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Decomposed Granite Paths

With summer here, lots of do-it-yourselfers will be hunting for info on Decomposed Granite.  I have many posts on ‘how-to’ and ‘how-not-to’, including my eBooklets with complete installation information.  I’ve found a few more photos from previous installations of mine in addition to those already on my website.  First some paths:

A Decomposed Granite path in a shady location.  Notice the concrete transition just at the outside door so DG is not tracked into house

A Decomposed Granite path in a shady location. Notice the concrete transition just at the outside door so DG is not tracked into house

Decomposed Granite path

Decomposed Granite path.  Notice the edging here

Decomposed granite flagstone patio

Decomposed granite flagstone patio with DG inbetween stones. Pathway is all Decomposed Granite

Decomposed Granite path no hardener

Decomposed Granite path. No hardener was used in this job

Stone and DG

Decomposed Granite path with stone blocks inserted

Decomposed granite path

Lovely Decomposed Granite path under arbor.  This path was done with a TerraPave seal

Decomposed granite pathway

Another arbor

Wood and DG steps

Pressure treated wood contains these Decomposed Granite stairs

Terrapave

Decomposed Granite path with terrapave

I would be amiss if I did not show a photo of how you can mix different fines to achieve different DG colors. Areas of the country have different standard decomposed granite colors.  Here in the San Francisco area, most DG is gold fines, and occasionally like some of the photos above you can find grey.  In the photo below we mixed in some black fines to obtain a darker color.  Elsewhere on my website, I have photos of a rock I used that was more pink.  Rock can be used but it must have fines in it.

Decomposed granite colors

Decomposed granite patio using a creative mix of fines to achieve our color

Now for some patios using decomposed granite:

Decomposed Granite pathway

Decomposed Granite walk and patio

Decomposed granite shade

Another view of the Decomposed granite patio next to a shade bed

Decomposed Granite leads to a deck

Decomposed Granite leads to a deck

Decomposed Granite with a small flagstone shower

Decomposed Granite with a small flagstone shower

Decomposed Granite inbetween properly placed flagstones by pool

Decomposed Granite inbetween properly placed flagstones by pool

Decomposed Granite path at the Getty Museum L.A.

Decomposed Granite patio at the Getty Museum L.A.

The bench sits on a decomposed granite patio which transitioned from the concrete patio in front

The bench sits on a decomposed granite patio which transitioned from the concrete patio in front

For a complete guide to Decomposed Granite paths, pathways, and using other materials such as pavers and concrete, please see my eBook.

17 Responses

  1. Hi Leslie,

    I’ve been perusing your blog and website, and downloaded your Designing Your Garden and Decomposed Granite books. They are really helpful, but I’m still not sure what direction to take, and hope you might be able to advise me.

    I live in southern California, near Santa Monica. About ten years ago a landscape designer redid my front path and back yard using a theme of 18″x18″ bluestone squares set on the diagonal, with about 4” between them.

    All the bluestone squares were set on concrete. For small areas outside my front and back doors, bluestone was cut into a lattice and laid in between the squares. For the rest of the back yard, and the front patio, after concrete was poured in the entire area the contractor went through and cut out channels, so that the net result was 18×18 concrete squares, upon which the bluestone was laid using Thinset.

    The area between the squares was filled with sod. Over time, most of the sod died. The front path is extremely shady, as is much of the back yard. A few years ago, I had someone dig up the sod in the back yard and put in DG. They didn’t use DG with stabilizers, so then I had someone else dig out that DG and put in DG with stabilizers. It still didn’t look very good.

    So last fall my handyman dug up the DG in the back, and planted hernaria between the bluestones. He dug up the remaining sod in the front, and planted dwarf mondo grass. The plants in both areas have been slow to catch on. Two factors haven’t helped: one, raccoons keep showing up to dig up the plantings, and, two, although the handyman claimed he brought the soil up flush, either he didn’t or else a lot of it immediately washed away.

