual bags. Backyard gravel landscape with pergola

How Many Yards in a Ton of Gravel

The rule of thumb for ordering gravel is that one ton will cover, on average, 70 square feet (~23 square yards). This assumes the layer of gravel you’re pouring is about three inches deep.

If you’re pouring a shallow layer of gravel, such as one inch deep, you might be able to cover 210 square feet (70 square yards).

How Much Does a Yard of Gravel Weigh

Gravel suppliers often quantify the amount of gravel being delivered using cubic yards. A cubic yard is three feet high, three feet wide, and three feet deep.

It weighs about 1 ton or 2,200 pounds. Spread three inches deep, this amount of gravel would cover approximately 100 square feet.

What Gravel is Best for a Driveway?

Gravel driveway to home Gravel driveways require three different types of gravel in order to support heavy vehicles without too much shifting.

First, a four-inch foundation of largish, irregularly sized rocks is laid down.

The three to four-inch middle layer is made of golf ball sized rocks mixed into stone dust, sand, or clay. The small grains of these materials fill in the gaps between stones, making this layer sturdy and unlikely to shift.

On top of the middle layer (sometimes called the ‘fine’ layer) is the ‘finish’ layer. This is also four inches deep, and the stones are no bigger than marbles.

Based on popular opinion the best gravel for the finish layer of a driveway are Pea Gravel and Jersey Shore gravel. These are both two popular options for a gravel driveway as they are relatively inexpensive and great for walking and driving.

What is Type 2 Gravel?

Type 2 gravel is a combination of small stones (no more than 1.5” in diameter) and stone dust typically used in the construction industry. It is not used as a decorative or landscaping material.

Because it contains stone dust, Type 2 gravel will settle and become more compacted than gravels that do not include dust.

The best use for Type 2 gravel is filling in holes. It can be used by road crews to fill in potholes. Construction crews use Type 2 gravel to fill in trenches and holes left behind after excavation.

If you are interested in creating your own gravel ideas, there are a variety of landscaping software design programs that can help you visualize your own projects. These programs provide many different types of materials to help you customize your own design.

Written by Brooke

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