Re: General advice sought on gravelling a garden

Discussion in 'UK DIY' started by John Rumm, Aug 29, 2006.

  1. John Rumm

    John Rumm Guest


    > I'm interested in putting gravel down to replace the grass in my small
    > front garden, mostly to reduce maintenance (terrace house, so to mow it
    > I have to drag the mower through the house). Would I be right in saying
    > the job is roughly:
    > 1) dig out existing topsoil down six inches or so

    Yup - only not that deep.

    > 2) lay impermeable plastic layer to kill weeds

    No, absolutely not! You will get waterlogging etc.

    If you want a membrane then you need a proper geofabric. The purpose of
    this is not to stop weeds, but to prevent the sub base from
    subliminating into the soil.

    > 3) get gravel delivered from local builders yard


    > 4) haul gravel up onto garden (it's about 2 feet above ground level, so
    > I think this necessitates a 'barrow and has to be done by hand) and
    > spread it out with a rake.

    A builders merchant ought to be able to deliver into the garden as long
    as it is not too far from the road (had them do this for me recently -
    over a 6' wall at about 5m from the lorry - it was just on the limit of
    their hi-ab).

    > The garden is quite small -- about 12ftx8ft, or thereabouts. The guy in
    > the local builder's yard reckoned a half-ton of chippings, quite chunky
    > ones (10-15mm or so, by eye). Does the amount seem about right to
    > everyone?

    The volumes don't add up. That is about 9 sq m in area. If you are
    digging down six inches, you are removing about 1.3 cubic m of soil
    which would require over two tonnes of gravel to fill.

    You have a couple of options here - the "built to last" approach, or the
    "quick and cheap" decorative solution.

    If you want a professional quality result then I would go for 2" of
    compacted type 1 MoT granular sub base (about 0.5 cubic m) first - it is
    cheap and can be compacted down with a plate vibrator. That will stay
    put and not sag any further, and will also prevent any weeds coming up
    through the base. It would also take foot traffic without sagging and
    remain permeable to save causing drainage problems. Then finish it with
    2" of your choice of decorative gravel.

    If you want the cheap and chearful option, then go for a geofabric with
    2" of uncompacted decorative stuff on top. As long as you don't drive or
    walk on it much it should stay put and not let the weeds through.

    Note that with any gravel surface, if you let soil, or leaves or other
    bio matter fall onto it, it will eventually support weed growth on the
    top anyway. A garden blower or vacuum can be a good way of clearing
    leaves without sucking up the gavel!

    > What about compacting, either the earth underneath or the gravel once
    > laid? This garden won't be walked on often or driven on, so is
    > compaction necessary?

    It is worth it if you are using a sub base, but you can miss it out for
    a "decorative only" finish. A small plate vibrator will probably cost
    £25 - £40 to hire for a day and will do the job nicely.

    > Finally, costs. Seems like the DIY approach will be pretty cheap -- a
    > decent shovel and barrow, £10 or so for the impermeable layer, and
    > about £35 for the chippings. Have I missed something off the list? And

    Probably more like £50 for the gravel once VAT and delivery is on top.
    Don't forget a mini skip to take away the soil. If you need a cheap
    source of type 1, ask the skip people if they can deliver it in the skip
    - many can. It would most likely work out cheaper than to get it from
    the builders merchant.

    > does anyone have any idea roughly what it would be cost to have the job
    > done by a professional? I've rung a half-dozen firms but none of them
    > are answering the phone.

    £300 to £500 perhaps less if just going for the decorative finish.



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    | John Rumm - john(at)internode(dot)co(dot)uk |
    John Rumm, Aug 29, 2006
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