    So I want to address this once again. I started reading your website and books thinking that I would once again try DG, maybe both in the back and in the front. But I see that the distance between my stones is way larger than what you recommend. The other alternatives that I see are: (1) pea gravel; (2) the carex texensis / carex pansa that I saw you recommend.

    I guess I could put mortar between the stones but there is no concrete between them for the mortar to sit on top of. Also, then my whole backyard would be a hardscape.

    One frustration of both the sod and the DG has been that my patio furniture does not move well on it, and I have to be careful that in dragging the furniture I don’t pull up the bluestone.

    Attached are photos of my front walkway and the back patio. Also, just to give you the context I’m including a photo of the small areas outside the front and back doors that are fully covered in bluestone.

    Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you so much.

    -Karen

    (Actually I can’t seem to attach the photos so I am going to email them to you along with this message.)

    Like

    • Hi Karen, I see your conundrum.

      There is a lot to address here. You’ve tried a lot too.

      If I understand you correctly, the areas that have soil in-between the pavers actually have concrete underneath? Does that concrete include where the soil is, or just what the paver are laid down on? This is critical for me to understand in order to advise you properly.

      Like

  2. Some of your decomposed granite is a really nice gold like at the Getty museum. I just bought some gold decomposed granite and it looks dull brown like mud. Mind you it’s still wet but the dry areas look like dry mud. What’s the story?

    Like

    • Depending upon where you live, DG comes in a variety of color choices. In Northern CA bay area, three colors are readily available — gold like the CA hills in summer, gray, or your brown. Did you order it? Or did the landscaper? Sounds like you didn’t make yourself clear on what you wanted. Find out if that yard has other colors available and see if they can swap it out.

      Like

  3. I just purchased and read your “Decomposed Granite..:” ebook in anticipation of interviewing landscape contractors to do some work in my backyard. I am in a bit of a quandary with regard to the best solution to pursue and would like your advice. A bit of a background:

    The work will be done on the back 1/4 of my half acre lot, which is in Las Vegas. Currently the back is a mish mash of mature desert trees (I’ve already gotten rid of the incongruous Mexican fan palms) and shrubs interspersed with some ground cover in a number of “beds”. In between all this is a meandering paver path and two patios (of sorts), all constructed of pavers. In fact, aside from multiple islands of vegetation, the yard all hardscape. I recognize that it must have been an expensive undertaking on the part of the previous owner, but it makes for quite the heat sink in the heart of the summer.

    In fact much of the yard’s landscaping is evidence of what happens when an owner’s exuberance is allowed to run uncurtailed by good information. Did I mention that he was an interior designer? To his credit, he did try extend his interior design sense to the exterior, but often without success. The thousands of square feet of pavers are compromised because roots of mature trees are now pushing them up, creating a tripping hazard. I suspect inadequate preparation since the concrete pavers were set in DG and not sand. In an attempt to impose topographical diversity on what is a flat lot, he hauled in and poured what must be copious cubic yards of DG burying the collars of many of the mature trees. I only deduced that that was a problem when we lost 2 mature California pepper trees in a rapid decline. I started researching and taking a good look at the trees in the yard and realized that all of them appear to rise from the DG like telephone poles – no gentle slopes at their base. Arggh.. I love the property and want to create, within reason, a landscape that is respectful of environment and is installed with consideration and without landscaping hubris. At the same time I want to reduce the heat sink effect of the pavers. I already have learned my lesson after the aeoniums I transplanted from San Diego succumbed to the heat.

