Last Modified: February 27, 2024

Heavy Duty Weed Membrane

What to Put Under driveways and paths

Woven geotextile fabric close up

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist


Also known as a soil membrane or weed barrier, heavy duty membranes are sheets of woven or non-woven geo-textile materials that serve many more purposes than just weed control. As apart from a landscaping fabric for general landscaping, heavy duty weed membranes are widely used in the construction sector, as stabilisation membranes under roadways right through to wrapping soakaway crate in drainage applications. There are important differences between the three main types of ground membranes that go to their suitability and durability.

In this article, we look specifically at the types of heavy duty membranes, their specific use cases and also give you some tips on how to install them. So get ready, because we're gonna lay it on thick!

Rows of vegetables growing through weed membrane. Jpg

Key Takeaways

  • What's In A Name? We clear up the confusion about landscaping fabrics and heavy duty weed membranes.
  • Heavy Duty: We demystify the features that define these types of landscape membranes.
  • Applications: Find out which type of membrane is best suited to common applications.
  • Benefits: There are many good reasons for installing the right type of weed membrane.

What is Heavy Duty Membrane?

In landscaping, a heavy-duty membrane is a thick and durable geotextile material designed for the primary purposes of soil separation, filtration and the prevention of weed growth. All weed control membrane materials are engineered to allow water penetration while ensuring the soil retains the necessary nutrients. However, heavy-duty membranes are generally made from woven or non-woven polypropylene, unlike the lighter-type landscaping fabrics, which are usually made from needle-punched perforated sheets.

Heavy-duty membranes are also prevalent in industrial or engineering projects that require a protective barrier over soil or other surfaces. These are made from strong materials like reinforced polyethylene (RPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and are designed to resist punctures, tears and chemical degradation. Heavy-duty membranes are often utilised in applications such as landfill liners, mining heap leach pads, pond liners, and in the construction of tunnels and civil engineering structures to ensure the longevity and safety of the infrastructure and surrounding environments.

Whether for domestic or industrial use, due to their durability, heavy-duty membranes can withstand exposure to harsh environmental conditions, heavy loads, and aggressive chemicals, making them an essential component in construction practices. They are engineered to last, with life expectancies often rated for several decades under normal use conditions.

What is Geo-Textile Weed Control Fabric?

Geo-textile weed control fabrics are porous materials that, when deployed with soil, perform functions such as weed suppression, soil separation, filtration, reinforcement, protection and drainage. Geo-textile fabrics are commonly made from polypropylene or polyester and come available in two main varieties: woven (think a mail bag fabric) and non-woven (like felt).

Close up of woven geotextile fabric. Jpg

Geo-textile Fabric vs. Weed Membrane: Is There a Difference?

There is confusion about the difference between heavy-duty weed membranes and landscaping fabric used for weed control. The truth is that they are all made from the same geo-textile material. For that reason, understanding the difference between a heavy duty membrane and a lighter weed control fabric is really what this article is about.

The main differences in membranes boil down to the way they are produced, the quality and density of the fabric. A heavy duty membrane will usually be woven or non-woven, and the durability further depends on the density of the fibre used. The density is measured in (gsm), or g/m² (grams per square metre), just like your Egyptian cotton sheets. We will refer to these measures in the next section.

Geotextile woven weed membrane covered with bark chippings

Key Features

Not all heavy duty weed membranes are made equal. Whilst the fibre density plays a decisive role, there are a range of other factors which distinguish quality types from the rest. They come in a range of types suited to both residential and commercial applications.

Thick and Durable

A thick garden membrane can be any weed control fabric of a relatively higher gsm than others, because it is a strong indicator of its durability and toughness. For example, where a heavy duty membrane for a gravel driveway might require a minimum of 300 gsm, a lighter, weed control fabric that won't be subjected to traffic wear and tear, might only need to be 100 gsm to perform it's job well.

As a general rule, the denser the fabric, the more resistant it is to punctures, tears and general use, under all conditions. Every situation needs to be assessed individually and the density of the fibre adjusted to the job it needs to perform.

Foot Traffic Resistant

The stresses of trampling from sports, outdoor furniture legs or even the relocation of decorative stones don't necessarily have to inadvertently damage your membrane's surface if the material is strong enough to support it. That's why, in areas with frequent traffic, like driveways, paths, garden pathways or patios, the strength of the fabric is a major factor. Again, the thicker membrane, the more heavy duty work it can perform. But what about the materials the geo-textile fibre is made from?

