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Can I Use Gravel As A Paver Base? (Beginner Tips)

by Lianne Jones May 25, 2022

Can I Use Gravel As A Paver Base? (Beginner Tips)

Laying pavers is a physically demanding task, so anything that can make the job a little easier is always going to be welcome.

Using the right paver base for your project will ensure that your pavers will be lying on a flat, even, stable surface with excellent drainage. 

As with most home improvement projects, most of the important work is done in the preparation stage.

If this is done properly, then chances are the rest of the project will run smoothly. So getting the paver base right is important. 

We’ll look at using gravel as a paver base and whether it is the right choice for you and your project. 

What Is A Paver Base?

A paver base is something that supports paving stones which are laid to form driveways, patios, pool areas or paths.

The base can be made from gravel, fine aggregate or come in the form of plastic panels.

A paver base is typically between 3-6 inches deep, depending on the type of material or aggregate used.

Crushed rock or aggregates vary in size from between 3/4 inch to sand and dust sized particles.

The function of a paver base is to provide an even, stable surface on which to lay pavers. It also acts as drainage beneath the paving to allow water runoff. 

Why Use Gravel Under Pavers?

The base that you choose for underneath your paving will depend on a few factors. First, the type of project you are doing. This could be a new driveway, a parking area, a patio, or an area around your pool. 

The reason it is important to identify your type of project is the amount of traffic, either foot or vehicular, and the weight that the paved area will be subjected to. 

A driveway will need to take a lot more punishment than a patio or pool area, so you need to think about this when choosing your paver base. 

Gravel is a more robust base and can take the weight and traffic that driveway pavers are subjected to.

For something like a rarely used garden path, a lighter aggregate base or plastic base panels would be suitable.

Another consideration before choosing a paver base is the type of soil that you are laying pavers on.

A clay soil that is heavy and compacted will need help with drainage, so a gravel or crushed rock base is best in this situation. 

If you have well drained or sandy soil, then a finer base material would work well. However, gravel provides a more stable base for soft soil conditions, so don’t rule it out.

Drainage is a big issue when it comes to laying pavers. You must make sure that you are making provision for proper drainage and water runoff when laying paving.

If not you will find your patio or driveway may flood, and the pavers will start to grow mold, moss and algae. This can also make them slippery and dangerous. 

For those living in a state with regular heavy rainfall, then you will understand the need for adequate and appropriate drainage.

Gravel will provide excellent drainage for rain or flood water and prevent it from sitting on the surface of your pavers. 

How To Lay Gravel Under Pavers

How To Lay Gravel Under Pavers

The most crucial stage of laying pavers is getting the substructure right. This means taking all the knowledge that you have about the project and applying to the different paver bases available. 

Most people will come up with gravel as their top choice, especially for heavy traffic areas such as parking, driveways and footpaths. 

Preparation

The first step in your paving project is to clear the area of grass, weeds, old decking, whatever is in the way. You need a clear and level working space. 

Now you will need to measure the area that is going to be paved and the depth needed to put down the different layers.  This measurement will tell you the number of pavers you will need, as well as the amount of gravel and sand.

Then you can choose the type of gravel and sand that you are going to use. If necessary, hire a compacting plate, it will make the job a lot easier. 

Excavation

This is the fun part, digging up a large area of your garden, yard or lawn! It may seem daunting, but the end result will be worth it.

Depending on the size of the area, you may want to hire a mechanical digger. Small projects can usually be excavated by hand. 

Remember that a driveway or somewhere that will have vehicular traffic will need to have 12 inches of gravel as a base. Foot traffic areas will need only 4-6 inches.

Once excavated, the area needs to be leveled and the soil compacted. This is where you will need a compacting plate.

Lay Geotextile Fabric

Now the geotextile fabric can be laid. This permeable membrane allows water to pass through to the soil without disturbing the particles below. It also suppresses the regrowth of weeds and grass beneath the paving. 

The fabric also separates the soil layer and the gravel layer, which stops the gravel sinking too far into the soil when it is compacted.

Lay The Gravel

To gauge the amount of gravel that you will need, measure the required depth.

This will normally be 6 inches for normal use or foot traffic such as a patio or footpath, or 12 inches for vehicle traffic and parking. You then multiply the depth required by the surface area.

After laying the gravel it too will need to be compacted until it is level and even, this is to provide stability. This can be done with a hand tamper or plate compactor, depending on the size of the area. 

Sand 

While the gravel offers stability and drainage for your paving, sand is used to finish off the leveling process and to provide a soft bed for the pavers.

It would be a bad idea to put paving stones directly on top of gravel, even when compacted.

Without a layer of sand to keep the pavers in place, they may move and could be a trip hazard or prone to cracking underneath vehicular traffic.

The sand acts as a cushion and also preserves the sand joints between the pavers and stops it eroding. 

The sand should also be compacted before laying the pavers. 

Pavers

Finally, you can put your paving stones in place. Once you have settled on a pattern and laid all the pavers, they should be compacted into the sand bed.

Finally, sand is swept over the area to fill in the sand joints. Your paving is now ready to enjoy!


What If I Don't Use Gravel As A Paver Base

Drainage is a vital part of planning, building, and enjoying a paved area on your property. Without proper drainage, the area beneath your paving can become waterlogged. This will cause the ground to soften and movement is more likely in your pavers. 

Inadequate drainage will also mean that the moisture around your paving will start to cause mold, algae and moss to grow.

Not only are these unsightly blemishes on your beautiful paving, but they are also a slip hazard, especially in damp weather. 

A gravel base also provides leveling, which ensures that the paving surface is uniform. Remember that a run-off must be built into your patio or driveway. This means there should be a ‘fall’ or gradient to allow water to disperse from the surface.

Gravel will give your paved area better stability. It will absorb ground tension and make movement in the paving less likely. 

This is particularly important for a driveway or parking area, as the weight of vehicles will crack or cause movement in pavers that are not adequately supported from beneath. 

So as we have seen, getting a beautiful paved patio, driveway or pool area is not difficult but does rely on you getting the base right. If you neglect this part of the process, then your project will not be as long-lasting as you hoped.

A base that is stable, level and provides good drainage is very important for a paving project.

By using gravel in the base structure, you will have all of these things. So, you can relax and enjoy your hard work for many years to come.

Lianne Jones
Lianne Jones


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