    All this is preface to explaining my plan. I don’t want to have to haul off so much of the DG to a dump so I thought it best to remove all the pavers from the area in question, remove the DG restoring the natural topography of the yard while giving the trees a better chance of survival, and use said DG to make well-planned and constructed pathways and patios. This would amount to about 150 ft of pathway (4 ft wide) and three patios about 120 square feet each. I know you advise against using DG for patios and “Yes”, my reason for using that material is to control costs. I already have the primary material in hand and would now just need to pay for labor and the necessary sub-base material, the cost of which I hope to offset by selling the pavers. Now to my questions:

    1. Would such a project be one that you suspect can be managed and overseen by a homeowner with an engineering background, with the help of some gardeners to do the heavy lifting? I ask because I am constantly surprised at the high quotes I get from contractors (compared to CA where I moved from).
    2. In the event that the DG is not sufficient, would patios of gravel be appropriate? I may have a problem there as I would now need to find gravel to match the Apache gold DG.
    3. Our soil (if you can call it that) in Las Vegas is extremely hard, consisting of layers of caliche cemented together. Does this mean that I can use less material for the sub-base?
    4. Given my predicament is there any other cost-effective solution you would recommend?

    Like

    • 1st let me clarify that DG used exclusively for patio material is a great alternative. I just do not like using a paver/DG combo as high heels, chair legs, etc get caught in between the pavers vs. pavers laid on cement.

      That being said, if you have enough DG, then you could get away with using the Strybing method for your patios and walkway. Alternatively, you could do gravel walkways (as described in my booklet) and DG patio. I doubt you’d be happy with a 120 sq. ft gravel patio.

      You say your ‘soil’ is hard as it is caliche, but without seeing it, I wouldn’t know if your entire base consists of that or would there be ‘holes’ that are sandy. If as described you really have a solid base, then probably you could get away with 3″ of baserock. I am not familiar with the qualities of caliche i.e. how porous, so best to get local advice on that from your local yard.

      There is not reason you cannot used unskilled labor for this job with you supervising. Just make sure your drainage is properly done i.e. crown your patios or drain them to one side.

      Too bad about your Pepper Trees. They are a fabulous tree, live a long time, and have beautiful form. Good luck with your project.

      Like

  4. Hi Leslie, Thank you for all your information about decomposed granite here. We are installing a path around our grass and have already purchased the TerraKoat as suggested by a neighbor. Great to see you approve of that product as well! I will be downloading your rebook soon.

    We were hoping to install a lighter color dg, the ginger path fines. However, we did not realize that 1. it’s not a dg and have been told it does not stabilize the same as dg,
    and 2. that it’s hard to find in the winter as quarries stop producing it.
    Wondering if you have a preferred material when it comes to using the TerraKoat?
    We would like to use the ginger fines as we like the color better than the very common gold (which looks brown to me).
    Thank you very much for your time!

    Like

    • Hi Erin, although I am not familiar with your ginger fines, I have many times alternative colors. As long as the product contains dust and fines it should work. If you look at the photos, you’ll see a mauve path there which was an ‘experiment’ with fines that I liked and it turned out well. I’ve also mixed the gray with some black fines. The gray is DG while I just used some black fines mixed in and there is a photo of that there too. You can use the regular hardeners with that just like you’d use with DG. I’ve had really good luck as long as the rock product, like I said, is fines with fine dust. I’m sure the TerraKoat would work just as well on your alternative mix as well.

      Like

  5. Hi Leslie,

    I seem rather late compared to the last post in this thread six years ago, so I’m hoping you’re still monitoring it. Anyway, great stuff and I enjoyed you eBook on Decomposed Granite, which brings me here.

    I have a pathway that was just put in my backyard, 30″ wide for my small son to run and play on. It was done with 2″ compacted baserock followed by 2″ compacted DG treated with G3. It looks great and was nice and hard for a day or two, but several areas have loosened on the surface to a depth of about 1/8 – 1/4 inch. Some are divots and others are patches. I know you said there will always be some surface dust/fines, but after a couple of weeks the surface is becoming somewhat not uniform.I also know you said G3 is not all it’s cracked up to be (pun intended). Also, when asked, the contractor said he diluted the G3 when applied (assuming it was the concentrated version).

    Anyway, how much should I be concerned with the loosening patches, should I repair them, or should I have the top one-inch tilled up and redone using TerraKoat™?

    Also, what do you think about a supplemental application of RainKoat™?

