Last Modified: February 9, 2024

What to Put Under Gravel

our "People Also Ask About" series

What to put under gravel

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist


In DIY gardening and landscaping, it's common to turn to the internet for information. Many of us have experienced the frustration of sifting through pages of search results only to find answers that are either too general or buried in lengthy articles that stray from your simple, concise question's topic. Recognising this gap, we've taken a unique approach.

In this series, we delve into the specific queries that you frequently ask online, dedicated to those highlighted in the 'people also ask' section on Google search. Our aim is to provide answers fully but as briefly as possible. With a professional landscape gardener's perspective, you will get practical insights and expert advice so that your search ends with this, the first article you find, saving you time and hassle. Please find your specific question in the quick links menu.

Gravel front garden around a driveway. Jpg

People Also Ask About - Q & A

Here we address the most common questions about installing gravel in your garden.

How do you keep gravel from sinking into the ground?

Laying a geotextile fabric is an effective solution to prevent gravel from sinking into the ground or sub-base. Also known as a weed membrane, it acts as a durable barrier between the gravel and bottom layer. Landscape fabric can significantly extend the lifespan of gravel features, particularly those that experience traffic, such as gravel driveways or pathways. It does this by maintaining the integrity of the gravel layer, which also reduces the frequency of the need to replenish your gravel. Where gravel is used for traffic, this separation technique is essential for maintaining a level and stable gravel surface over time.

What is best to put under gravel?

The best material to put under gravel is landscape fabric. Also known as weed membrane, with benefits ranging from:

  • separating the small stones from the earth, preventing the gravel from sinking into the soil beneath, which is a common issue as they tend to settle over time
  • suppressing weeds
  • improving drainage
  • providing a stable base

It's a widely used solution due to its effectiveness in weed control and maintaining the integrity of the gravel layer.

Weeds growing through poorly installed slate chippings. Jpg

Should I put plastic down before gravel?

The decision to use plastic sheets under gravel depends on the intended purpose. If the primary goal is to prevent weed growth, plastic sheets can be a viable alternative to landscape fabric. However, for applications where drainage is crucial involving gravel, rock or other hardscaping materials, a woven polypropylene landscape fabric is the best choice. Drainage is vital to maintaining the health and stability of the underlying soil and necessary for the prevention of water pooling.

Do I need a membrane under gravel?

While it is not mandatory, incorporating a membrane beneath gravel is beneficial for several reasons. It serves as an effective weed suppressant and stabilises the ground, preventing the shifting of gravel. A woven polypropylene geotextile membrane is specifically designed for this type of application. It allows water to permeate, ensuring proper drainage while simultaneously controlling weed growth. This makes it a vital component in low-maintenance gravel landscaping and should be laid directly under the gravel on top of the soil or sub-base.

Heavy duty weed membrane

Should I put fabric under gravel?

For optimal drainage under gravel, non-woven geotextile fabric is the best choice. This is mainly due to the fact that the alternative, woven membranes, are mostly impermeable by comparison. Available in varying weights - lightweight, medium-weight, and heavy-weight - these fabrics all provide different levels of essential drainage, filtration and ground stabilisation. Its felt-like texture is effective in supporting a stable and well-drained gravel surface, making it an ideal component for landscaping projects where drainage is a key consideration. 

Should I put fabric under gravel?

For efficient weed control, it is recommended to use landscape fabric below gravel mulch. This creates a barrier that stops the growth of weeds while allowing water and nutrients to pass through. Keeping the gravel area clean is important because the accumulation of leaves and organic debris on top of the landscape fabric can lead to weed growth in the mulch layer.

Is it really necessary to put fabric under my gravel driveway?

Yes, it is necessary to put a geotextile driveway fabric under a gravel driveway is for durability, drainage and minimising maintenance. It also plays a crucial role in preventing the aggregates from sinking into the sub-base layer, reducing the occurrence of rutting and need for frequent gravel replenishment.

Red granite chips driveway

What is the barrier between gravel and soil?

The barrier between gravel and soil is typically known as a ground membrane, made from geotextile fabrics that prevent sunlight from reaching the soil beneath the gravel. By blocking sunlight, they inhibit weed growth and stop the maturation of germinating seeds. They also separate the soil from the chippings and improve drainage, resulting in a cleaner, more manageable gravel area that requires less maintenance over time.