White chippings path with stepping stones

Sunshine of Your Life

Although weeds need sunlight, many gardeners forget that total sunlight blockage can be detrimental. A good weed membrane strikes the balance: it prevents enough sunlight to slow weed growth without creating a pitch-black environment beneath. Most membranes also have UV resistance built-in, which means they won't degrade rapidly when exposed to the sun.

Permeability for Drainage

Drainage is a very important aspect of gardening. Pooling water in garden areas will stagnate, creating an environment for mosquitoes and bacteria to breed. It also leads to root rot and other diseases for your plants. For that reason, making sure that you have a permeable membrane that allows for good drainage is vital. Typically, the perforated and non-woven types have the best drainage, but there are many woven membranes that are more than capable, too.

Overall, a good quality, a heavy duty weed membrane should address all of the above issues. It should act as a weed membrane, whilst allowing the drainage of water and providing stability to the sub-base and top layer of decorative aggregate.

Flooded gravel garden due to unsuitable weed membrane


Weed membranes are a barrier that prevent weeds growing in a number of different ways. The fabric between the soil and the surface starves weeds, and weed seeds, of their essential element for growth, the sun. The barrier also prevents new seeds from reaching the soil, making germination difficult because they have no substrate to establish their roots in, or to draw nutrients from.

However, because weed control fabric has to be air permeable, there are little holes that will allow the occasional weed to take root. The good news is that they are far less common in an area laid with weed membrane and a lot easier to remove by hand.

Why Weed Control Matters

Weeding a garden is an infamously laborious task that often requires hours of backbreaking work to stay on top of. Yet, preventing weed growth has been an essential part of maintaining gardens since the agrarian age. The thing is that weeds are more than just an eyesore, spoiling the beauty of your planting beds as they outgrow your prized flowers and shrubs.

Weeds also devour the nutrients your plants require for vigorous growth. Weeds can also propagate rapidly, spreading to other parts of your garden and the local area. This cycle is also difficult to break, especially without endless manual removal or the deployment of toxic herbicides. This is where the old adage of the prevention being better than the cure really comes to the fore with using weed membranes.

Weed growing up through a gravel garden. Jpg

Applications That Need Heavy Duty Membranes

There are many applications in decorative aggregate features and landscaping project design, that call for the use of some type of heavy-duty weed membrane.

Stone Pathways

When laying gravel pathways, or those made with other decorative aggregates such as plum slate chippings, a thicker, woven-type of membrane is required for increased durability. The sheets are laid on top of the sub-base to control weeds, help maintain a level surface and keep the aggregates separated from the soil and sub-base. This can ensure it is low maintenance while allowing for proper drainage.

Garden border with decorative ferns

Children's Play Areas

Another common use for a heavy duty weed membrane is on the base of children’s play areas prior to the installation of play bark or recycled rubber mulch as a safety surface for protection from falls. The membrane not only creates a container to manage and collect the loose fill aggregates, but at the same time helps to ensure there is sufficient drainage in the area without weeds.

Play chips in an outdoor play area

Need to work out how much playbark your play area or mulching project needs? Use our free bark calculator.


A heavy duty driveway membrane of at least 150gsm should always be used on top of the compacted sub-base when installing a driveway, without exception. Laying a high-tensile, ground membrane between the decorative aggregate topping and the base, works to support the surface and keep everything neatly in place, whilst reducing weeds from appearing on the established driveway surface.

Plum slatew driveway

Artificial Grass and Rubber Tiles

Installing weed sheets for garden products such as artificial turf, or rubber tiles, also assists in keeping the surface stable and reduces the chance of weeds sprouting. These can create bumps or uneven parts of the play surface as they push up reaching for sunlight.

Weed control fabric underneath artificial grass

Equestrian Surfaces

Heavy duty ground membranes are very important when laying rubber for horse arenas. Due to the demands of course walking and training, the thickness and width of the membrane should usually be a minimum of 300gsm, with 500gsm being the ideal thickness for maximum, hard-wearing performance.

1two horses in a field image by leopictures from

Tips on Laying Weed Control Membrane

In this section, we outline the basics of how to lay a membrane in general settings. While this method applies to most projects, we cover the specifics for different applications in related DIY articles, found here and here.

Prepare the Ground

Clear the area of weeds, ensuring the ground is level. When laying membrane on a sub base, ensure you create a level surface by using a flattening tool such as a plate compactor or roller.

Laying the Fabric

Depending on your needs, you can choose to purchase a membrane which comes in a roll or in folded plastic sheet. There are advantages to buying the membrane in a roll, especially if the membrane is less than 125 GSM density. They more dense the fabric, the flatter it will lay when you are trying to cut it.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a way to cover the entire area with a single piece, membrane is also available in folded sheets and can be a very good option. So, keep these factors in mind when you are choosing how the membrane is sold.