    Thank you very much for your time?

    Like

  6. Hi Leslie,

    I seem rather late compared to the last post in this thread four years ago, so I’m hoping you’re still monitoring it. Anyway, great stuff and I enjoyed you eBook on Decomposed Granite, which brings me here.

    I have a pathway that was just put in my backyard, 30″ wide for my small son to run and play on. It was done with 2″ compacted baserock followed by 2″ compacted DG treated with G3. It looks great and was nice and hard for a day or two, but several areas have loosened on the surface to a depth of about 1/8 – 1/4 inch. Some are divots and others are patches. I know you said there will always be some surface dust/fines, but after a couple of weeks the surface is becoming somewhat not uniform.I also know you said G3 is not all it’s cracked up to be (pun intended). Also, when asked, the contractor said he diluted the G3 when applied (assuming it was the concentrated version).

    Anyway, how much should I be concerned with the loosening patches, should I repair them, or should I have the top one-inch tilled up and redone using TerraKoat™?

    Also, what do you think about a supplemental application of RainKoat™?

    Thank you very much for your time?

    Like

    • It really is not too hard to fix a few divots or cracks. You can do it without or with the spray on TerraKoat. You can just add some DG that is slightly wet and if there is not much to repair, just rent a hand compacter. I do think the spray on Terra Koat is a good product. The other thing you can do is just add a dust-on of about 1/4-1/2″ of DG without any hardener and use an electric compacter. I am not familiar with RainKoat but the company that makes TerraKoat is great so probably it is good too. Call Wheeler-Zamorroni and get their take on that product.

      Like

      • Thanks for the reply and the recommendation. In my case, the path is intact, just some loose surface areas from use. I was kind of expecting the DG to stay nice and hard, but is that unrealistic?

        Like

        • DG will slough off on the top but if done properly should remain intact. That is why I would never put DG right up to an inside house doorway because bits of rock will come inside. If you want a “concrete” kind of hardness without the shedding, then use the spray on TerraKoat product.

          Like

          • Thank you, Leslie.

            In my case, I think I have some areas where there is more than desired slough off, even completely loose (broken down) in the highest traffic areas and am thinking of scooping out the loose stuff and adding back some DG pre-mixed with stabilizer then compacting it in. Then I can try an overall treatment of TerraKoat to the whole surface if you think that will help.

            Like

          • I would read the instructions for repair on the TerraKoat website. It is also an addendum included at the back of my eBook updated. But here are the instructions for rebuilding AN EXISTING SURFACE. Full instructions are in the book:

            1. Scarify or rototill 1 inch of the surface, break up any clumps, making
            any necessary repairs, and add new surface aggregate as needed.
            2. Apply TERRAKOAT STABILIZER at the rate of 15 ft2 per
            gallon; allow liquid to penetrate.
            3. Compact using a vibratory plate compactor. In restricted areas
            where a compactor will not fit, use a hand tamper.

            If you don’t want to do all that to your surface, then fill and compact the existing large divets, rake a small amount of DG, maybe 1/8-1/4″ deep over the area to treated and compact with electric or hand compacter. I would NOT use any more stabilizer. Just attempt to get a smooth looking surface with lightly wetted DG and pack it.

            Then use the Terrakoat which will create a nice hardened surface.

            Like

  7. Good stuff Leslie. Thank you.

    In the last two paragraphs you’re saying to only add Terrakoat as a final treatment AFTER repair and compacting, right?

    Like

  8. Either use method #1 described as a TerraKoat repair to exisiting patio, which is quite a bit of work but those are their recommendations. Or #2 method is fill divets, but then use something similar to what I describe as the strybing method with only about another 1/4″ DG BUT compact it thoroughly w/out stabilizer. Then spray on the Terrakoat as if you have a finished surface. I suggested #2 because it doesn’t sound like you have a lot of work to make your walkway looking decent again. If this is a recently finished job, just have your contractor return to make it look like it should. No more G3 from him!

    Like

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