Decomposed granite is a commonly used material for pathways. It’s fine sandy texture packs well for pathways and provides a softscape alternative to concrete or other harder surfaces.
Is Decomposed Granite (DG) the best option for pathways? It depends on the application and the amount of maintenance desired. After a recent tour of over 50 residential gardens by a variety of landscape contractors and based on comments from our customers, I have found there are places where DG works and where it does not. There are typically three types of DG installations, natural unbound, stabilizer bound, and resin bound (Polypavement or TerraPave).
Natural Untreated DG:
DG without any binding agent, which is usually compacted with a Vibraplate.
Pros: Looks good and makes great garden paths through plantings and in secondary areas, least expensive DG option.
Cons: Material movement off of paths into planting beds, migration of the material if installed on sloped pathways, moss growth in shady areas, muddiness during the wet season, tracking of the material into the house or onto patio surfaces, needs to be refreshed and maintained periodically to look its best.
DG with a stabilizer agent to aid in binding the material together.
Pros: Less migration with stabilized material, less costly than Resin bound DG pavement.
Cons: Stabilizer is expensive, gutter runoff and rain may erode the material, has same problems, although often more minor as untreated DG as noted above.
Resin Bound DG:
DG with polymers/resin used to create an asphalt like hard surface
Pros: Solves many of the problems associated with the other two DG types
Cons: Can still erode over time, especially if not compacted with Steamroller (which is often not possible due to access or cost), expensive, texture of surface is more like asphalt and less like DG, which depending on the situation, may be less desirable.
Where should DG be used- we recommend using DG for secondary garden paths, where aesthetics are important, but a hard durable surface is not required. Another option instead of DG are compactable gravels or walkway gravels, usually 1/8” in size. Some of these have fines material and pack well like DG, others are just fine gravel, that does not pack as well, but does not migrate as much and is usually easier to maintain. Based on our experience we don’t recommend DG for areas under eves as the material gets dripped on and etched by gutters. Areas where garbage cans are going to be stored, or heavy traffic areas are better suited to concrete or stone.
Past article on DG Types