How To Hardscape With Gravel

Having the perfect lawn or garden landscape design in mind is exciting. But if one doesn't know where to begin, the task seems daunting, if not impossible.

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Having the perfect lawn or garden landscape design in mind is exciting. But if one doesn't know where to begin, the task seems daunting, if not impossible.

Hardscaping with gravel is tricky because one has to know how much material to order, what step to take first and how to protect the hardscape from falling apart because of a gust of wind.

To hardscape with gravel, you need to measure the area of your landscape according to a design floor plan, order enough landscaping fabric, get the required types of gravel, lay the edging, and pour gravel. Finally, you should use a rake to even out the gravel.

In this article, you'll learn the nuances of each step so you can minimize the chances of error and even decide which ones you can skip. Among the steps we will cover are how to:

  • Layout a design plan and measure the area to be covered
  • Calculate how much landscaping fabric you need
  • Figure out how much gravel is required to cover the area
  • Purchase gravel in sizes and colors required by your plan
  • Pour the gravel one small heap at a time
  • Use a rake to flatten the heap and move back a step

By the end of this post, you'll have a solid knowledge base to get just as much gravel as is required by your plans. You will also understand how you can preserve the hardscape from falling apart and what you can do to make the gravel design truly impressive. Without further ado, let's go over the different steps of hardscaping with gravel.

Table of Contents

Measure the Area

The first step in laying out the perfect gravel landscape entails measuring the area that the gravel is supposed to cover. This step can be taken right before pouring the gravel as well, but measuring early can save money because you know exactly how much gravel you need. Alongside gravel, you need other material as per your hardscape plans.

If you do not have a hardscape plan, you'll be limited to filling a walkway or a potting boundary with single gravel. The plans are easy to make because you can look at any geometric art and replicate it with gravel and other hardscaping materials in your own garden.

Gravel of different colors can be used to create repeating patterns or eye-catching spirals. The measurements have to be specific to each type of gravel or hardscaping material your plan requires. You could need six slabs of solid stone and enough gravel to cover 350 square feet. Or you could need 200 square feet worth of white stones and 450 square feet of black gravel.

You need an average of 0.03 US tons of gravel to cover 1 square foot of landscape with a 6-inch depth. For a 3-inch depth layout, you'd need 0.01 US tons of small gravel. The specific measurement depends on the density and size of the pebbles.

Order the Landscape Fabric

While your measurements have to be design-specific when buying gravel, they have to be area-encompassing when acquiring landscape fabric. This is a fabric that preserves the topsoil underneath the hardscape but, more importantly, prevents wild growth from ruining the appearance of your landscape design.

The finer your design, the more important it is to get a landscape fabric. If your design features massive stone slabs surrounded by a monotonous pool of uniform gravel, you may be able to skip this step. But if there are multiple colors of gravel, weed, and spontaneously-growing glass, blades might obstruct the visual.

Acquire the Gravel Pre-separated

After you have the landscape fabric, you need to get gravel according to your measured parameters. It is always better to err on the side of ordering more. Leftover gravel can have decorative uses. In contrast, falling short of your gravel requirements can force you to order a new bag and pay shipping and handling charges.

There are two approaches to acquiring gravel for a hardscaping project. One is to get a large batch of white gravel, pour it single file, and paint a design onto it later. This is the equivalent of a clip-on tie for hardscaping. It is easy and looks good enough to the passive observer.

However, architecture and landscaping enthusiasts, as well as keen observers, can notice that a hardscape is painted on and not laid in. Superficially painted landscapes are also very difficult to maintain because even surface-level shuffling of gravel can undo the design.

The design is much more firm when you use the second method of gravel buying and pouring. Here you acquire the gravel pre-separated by color, weight, or size. This allows you to pour specific types of gravel into certain areas to make a pattern at depth. Such a design is hard to undo because it is laid in depth. And that brings up the very important matter of introducing depth to the design.

Layout the Boundaries, Set Traction Path for the Gravel

Whether you're pouring a monotonous batch of gravel or three different types, depth is necessary for all of them. You don't need to dig into the ground to create depth. A raised metal divider can also introduce the opportunity to layer gravel. As long as the layer of gravel you pour isn't one-pebble thin, your hardscape will survive wind and traffic.

When deciding between digging into the ground or using lawn edging, you have to think more about the function than form. Both ways of hardscaping with gravel can lead to perfect-looking landscapes. But none of them can survive heavy traffic and shuffling. The table below lends insight into the different boundary-building approaches.

As you can see, the best approach is to use a hybrid as it secures specific types of gravel within the design. The strongest method to let gravel anchor into the landscape is to dig into the ground. But if you have multiple colors, sizes, etc., in a single area, metal dividers can hold them in place.

So, at this stage, you should have the area dug at a minimum depth of 3 inches. You should order metal dividers or loose lawn edging material. Before you can proceed to pour gravel, your design plan should be replicated on the land with lawn edging.

You have to lay the landscaping fabric before you use lawn edging or metal strips. Once the fabric is laid flat, the metal strips should outline the entire design into the area where the gravel is supposed to be. This gives you a good idea as to where specific types of gravel need to be poured.

Pour Gravel With Emphasis on Heaping

Now comes the most evident hardscaping part. Once you have the gravel bags you need, and the design is outlined by lawn edging, you can begin to pour gravel into different areas within the hardscaping location. It is advisable to err on the side of pouring more, and to pour in one area.

This step and the next one will need to be repeated a few times, so do not try to complete the design in a single pour. Over a large enough landscape area, you'd walk with an open bag and pour as you move. But for most small-sized projects, you have to pour a heap and then spread it out more carefully. That's where the next stage becomes relevant.

Use a Rake to Smooth Out the Gravel

Once you have poured a small hill of gravel within a section of the design location, you need to use a rake to smooth out the gravel. If the pour is perfect, this step needs to be done once. However, that is rarely the case.

Usually, the gravel layer becomes thin when spread across a section. The hardscape has to go back to the pouring step and pour more, then proceed to even out the gravel with a rake. The goal is to have a thick enough layer of gravel that meets the plan requirements.

Use the Rest of the Gravel

Because you've erred on the side of ordering more gravel, you'll have some of it leftover after you finish hardscaping. Here are a few creative uses for leftover gravel. Remember, you can also store the gravel for future use.

  • Create a base for a post - From a mailbox to a birdhouse, there are plenty of uses for a post. Whether you plan to add a small light pole on your lawn or a sign that expresses a political opinion, leftover gravel can be used to create the required base.
  • Fill in dents and low areas - Your driveway might have gaps or low areas because of frequent use. Gravel can be used to fill those in.
  • Create a mosaic - If you have leftover gravel of different colors, you can simply fill a rectangular tray with the pebbles and create an interesting design.

Final Thoughts

Gravel hardscaping is one of the easiest methods of hardscaping. To make it even simpler, you should break it down into steps. Here is a recap of how you can execute such a project:

  • Map out the size of the potential hardscape
  • Get enough landscaping fabric and gravel
  • Lay the fabric into a well-dug space
  • Pour and even out the gravel

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