Should I put anything under gravel?

It can be a wise decision to place a landscape fabric under gravel for several reasons. Aside from playing a role in weed prevention, improving drainage and preventing the chippings from sinking into the ground, it also facilitates easier removal of gravel if you decide to renovate your outdoor space in the future. This means you can shovel the stones away as opposed to having to remove them once they're embedded in the earth.

Raking cotswold stone gravel

Should you put membrane under gravel?

Yes, you should put membrane under gravel for projects involving the laying of a new path or driveway. Incorporating a high-quality woven weed control membrane for areas designed for traffic is essential, with the membrane serving many purposes. It prevents the undesirable growth of weeds, ensures drainage and keeps the gravel separated from the foundation layer and securely in place.

However, if you are mulching a garden or laying a border, it is not essential. However, by using a membrane, you can help to ensure that your gravelled areas remain both attractive and functional over time.

Need to work out how much gravel your project needs? Try our free gravel calculator.

Plum slate mulch around a tree. Jpg

What do you put down under gravel?

For optimal results, landscaping professionals put landscape fabric down under gravel. This geotextile fabric serves a dual purpose: it acts as a filtration layer under the gravel while reducing the overall amount of gravel needed. Particularly essential in garden ponds, the landscape fabric creates a separation layer that prevents the gravel below from piercing the pond liner, thus maintaining the integrity and appearance of your pond design.

Should you put plastic under gravel?

Using plastic sheets under gravel is a viable option if the primary goal is to prevent weed growth, but it will be hazardous to your prized plants and shrubs. For applications under mulch, gravel or other hardscaping materials, landscape fabric is the most suitable choice. Landscape fabric allows for proper soil aeration and water drainage, which are crucial for maintaining the health of the underlying soil and any nearby plant life.

Using a mallet to hit weed membrane pins into the ground

Do I need to put something under gravel?

When laying gravel, you may need to put something under gravel, as it's crucial to prepare the sub-base, especially for a path or gravel driveway. The sub-base plays a vital role in supporting heavy loads and ensuring the longevity of the surface. If you're starting with an uneven surface, a well-prepared sub-base is even more important because you will require a level and stable foundation.

What do you put on soil before gravel?

Before adding decorative gravel or stone chippings to your garden, it's advisable to put a weed fabric on the soil or sub-base. This fabric acts as a barrier, preventing weed seeds from penetrating the soil and sunlight from passing through the gravel. It's also an effective solution for maintaining a neat and tidy appearance of your decorative stones, ensuring that your landscaping remains fresh and low-maintenance.

Excavating a driveway for gravel installation

What plastic do you put down before gravel?

If you are just trying to kill weeds or perhaps make a pond, the best plastic to put down before gravel is heavy-duty HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) plastic sheeting. This plastic sheeting comes in various thicknesses, ranging from 30 mil to 100 mil, suitable for both residential and commercial applications. Its key features include waterproofing, UV resistance, and non-biodegradability.

However, if you intend to grow plants, trees or shrubs beneath the gravel, then you will need a permeable membrane, such as a landscape fabric.

What should I lay down before gravel?

If you want to create a stable and long-lasting gravel surface, start by compacting the soil with a tamper. This step is crucial for creating a solid foundation that prevents the sinking or shifting of the gravel over time. After soil compaction, lay down a layer of landscape fabric. This geotextile fabric acts as a weed barrier, preventing unwanted growth through the gravel, thus maintaining the aesthetic and functional integrity of your gravelled area.

Installing a pea shingle garden. Jpg


In summary, although you don't need to lay a membrane beneath gravel when the surface is purely decorative, it is essential to the successful installation of a pathway, drive or patio - basically, any area that gets traffic. However, it is clear in most cases that laying a weed-proof membrane made from a non-woven geotextile fabric, beneath gravel in the garden, is ideal. When you do, you garner all of the benefits from weed suppression, low-maintenance, improved drainage and increased stability. We hope that our 'people also ask about' series has provided you with the best answer for your DIY landscaping question.

We have every type of gravel available to choose from in the UK. Check them out!

About the author 

Ben Parrot is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.