Building materials suppliers offer a wide variety of crushed rock for both construction projects and decorative applications. Common construction applications of gravel include use of a base for paver installations, temporary driveway surfaces and lining for drainage ditches. Common decorative applications include pathways, patios and planters. Although there is a seemingly endless variety of small crushed gravel, an understanding of common types and their applications allows you to narrow the options and choose the right gravel for the project.
Despite their namesake, pea gravel rocks are similar in size to garbanzo beans. Sourced from several varieties of rock, builders use pea gravel for both construction applications and decorative projects. For construction, builders use pea gravel as a base layer for paving stones to surround landscape drainage pipes or as a finished driveway material. For decorative projects, builders use pea gravel to surround stepping stones and garden beds.
General Purpose Gravel
Builders use general purpose gravel for a variety of construction projects, including mixing concrete, paver base layers and masonry project substrates. Although general purpose or all-purpose gravel ranges in size, 3/8-inch diameter gravel is widely available for building applications. Because the individual rocks among batches of general purpose gravel vary widely in color and overall shape, some homeowners might consider the material unsuitable for decorative applications.
Decorative aggregate materials include small, smooth stones called "river rock." Although some decorative aggregate originates from bodies of water, manufacturers artificially smooth many stones by turning or tumbling. Builders use decorative aggregate to line garden beds, surround paving stones and fill pathways. Small, smooth stones are generally more expensive than rough stones, such as pea gravel and general purpose gravel.
Special Landscaping Rock
Home improvement stores commonly offer several decorative alternatives to crushed aggregate, including lava rock and tumbled glass. Commonly available in black and red, lava rocks, sometimes called "cinder cones," are coarse-edged, pebble-sized pieces of volcanic rock. Tumbled glass is a recycled building material. Similar in size to general purpose gravel, tumbled glass has an attractive, translucent appearance. Both lava rock and tumbled glass are suitable for lining pathways, patios and garden beds.
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