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Both paving and gravel are two of the most familiar and popular garden surfaces. Both are extremely effective in the correct situation having both functional and aesthetic attributes.
Paving and gravel can be used to surface areas which can take both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. They both come in a wide variety of colours, materials, and textures.
Consequently the question is often asked; paving or gravel which is better? In this article I will break down the advantages and disadvantages of using each surface.
Then we will summarise our findings to see which is actually better for what situation.
The primary aesthetic of gravel is it comes in a wide variety of colours, materials and size grades.
This provides you with a lot of choice allowing you to conform to contemporary or more traditional styles. The best aesthetic attributes of gravels however is they provide visual textures.
These are visually satisfying to the eye and can provide contrast to more flush surfaces.
A great plus for installing gravel surfaces is they are very practical. Loose gravels are easy to transport, hard wearing and quick to spread around. This makes them particularly favourable for surfacing large and expansive areas.
The installation of gravel is a very simple process, if you are covering flowerbeds simply cut a weed membrane around plants then lay gravel on top.
For driveways you will need to excavate a minimum of 200mm spreading 150mm of sub base (type 1) and 50mm of gravel.
Paved areas taking light, pedestrian traffic, can make do with 100mm of sub base.
Garden gravel costs anywhere from £50-200 a ton depending on the grade and material. The great thing with gravel is it is quick to lay not requiring any skilled labour. This makes it much cheaper to install than paving.
Paving also comes in a wide variety of colours, materials and sizes. Patios can be laid in multiple sized patterns or using the same sized paver in a continuous pattern. Particularly with natural stone there is a wide variety of surface textures and finishes from smooth to riven.
One of the best things about paving is it provides a flush, hard wearing and level surface. This makes it easy to manoeuvre wheeled carriages and is easy to keep clean. If installed correctly on a solid base paving will last a lifetime. This eradicates the need for weeding and expensive revamp projects.
For basing up driveways and patios there is little difference between installing gravel or paving. However when it comes to laying paving it is much more time consuming than gravel. This is because each unit needs to be individually secured level with the surrounding surface.
Paving generally ranges between £20 – 120 a square metre which is much more expensive per coverage than gravel. Also paving installation requires skilled labour which is much slower than spreading gravel resulting in a higher cost.
Advantages of paving
Disadvantages of paving
Advantages of gravel
Disadvantages of gravel
If you require a consistent, level, attractive, surface and have a healthy budget paving is the best option. Its durability, accessibility and ability to clean easily make it the superior surface. However if you require an affordable and quick surface which is permeable that looks good gravel is best.
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Paul Nicolaides has over 30 years of recreational gardening and 20 years of professional landscaping experience. He has worked for landscape contractors including design and build practices across London and the South East. In 2006 he qualified with a BA Hons degree and post graduate diploma in Landscape Architecture. In 2009 he founded Ecospaces an ecological landscaping practice which aims to improve social cohesion and reduce climate change through landscaping. In 2016 he founded Buckinghamshire Landscape Gardeners which designs and builds gardens across Buckinghamshire and the South East. This blog aims to provide easy problem solving information to its audience and encourage others to take up the joy of landscaping and gardening.