Last Modified: April 2, 2024

Slate For Pathways

Primer For The Amateur Landscape Designer

Path with slate paving

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist

Overview

Using slate for pathways, with their composition of durability and aesthetic appeal, makes it an ideal choice for constructing striking garden paths. The diversity in colour and tactile pleasures of grey slate introduce a transformative allure, set to amplify your garden's visual grandeur.

In this primer, we provide a general introduction to the topic of using slate chippings for paths and walkways. It's especially for people who are considering the installation of a slate path and would like to find out a bit more about the materials and process. For now, we will cover the main issues and considerations for planning a garden slate path. Let's go!

Just a quick note about our new tool, called the 'Pebble Picker', in the sidebar or menu. It allows you to effortlessly browse and choose from every decorative aggregate based on their colour and type.

Slate blue chipping path

Key Takeaways

  • Size Matters: Selecting the appropriate chipping size for a path is essential to achieving a few practical goals.
  • Optimal slate chippings size for pathways typically range from 6mm to 20mm in diameter.
  • Sub-base: Laying a sub-base is key to a durable slate path.
  • Gravel Grids: Using gravel grids for sloping installations is key to a stable surface.
Grey chip driveway

The Charm Choosing Slate for Garden Paths

Versatile Decorative Aggregates

Choosing slate chippings for garden paths makes a lot of sense; they are low maintenance and super versatile, commonly used in landscaping features ranging from water features and borders, to rockeries and as mulch. Also, due to the fact that slate chippings look great wet, and are non-toxic to aquatic life, they are a great alternative suitable for ponds and aquariums.

Slate chippings are rarely affected by weather or erosion, making them a great choice for adding vibrant colours, whilst reducing weed growth and weed germination. This is where they come into their own for building slate paths. But, the size of the slate chipping is important to consider when making a slate pathway.

First, let's look briefly look at the types of slate chippings widely available.

Path with chipped slate and cobblestone edging

The Colours of Slate Chippings

Slate chippings come in a variety of colours and sizes which make them capable of catering to diverse landscaping needs. The most commonly available types of slate include plum, blue, green, black and grey.

Plum slate chippings exhibit a deep, rich colour that adds a vibrant contrast to garden spaces. Blue slate chippings, known for their calming and elegant appearance, are often chosen to evoke a serene atmosphere. Green slate chippings offer a natural and earthy touch, seamlessly blending into outdoor environments. Grey slate chippings, with their understated charm, provide a neutral backdrop that complements various design styles. Black slate chips can be used to create a clean, modern look. Rustic slate reflects more light, adding Autumnal tones to the overall aesthetic.

If you are looking for a particular colour of stone, head to the sidebar and check out our Pebble Picker.

Each type of slate chipping has its unique aesthetic qualities, allowing homeowners and landscapers to select a colour that best aligns with their creative vision and desired ambience.

Slate sizes mini mulch to boulders

Selecting the Right Size Chippings for Paths

Selecting the appropriate chipping size for a path is essential to achieving a few practical goals. Optimal slate chippings size typically range from 6mm to 20mm in diameter. This size range ensures a comfortable and stable walking surface while facilitating proper water drainage. Smaller chippings flatten more effectively, creating a compact path suitable for more comfortable walks. On the other hand, larger 40mm slate chippings can provide a more rustic appearance, but are generally less comfortable underfoot.

Raking grey slate path

Need to work out how many slate chippings your  project needs? Try our free gravel calculator.

Steps for Constructing a Slate Path

Next we briefly touch on the crucial steps for constructing a slate path. It is very much the same process as the one we cover in the DIY guide on how to lay slate chippings, except that it is best practice to add a compacted sub-base for stability and longevity.

  1. 1
    Design: Start by designing the path. Use a hose or a rope weighted with water to outline the path. Make it fit to your design goals.
  2. 2
    Preparation: Remove all vegetation and level the ground. Excavate 10 - 15cm (or more) deep to make room for the the sub-base and slate.
  3. 3
    Building the Sub-base: Fill the base with MOT type 1 sub-base material, or ballast, and use a flattening tool to compact a sturdy sub-base.
  4. 4
    Lay Weed Membrane: Install a weed membrane for stability and to reduce weed germination from disturbing the path in future.
  5. 5
    Gravel Grids: At this point, if you are building a pathway with a gradient, gravel stabiliser grids should be inserted.
  6. 6
    Add the Slate: Arrange the slate pieces onto the foundation. You could also choose to use larger slate blocks for a polished look.

We also have an easy to follow, step-by-step guide in our DIY section on how to build a slate path.

Measuring for pathway. Jpg
Marking out an area with string
Laying heavy diuty weed membrane. Jpg

Maintaining Your Slate Pathway

Maintaining a slate walking path is quite simple. The occasional redistribution of chips to keep the surface even, and sweeping or spot weeding is usually enough to keep it tidy. For stubborn build up, washing the chippings with a power hose will usually do the trick. In the event of slate naturally turning white, avoid using harsh chemicals that may damage the surface of the stone. Find out more about how to tackle that issue and more, in how to clean garden stones.

How to clean garden stones

Gravel Grids for Paths with Gradients

When installing slate chippings on a sloped surface, it's important to use hexagonal gravel grids. These grids are essential to prevent the slate chippings from accumulating at the base of the slope. By distributing the weight evenly and providing a stable structure, the grids ensure that the slate remains securely in place and resists the forces of gravity that might otherwise cause it to gather at the bottom of the slope. This not only helps preserve the feature's appearance but also reduces the need for more frequent upkeep. It helps maintain the slate's integrity and evenness over time, resulting in a visually pleasing and long-lasting outcome.

Rake and a shovel with plum slate

Conclusion

Choosing slate for your garden path is not only an aesthetically pleasing decision, but also a practical and environmentally-friendly one. With proper installation and diligent upkeep, a well-constructed slate path can be a lasting and visually stunning addition to your garden, offering numerous benefits and a timeless appeal. Are you ready to renovate your outdoor space?

1garden path with plum stones and conifer

FAQs

Is slate good for garden path?

Slate chips exhibit remarkable versatility and are exceptionally well-suited for various landscape applications, encompassing pathways along river-fronts and enhancing striking rock formations. The increasing popularity of slate further underscores its prominence.

What size slate chippings for path?

The ideal size of slate chippings for a path depends on the intended use and the style of the garden. In general, chippings between 10mm to 20mm in size are most commonly used for garden paths.

Do you need to put membrane under slate chippings?

Using a membrane beneath slate chippings in garden paths can inhibit weed growth and promote a more durable and stable surface. The membrane acts as a barrier, reducing maintenance efforts and enhancing the longevity of the path's aesthetic appeal.

How do you prepare ground for slate chippings?

To prepare the ground for slate chippings, begin by clearing the area of any debris or vegetation. Next, ensure a level surface and lay down a weed suppressant fabric before evenly spreading and compacting a layer of crushed stone as a stable base for the slate chippings.

Can you lay slate chippings on a slope?

Yes, you can lay slate chippings on a slope, but it's important to ensure proper installation of gravel grids in sloping areas. Also, creating a stable base and using appropriate edging can help prevent erosion and maintain the integrity of the chippings on the incline.

There are many great garden ideas using slate chippings. Get the fundamentals and be inspired!

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.