Pea Gravel and crushed stone are both good choices for the top layer of home driveway surfaces. Both can be used in other construction projects too which we will get into later, but the purpose of this comparison post is to help you choose between these two gravel types for use with a driveway.
Let’s define each separately before comparing them against one another when it comes to cost, maintenance and installation.
WHAT IS PEA GRAVEL?
Pea gravel are small stones that are a good choice for gardens, landscape beds, outdoor patios, playgrounds, and driveways. Like the name suggests, pea gravel is very small. These smaller pieces of stone are usually only about 0.25” in diameter up to 0.5″. Pea gravel has a much smoother texture than crushed stone and is easier to walk on due to the smooth surface making it a popular material for walkways and pathways.
Also called pea stone, it is available in many different colors and is often used in flower beds or landscaping projects to accent plants and flowers. Not only can pea gravel be employed in above-ground projects, but it is preferred for many underground projects, like mulch, drainage ditches, concrete work and bedding for pipes.
WHAT IS CRUSHED STONE?
Crushed stone can be made of many different rock-like materials, but the most common is usually crushed granite and crushed limestone. Common uses for crushed stone are similar to pea gravel projects, but is also commonly used for subsurface projects because it is not as aesthetically appealing or, with its jagged edges, as comfortable on bare feet.
Some of the most common subsurface projects are for a base layer before pouring concrete, pipe bedding, backfill, and drainage areas. Subsurface projects with crushed stone use the small options available, which is usually 0.5” or 0.75” crushed stone. The above ground projects will use larger crushed stone, and will be used for parking lots, driveways, road shoulders, landscaping beds, and outdoor patios. Crushed stone has much rougher edges, so it is not used as often for playgrounds, dog runs, and patio areas.
OTHER TYPES OF GRAVEL
If you already have your heart set on pea gravel or crushed stone then feel free to skip this section. For those of you who perhaps aren’t aware of your other gravel options here is a rundown of the most popular, decorative rocks and gravel types used for driveways and/or landscaping. To be clear we are only looking at top surface gravel, we’re not discussing base gravel that goes beneath a driveway surface.
White Marble Chips: This type of gravel comes in a couple of different sizes, typically between 0.5” and 1.75″ and is a long time favorite for both driveways and decorative landscaping. Expect to pay between $100 and $150 per tonne. The extra cost is why many homeowners choose crushed limestone instead. While you can by 40 pound bags of marble chips from the big box stores you’re better off searching for a local gravel/stone specialist if you want the best price by the tonne.
River Rock Pebbles: River rocks have always been a popular landscaping material but typically aren’t suitable for driveways due to their larger size comparative to most gravel. However it is possible to buy smaller river rock pebbles, typically you would choose between sizes of 0.5″ and 1.5″ or 1″ to 3″ pebbles. Expect to pay between $80 and $160 per tonne for this type of river rock pebble gravel. Once river rocks become smaller than 0.5″ they simply become pea gravel!
Jersey Shore Gravel: Think of this attractive tan and golden gravel as a close relation of pea gravel. Typically ¾” and ⅜” diameters in size Jersey Shore gravel costs between $80 and $100 per tonne. This is a very popular driveway gravel option and is the most typical alternative to pea gravel.
Slate Chippings: Slate is quite a popular driveway gravel type especially in the UK. Slate chips are most popular as a decorative flowerbed option but they can actually work well on a driveway due to their durability and shape. Slate chippings of about 20mm are recommended.
Installing or using pea gravel or crushed stone is basically the same thing and the same steps should be used with both types of rock. First, you need to make sure that the area around where you are going to lay the gravel or stones is properly edged to ensure that the material stays in place and cannot be easily washed away.
Landscaping bricks or blocks make effective edging, but thin steel frames are typically used when the framing will be below grade and not visible. The bed for either should be at least 4 inches deep, and the ground beneath should be compacted as much as possible to avoid settling and low spots later. It is also a good idea to lay down landscape fabric over the compacted ground before installing the stone or gravel to help combat weeds. It will not guarantee that weeds will not appear, but it will help greatly. Next, you should spread out the gravel or stone at a depth of two to four inches throughout the entire area.
The cost for both is reasonable for outdoor projects. You generally can buy both in bulk amounts, such as tons or cubic yards – even by the 10-yard or 20-yard load.
Depending on where you live, the size of stones, and the quality, you can expect to pay between $24 to $40 per ton of crushed stone and between $30 and $58 dollars per ton of pea gravel.
For smaller projects, you can purchase bags of either crushed stone or pea gravel and many home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. A 0.5 cubic foot bag of pea gravel costs around $4 and crushed stone usually costs the same, but you can pay a lot more if you change the size and quality of the rocks or stones.
Both last forever, of course. Neither will deteriorate with normal use, though if you drive heavy equipment on either, the material will break down over time. And both can sink into heavy soils like clay or get washed away by heavy rainfall or other types of erosion. Sure, stone will last forever, but you might need to add more material periodically.
Using a rake, you should make sure that the gravel or stone is as level as possible. Fill in any voids or holes, as needed. If you live in an area that gets snow, plows are a menace. Leave at least one inch of snow over the gravel or stone driveway. Even then, you’re bound to find plenty of rocks in your landscape when the snow melts.
Since both types of rock will sink in the ground over time, you should replenish the gravel or stone every two to four years as needed.
The overall environmental impact of both pea gravel and crushed stone is very minimal since they are both natural resources and abundant all over. Between the two, crushed stone is considered a “greener” option since it is often created from recycled concrete that has been crushed and repurposed.
When trying to decide what is a better choice for your project between pea gravel and crushed stone, the decision is completely up to the project and your personal choice. It seems like pea gravel is the better choice for visible/walk-on-it projects since it has a smooth texture, is just as cheap, and more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. However, for areas that need a larger and more rigid rock medium for greater stability, such as your driveway or parking area, then crushed stone is the way to go.