decomposed granite pathway vs gravel? Installer recommendations?

We’ve recently had our backyard re-done. The decomposed granite pathways are tracking sand / mud all over the place like crazy. I can’t stand it - despite several matts to wipe feet, it tracks up the new wood steps (likely damaging them) and into the house; it takes almost constant cleanup; and frankly I hate the feel and sound of it crunching under my feet as it tracks for long distances across pavers, patio, etc. Our landscape designer assured us it will ‘settle’ or stabilize after a rainy season and baking in the sun next summer. But given our experience so far, and the info I’ve read online about the material, I am very skeptical. I believe they used ‘natural’ DG without any stabilizers (though I would need to check on that) - I read that stabilizers are bad / toxic to plants. If that’s true I’m assuming we won’t want to add them as a solution. We are considering changing the pathway material somehow, but it’s a chunk of additional $$ so want to make a good decision. So, a couple of questions

- do you have DG as pathways? Did it initially track a lot and then stop after a summer of ‘baking?’ Have dry-set pavers in DG significantly reduced the amount of tracking sand and mud?

- do you have pea gravel or other pebbles as pathways? What are the drawbacks? Are they too ‘soft’ under your feet? (Any thoughts on whether / how to add a gravel / pebble materials on top of DG?)

- do you have an excellent, very knowledgeable landscape/hardscape designer/installer who could both consult with us on the best ‘fix’ and do the installation?

Thank you!

Parent Replies

Parents, want to reply to this question? Sign in to post.

Yes! Trust me, it really will settle and stop being a mess. Then you'll LOVE it - way better than gravel. Gravel will continue to get tracked in too and will scratch and damage your floor.

We've had DG in many areas of our yard (front, back, side, etc.) for almost 2 decades and we swear by it. It's now our preferred pathway in our garden (between the veggie beds) and on our "hell strip" in front.

One thing I don't like it for is in-between the pavers on our patio. We've been trying (with mixed results) to grow greenery in between the pavers because we like that aesthetic and also the pavers then don't get covered in gritty rock/soil/DG/etc. I like to walk barefoot outside sometimes and I like the feel of it being clean and soft - not dirty/gritty! Also, we have Douglas Fir floors in the area leading out to the yard (kitchen), so... We're in the same boat - wanting to keep things looking and feeling as clean and undamaged as possible. 

So I suggest you give it some more time.


Hi there, 

commercial landscaper here. DG paths are THE WORST! Maintenance folks hate it, designers and architects love it. They are a lot of maintenance and not many landscapers know how to install properly. They are a nice option to reduce runoff but require a lot of maintenance such as refinishing/stabilizing yearly or every couple of years. Path will track some but from what you are describing it sounds like installer didn’t use enough stabilizer. You can purchase natural products and also product mixed in with the stabilizer but from my experience the mix is never enough. We always had to add more. 
If you would like to try to fix it yourself you can buy 5gallon stabilizer and follow instructions but we used to use close to 1gal for 15sf so it’s $$$. Use rake to scar top of your path, not too much, maybe 1/4-1/2” Then use watering can to spread stabilizer and then you would have to roll it with heavy roller. I think you can rent these at HD, usually hollow and then you fill with water. Or just hire someone to do it. You’ll have to wait for rainy season to be over for longest lasting result. But as you said, it’s basically glue so probably not the best to ‘water’ around your yard. However, this is most likely cheapest solution to salvage your path. 
My advice is to scrap it. It’ll always be somewhat messy and dusty even when super set. I don’t think you can fix it by adding rocks on top as they’ll likely spill over and be uncomfortable to walk on. You could add rocks if you excavate some of the DG. But having 1” of rocks is not going to look pretty or be comfy to walk on. 
Pavers will be the best, cleanest and longest lasting solution. However it’s more work and expensive. You would have to remove DG and compact the gravel base- hopefully it’s there from DG path but really depends how deep your path is, 1-2-3”. Also depends what pavers you pick. 
Second option is pea gravel or any other small rock but you want to have a compact base and use honeycomb product to hold your gravel. Again, not cheap but you will be able to comfortably walk on it and it won’t be soft. I personally love this. You might have to add a bit of gravel every few years but not much, especially if it’s just walking path. 
Something like this:

Whatever path material you pick, you want to start with a good compact base! That will ensure longevity of your path. 
Hope this helps! And sorry, don’t know any residential landscapers in your area. 
Feel free to contact me if you have more questions. 

When I wanted to pave the grassy muddy strip of my "carriage track" I considered decomposed granite and learned of all the issues you mention. I looked into gravel but since my path would be used by bicycles I ruled that out as a hazard. I finally went with brick on sand for the carriage track, and have used it again for a 4 by 4 area for the bins. I intend to use it again for another small patio. But since I do the work myself and look for free used brick the cost is much less. Hope this helps.

The previous owner of our house put in decomposed granite in the front and backyard. We have lived here now for 7 years. I hate the DG for the exact reasons you mention, and actually go out of my way to avoid those paths. It tracks into the house and scratches the floor, it gets into the car, it feels dirty, and I dislike the look and feel of it. The first year or two were the worst. We use a stiff bristle door mat outside the door and two wide doormats inside the door to help contain the mess. We also take our shoes off when we are on the doormat. Seven years later there is a lot less loose material, it has eroded and compacted. But it looks terrible, and when it rains its like a mud pit. I heard DG needs to be refreshed/redone every 5 years. We are going to remove it all when we change our landscaping. Still deciding what to do.