A decomposed granite pathway is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the look of your yard or create an informal walkway. It’s also an accessible project for DIY enthusiasts. Decomposed granite, often shortened to DG, is literally that – granitic rock broken down into fine particles that hold together better than simple dirt and come in a variety of colors.
Decomposed granite pathways require proper installation. While not difficult to install, there are a few tricks you can use to provide a solid, lasting surface. It’s best if you have some basic carpentry skills and have access to water and a roller or compactor before you get started.
What you’ll need for your decomposed granite pathway
For a firmer decomposed granite pathway and easier installation, buy DG that has a stabilizer pre-mixed in. The instructions below are based on this type of DG. If stabilized DG isn’t available, you can purchase a soil stabilizer like Marloc-SS and follow the instructions on how to apply it to your pathway.
1. Lay out the location of your path.
You can use rope, spray paint or header boards to help you visualize where your path will go. Experiment with different widths and gentle curves until the pathway looks natural and complements the yard around it. Excavate down up to 4 inches if you’d like the edges of your decomposed granite pathway to be even with the surrounding areas, and make sure you’re starting with a uniform, flat, solid ground area.
2. Estimate how much decomposed granite you will need.
Have a calculator, pencil and paper handy. Measure the length and width of your path and multiply these two numbers together. This will give you the square footage of your path. Plug that number into our coverage calculator and select “Decomposed Granite” as the product to find out how many tons you’ll need. We recommend getting enough DG to achieve a depth of 2″ to 3″ throughout your walkway, and 4″ if you are covering a whole driveway. Calculations on our website are based on a 2” depth of coverage, and should be confirmed with our staff before you purchase.
3. Install header boards
Excavate soil in the layout of the header board to a depth of 1″. This provides for the decomposed granite pathway to be 3″ deep for the path surface (1″ of soil, 3″ of decomposed granite). Next, secure your header boards by anchoring them with stakes about every four feet.
4. Add a weed barrier (optional!)
If you’re worried about weeds, pick up a weed barrier when you purchase your decomposed granite. Spread out the weed barrier fabric along the length of your path before adding any layers of DG.
5. Add the first layer of Decomposed Granite
Fill the area between the header boards with a 1.5” thick layer of the decomposed granite. Thoroughly soak the material with water. Allow the moist decomposed granite to sit for about eight hours and then compact it with a heavy roller or a vibrating plate compactor. Don’t have a compactor? For informal paths, place a flat slab of wood onto the DG and walk on it for a quick DIY fix.
6. Add remaining layers of Decomposed Granite
Apply another 1.5” thick layer of decomposed granite and soak it thoroughly with water. Wait about eight hours and compact again. Since the material is compressed down to about 1” each time, a third layer usually needs to be applied to make the path flush with the top of the header board.
7. Finishing Touches and Maintenance
Once you’ve finished all your layers, you can gently rake the surface of your decomposed granite pathway to loosen up the very top surface for a natural look. If your pathway wears down over time, it’s easy to refresh it by simply adding another top layer as described in step 5.
That’s it! You’re ready to create an attractive path out of decomposed granite. All the supplies you’ll need are available at a Southwest Boulder location near you. In fact, visiting a Southwest Boulder rock yard and seeing the different colors of decomposed granite in person is a great way to get started. Our team is extremely knowledgeable and is on hand to make suggestions and to help you pick out everything you’ll need.