How to make a compacted gravel path

Updated February 21, 2017

Compacted gravel paths provide a pleasant way for family, friends and visitors to travel through a yard. A gravel path not only adds visual interest and curb appeal, it also helps to protect the lawn from being trampled. Additionally, compacted gravel is low maintenance. Laying a gravel path is not complicated for handy do-it-yourselfers, but it does take a certain amount of strength and stamina as it involves digging and moving heavy rock and gravel.

Mark the area in which you will lay the gravel path with marking spray paint. Marking spray paint cans are specially made to operate upside down.

Dig down into the soil to a level of about 4 inches with a square spade or shovel and place the excavated soil into a wheelbarrow. Using a square spade to dig will enable you to dig straight down along the edges of the gravel path. Placing the dirt into a wheelbarrow as you work makes it easier to relocate or discard the soil when the project is done.

Measure down into the trench periodically to ensure that it is a uniform 4 inches in depth.

Smooth along the bottom of the trench using a metal rake once you have excavated all the dirt.

Compact the soil along the bottom with the hand tamper.

Place crushed stone inside of the trench to a level of about 2 inches deep. Spray the stone lightly with a garden hose to minimise the release of dust. Then, smooth the stones lining the trench with the tamper. The stones provide a sturdy base on which the gravel will rest.

Place a layer of landscaping fabric on top of the crushed stone, making sure the shiny side is facing up. Use a utility knife to cut and conform the landscaping fabric to the contours of the trench. The landscaping fabric helps to keep the gravel inside of the trench and also inhibits weed growth.

Pour 1 inch of sand into the trench if using brick as a border. The sand helps to keep the bricks stable over time. If you are not using brick, skip this step.

Position the borders of the gravel path along the inner edges of the trench. If you are using brick, ensure that each brick is laid straight down and not leaning inward into the trench.

Tap down brick or stone edging with the hammer and wood block or rubber mallet. Give each brick or stone a few taps to press it down into the landscaping fabric and keep it lined with the others.

Fill the trench with gravel until it is about 1/2 inch from the top of the trench.

Rake the gravel until the surface is level. Check to be sure that the landscaping fabric is completely covered.


Follow the natural landscape of your yard but avoid severe dips to prevent the pooling of water. Additionally, deeply sloping ground is not ideal for a gravel path. Rain and snow will wash the gravel downward.

Things You'll Need

  • Spray paint
  • Square spade or shovel
  • Tape measure
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Metal rake
  • Hand tamper
  • Crushed stone (to use as a base)
  • Landscaping fabric
  • Utility knife
  • Hammer and block or rubber mallet
  • Gravel
  • Stones, brick, wood or metal borders if desired
  • Sand (optional, if brick will be used as a border)
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About the Author

Lee Weal began writing and editing online content as a corporate intranet administrator in 2000 and was also the publisher and editor of a monthly employee newsletter. Her articles specialize in children's issues and home improvement.