Buyers Guide: Choosing the Right Gravel and Landscaping Rock

landscaping rock walkway

When choosing gravel or rock for your landscaping, it’s hard to know which option will do the job you want it to while looking the best for the longest amount of time. How can you tell which gravel or landscaping rock will work with your plants or with your kids and pets? Most importantly, how can you be sure your choice will fit within your budget? Working with a professional landscaping design company can take the guesswork out of decision-making when it comes to gravel and landscaping rock while staying within your budget. Get ready for your design consultation by studying the available options and bringing your ideas, questions, and concerns with you to share. 

Choosing the Right Gravel or Landscaping Rock

Before you call in the pros, use this guide to learn some of the most common landscaping options available when it comes to stone so that you can make the most of your consultation visit. Keep in mind what your property’s needs are, what kinds of traffic (if any) will the gravel or landscaping rocks experience, what is aesthetically appealing to you, and, of course, what are your budgetary constraints. Professionals can work with you to sharpen your visions of how you want your landscaping to look and to explain which options are best suited to that design.

River Rock

River rocks are smooth stones that you may recognize from their namesake, river shores and riverbeds. Aesthetically, they are visually appealing and are not painful to walk on as they are usually large and have a rounded finish. River rocks, because of their size, need a fabric ground covering underneath to prevent weeds from coming through. Be mindful of your budget here because river rock prices can quickly add up depending on the size and variation you choose. 


Generally, gravel refers to crushed pieces of stone or limestone. These crushed bits of stones can range in size from about a ¼” to 1″ on average. Gravel is irregular in shape, jagged to the touch, and comes in a uniform gray color. It is typically uncomfortable to walk on without some kind of foot covering, which is important to consider for potential foot traffic. Gravel does well for irrigation and requires little maintenance. In terms of budget, gravel is usually one of the more cost-effective items but requires several inches of depth to cover the ground fully. 

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is similar to standard gravel except for the shape and appearance of the individual stone pieces, which are rounded and lack the sharp edges that traditional gravel has. Like regular gravel, it makes a good weed barrier. Occasionally, pea gravel includes whites, blacks or other hues in the color profile, but mostly it comes in shades of gray. Pea gravel is small and also requires several inches to cover the ground for proper landscaping. However, this choice will not require shoes to walk on as it does not share the jagged characteristics of traditional gravel. Pea gravel costs run a little higher than traditional gravel, so keep this in mind when speaking with your consultant. 

Lava Rock

Lava rock is classified as basalt and is rich in a variety of minerals. It is irregularly shaped, cragged, and jagged, and is available in three different color profiles: red, black, and gray. Lava rock is lightweight and provides excellent drainage while remaining low maintenance and protecting the soil. This choice is not the best for landscaping with heavy foot traffic because the jagged rocks can be painful to the feet. Further, because it is so light and porous, if stepped on, it can sink into the ground. Lava rock is also expensive and can be costly to replace. 

Brick Chips

Brick chips aren’t technically rocks or gravel.  If made correctly, they do not have sharp edges or holes and should be round in appearance. Brick chips retain moisture and provide attractive ground covering while reportedly keeping insects at bay. For landscaping purposes, larger brick chip options are ideal, while small brick chips and finely crushed brick fines are used primarily on baseball and other sports fields. Because the best selection of large brick chips come from handmade bricks, the selection can be costly, though there are several different options and companies from which to choose. 

Decomposed Granite

Decomposed granite looks like deeper colored sawdust and looks similar to sand. This sandy, silty mix of small pebbles and rocks can get pressed into the soil and can stick to shoes, tracking elsewhere after repeated traffic. Because of this, it is recommended to pair it with a stabilizer. This option is typically cost-effective, but keep in mind that it requires additional materials. 

Crushed Stone

A popular choice, crushed stone is similar to gravel but is larger in size and usually lighter in color. The stone can come in many different colors but is most often white, gray, or brown. A landscaping fabric can help with weeds and should be placed under the stone. Crushed stone is not pleasant to walk on barefoot and the pieces are often large enough to be uncomfortable to walk on even with shoes, so it is better used for layouts than paths. The larger stones make for effective ground coverings in larger, challenging areas. This is an economical choice when making landscaping plans on a budget. 

Benefits of Hiring a Professional Landscape Design Company

1. Design Expertise

Having a professional assess and evaluate your outdoor area is the first step in making your design dreams come true. Experts know the planning pitfalls that happen most often and can work with you to avoid them. Professionals have an eye for the details that are appreciated by others in the finished product and know-how to execute them in the process. Getting your desired results the first time saves time and money.

2. Size & Quantity

Landscaping design professionals can save you money with their knowledge of how much and which size rock to order for your design plans. Completing a landscaping job takes more than just measuring the surface area. A professional knows that different landscaping gravel and rock mixtures require different depths, among other points. Getting an accurate estimate the first time removes any budgetary surprises and keeps the project on your desired timeline. 

3. Delivery and Convenience

Professionals work with other professionals. Your landscaping professional can buy the landscaping rock and other materials that you choose at wholesale prices and arrange appropriate and timely deliveries. Connections like these ensure that you get the best deal possible. You also save time and sweat by not having to schedule, move, or install any of the purchases yourself. A landscaping professional begins the process with your consultation and stays through to the completion of your project, so all you need to do is admire your fresh outdoor design.


Choosing a ground covering for your property can be a challenge. Our landscaping design professionals at Design One can make the process simple and easy from start to finish, assessing your area, working with your vision, and executing your plans within your timeline and budget. Whether you choose brick chips, pea gravel or lava rock, the right gravel or rock can change the entire feel of a space.

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