How to Level and Smooth a Gravel Path

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Over time, a neat, smooth gravel path can become bumpy and clogged with dirt and weeds. A good path requires a solid base--either of tamped-down sand or coarse gravel--that is covered by landscape fabric with a layer of fine gravel on top. Here's how to spruce up that top layer, and to make a few other repairs as well.

Things You'll Need

  • 2-by-4 Lumber
  • Fine Crushed Stone
  • Screened Fine Gravel
  • Landscape Fabric
  • Garden Hose
  • Metal Rake
  • Plastic Landscape Edging
  • Shovel
  • Saw
  • Tamping Tool
  • Rake away the top 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 cm) of gravel from the path until you reach either landscape fabric, a layer of sand or a layer of coarser gravel.

  • Tamp down the surface. You can make your own wooden tamping tool from a small square of 3/4-inch (2-cm) plywood nailed to the bottom end of a 4-foot-long (120-cm) 2-by-4.

  • Install a layer of landscape fabric if there is none. This must be permeable enough to let water drain through it but not so open that it allows any weeds to grow upward.

  • Check the path's edging. If the stone, brick or landscape timbers are broken or misaligned, repair or replace them.

  • If the path has no edging, install plastic landscape edging on each side. The edging should be installed so that the top of it is 1/2 inch (12 mm) above the level of the ground on either side of the path.

  • Take any debris out of the gravel you removed by raking back and forth through it or turning it over with a shovel.

  • Shovel the cleaned gravel back into the path and smooth it with the rake.

  • Add new screened fine gravel as needed to reach within 1 1/2 to 2 inches (4 to 5 cm) of the top of the edging; rake the path level.

  • Water the path with a garden hose; let the water drain through, then tamp again.

  • Spread a 1/2- to 1-inch (12-mm to 2.5-cm) layer of fine crushed stone on top of the path until it is 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the top of the path's edging.

  • Cut a 2-by-4 to be as long as the width of the path between the edgings. Use the board as a screed and pull it along the surface of the fine stone to smooth the path.

Tips & Warnings

  • When you move the gravel completely off the path, put it either in a wheelbarrow or on a large plywood square so that it won't damage the rest of your lawn or garden.
  • There are several other terms, besides those given here, that people sometimes use for the same grades of stone and gravel. If you're not sure what to get, tell the folks at the stone yard what project you're working on and ask their advice.

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