1installing weed membrane onto a garden border. Jpg

Ensuring Overlap

Where are you are using multiple sheets or a roll, it is advisable to leave at least 10 cm minimum overlap wherever you are laying the membrane. Most come with handy grid lines to assist you with lining them up.

Anchoring with Pegs

Landscaping pegs are an important accessory for installation. Using them as a guide while you are setting the sheets down can save you from the troubles caused by wind. Just knock them in a little way with a mallet, as you go around, until you are satisfied with coverage.

1mallet metal pegs and gardening gloves to secure weed control fabric


Occasional inspections of your installation is the most common maintenance you will need to perform. Making sure that the topping is kept even will protect the fabric best. However tears can happen, and if they do, it is best to patch them as soon as possible. This is done best by cutting a piece of fabric at least 20 cm larger on each side, and then placing it over the hole.


We have established that the understanding the names given to weed membranes is less important than knowing the density of the fabric. The thickness of the fabric usually determines its durability and the suitability to the different types of applications. Permeability for drainage is another crucial factor that must be factored in when deciding which membrane is best for your needs.

In summary, a heavy duty membrane is usually required for applications built for traffic, whether from cars, horses or children playing. For everything else, a lighter weight landscaping fabric will usually do the job. So, now that you have the lowdown on the toughest type of garden weed control, what are you waiting for - lay it down! And happy gardening!

1golden gravel garden border with shrubs


Can I put landscape fabric over weeds?

Yes, you can put landscape fabric over weeds. Its function is to establish a permeable barrier between the soil and the weeds, blocking the sunlight and water essential to the growth of weeds. For domestic purposes, a perforated weed fabric is the most cost-effective option.

When you're laying the landscape fabric, it is important to make sure that the fabric overlaps and is firmly affixed with sufficient landscaping pins. Also, it is best to eliminate any pre-existing weeds prior to installation.

How long does heavy duty weed barrier last?

Heavy-duty weed barriers are designed for longevity, with a lifespan ranging from 2 to 15 years, depending on their quality and material composition. Unlike plastic sheets, which require annual replacement due to their tendency to deteriorate quickly, high-grade fabric weed barriers provide a more durable and sustainable solution. These fabrics also offer superior performance in weed control, which is why they are the preferred choice for gardeners and landscapers seeking a long-term solution.

What membrane stops weeds coming through?

Weed membranes are the most effective barrier for stopping weeds from coming through your garden beds and decorative features. Installing the heavy-duty types is essential to maintaining clear areas beneath patios, gravel pathways and various outdoor structures. These geotextile fabrics are engineered to allow water permeability, ensuring that the underlying soil remains nourished and healthy.

Can you put weed mat on top of weeds?

Yes, you can put weed mat on top of weeds, but removing as many existing weeds as possible, as well as any old matting, is highly recommended to guarantee the best weed control possible. When laying the new weed membrane, securing its edges firmly to the ground is a crucial step needed to prevent weeds from growing out from around the edges or through any gaps. Also, it's important to ensure the fabric is intact, without any holes or cuts that could allow sunlight that could encourage future weed growth.

Should weed barrier fabric be shiny side up or down?

A weed barrier fabric should be shiny side up, and the duller side should be oriented downwards against the soil. The fuzzy side is designed for optimal adhesion to the soil to help the fabric stay in place, while the shiny side helps in reflecting light, contributing to the suppression of weed growth.

What is the most weed resistant ground cover?

Selecting the most weed-resistant ground cover is a natural way to significantly reduce maintenance efforts in your garden. Among the top choices are Creeping Thyme and Elfin Thyme, both known for their dense growth that suppresses weeds, alongside Irish Moss and Green Carpet Rupturewort, which form compact mats that leave little room for weeds to emerge.

Sedum Stonecrop, with its thick, succulent leaves, provides a tough barrier against weed invasion, while Leptinella (Brass Buttons) offers a unique texture that also discourages weeds. Sweet Woodruff and Periwinkle are also excellent options, as they establish quickly and form a dense cover that effectively outcompetes weeds.

These ground covers minimise weed growth while adding beauty and diversity to your landscape.

What thickness of weed barrier do I need?

The optimal thickness of a weed barrier largely depends on the specific requirements of your garden project. A 30 gsm barrier is generally sufficient for controlling common weeds. However, a thicker, heavy-duty weed membrane may be necessary for more challenging jobs. This thicker material can also play a crucial role in managing tree root growth and directing water flow within your garden, serving multiple purposes and improving the overall health and appearance of your garden space.

There are many varieties of stone chippings available for your project. Check out 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.