What is the Difference Between Gravel and Shingle Stone?

Difference Between Gravel and Shingle Stone

When it comes to landscaping materials for driveways, walkways, and decorative elements, gravel and shingle stones are two popular options. While both materials may appear similar at first glance, they actually differ in several ways. For instance, gravel is typically made up of small rock fragments, while shingle is composed of larger stones. In terms of size, gravel is usually smaller than shingles, with a maximum diameter of around 2 inches, whereas shingles can be up to 10 inches in diameter. 

Overall, while gravel and shingle may look similar, their differences in composition, size, uses, and maintenance needs make them distinct options for landscaping projects. By understanding gravel vs shingle stone, you can make an informed decision about which material will best suit your landscaping needs.

What is Gravel?

Gravel is a loose aggregation of rock fragments constructed through the weathering and erosion of rocks over time. The fragments are often rounded from being tumbled in rivers and streams, giving gravel its characteristic smooth, rounded shape.

Gravel can consist of any rock type, but it is typically made up of hard rocks like granite, limestone, quartzite, sandstone, and basalt. The size of gravel ranges from 2-64mm in diameter, with most driveway gravel sized between 20-40mm.

Some key things to know about gravel:

  • Composition – fragments of hard rock like granite, limestone, etc.
  • Size – 2-64mm, with driveway gravel typically 20-40mm
  • Shape – rounded and smooth from tumbling in water
  • Uses – driveways, paths, patios, landscaping, drainage
  • Colors – wide variety, depending on rock type

What is Shingle?

Shingle is a landscaping material that consists of small, flat pieces of stone. The most common type of shingle is natural stone shingle made from slate. Slate shingle is made by splitting thin slices of natural slate stone.

The slate is split into irregular angular shapes with sharp edges. The surface is smooth and flat, rather than rounded like gravel. Slate shingle sizes range from about 1/8″ to 1/2″ thick and 2″ to 12″ across.

Other key things about shingle stone:

  • Composition – natural slate stone
  • Size – 1/8″ to 1/2″ thick, 2″ to 12″ across
  • Shape – flat, angular, and irregular
  • Uses – landscaping, patios, walkways
  • Colors – slate shingles come in grey, purple, green, and black

So in summary, shingle consists of thin, flat pieces of natural stone, while gravel is made of rounded rock fragments.

Key Differences Between Gravel and Shingle

Key Differences Between Gravel and Shingle

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what gravel and shingle stone are, let’s look at some of the key differences between the two materials:

Feature Gravel Shingle
Composition Various hard rocks like granite, limestone, etc. Slate stone
Size 2-64mm, typically 20-40mm for driveways 1/8″ to 1/2″ thick, 2″ to 12″ across
Shape Rounded and smooth Angular and irregular with flat faces
Uses Driveways, drainage, informal paths, patios, landscaping accents Formal patios, walkways, landscaping accents
Texture Coarse and gritty Smooth and flat
Color Variety depending on rock type Grey, purple, green, black from slate
Cost Affordable, lower cost More expensive than gravel
Maintenance Requires raking and smoothing It may need replacing broken pieces


  • Gravel can consist of any rock type depending on the source, while shingle is made from slate stone.


  • Gravel particles range from 2-64mm, while shingle pieces are 1/8″ to 1/2″ thick and 2″ to 12″ across.


  • Gravel particles are rounded and smooth, while shingle pieces have an angular, irregular shape with flat faces.


  • Gravel is more versatile and can be used for driveways, paths, patios, drainage, landscaping accents, and more. Shingle has a more limited use for walkways, patios, and landscaping.


  • Gravel has a coarse, gritty texture, while shingle has a smooth, flat finish.


  • Gravel comes in a wide variety of natural rock colors. Slate shingle is limited to grey, purple, green, and black.


  • Gravel is one of the most affordable and cost-effective landscaping materials. Slate shingles is significantly more expensive than gravel.


  • Gravel requires raking to smooth out and prevent erosion. Slate shingles may need to be replaced over time as pieces crack or break.

Uses for Gravel vs. Shingle

Due to their different properties, gravel and shingle each work better for certain applications than others:

Gravel Uses

  • Driveways – The coarse texture provides traction for tires. Gravel driveways are affordable and low maintenance.
  • Paths and walkways – Garden paths and informal walkways commonly use gravel for their natural look and drainage properties.
  • Patios – Decorative gravel creates a stylish, rustic patio. It’s budget-friendly and easy to install.
  • Drainage – Gravel effectively allows water drainage in areas like French drains and drainage ditches.
  • Landscaping accents – Gravel pairs nicely with gardens, flower beds, fountains, and other yard features.
  • Fish ponds – Decorative pea gravel helps prevent soil from clouding pond water.

Shingle Uses

  • Formal walkways – The flat face of the shingle creates a tidy, refined walkway surface.
  • Patios – Shingle patios have a unique, upscale look perfect for entertaining spaces.
  • Landscaping accents – Shingle creates striking visual interest as a decorative border or fill.
  • Retaining walls – Shingle is durable enough to build attractive retaining walls.
  • Steps – Use shingle pieces to construct stair treads and risers.

So in summary, gravel is the better choice for driveways, informal paths, drainage, and large accent areas due to the affordable cost and gravel’s texture. Shingle works best for creating formal walkways, patios, and decorative accents where a flatter, more refined look is desired.

Tips for Working with Gravel vs. Shingle

If you’ve decided to use either gravel or shingle for your project, keep these tips in mind:

Gravel Tips

  • Use landscape fabric under gravel to prevent weeds.
  • Choose angular gravel for stability, or rounded for a smoother finish.
  • Compact and level the gravel to prevent shifting and indentation.
  • Allow 1-2 inches of extra depth for proper gravel compaction.
  • Rake occasionally to smooth out gravel and fill any holes.
  • Replenish gravel annually as needed to maintain coverage.

Shingle Tips

  • Create a level, compacted base as you would for a paver patio.
  • Allow for proper drainage under the shingle to prevent pooling.
  • Use shingle pieces of similar thickness for a consistent look.
  • Tamp shingles into place to lock pieces together firmly.
  • Fill gaps with extra pieces or stone dust rather than gravel.
  • Expect to replace broken or cracked pieces over time.

Following these best practices will help ensure your gravel or shingle project looks great and performs as expected!

Pros and Cons of Gravel vs. Shingle

We’ve covered a lot of differences between these two materials, so let’s summarize some of the key pros and cons of gravel and shingle:

Gravel Pros

  • Very affordable material
  • Easy DIY installation
  • Variety of colors and textures
  • Natural, rustic appearance
  • Provides good drainage
  • Durable for driveways and paths

Gravel Cons

  • Can shift out of place over time
  • Can scatter from foot or tire traffic
  • Requires more frequent raking and smoothing
  • Not the most formal look for patios or walkways

Shingle Pros

  • Sleek, upscale appearance
  • Flatter surface than gravel
  • Creates formal walkways and patios
  • Unique visual interest and textures

Shingle Cons

  • More expensive than gravel
  • Limited color options with slate
  • Not ideal for driving areas
  • Pieces can crack or break over time

How to Choose Between Gravel vs. Shingle

So when deciding whether gravel or shingle is right for your project, consider these key factors:

  • Budget – Gravel is far more affordable if cost is a concern
  • Project type – Gravel for driveways and informal areas, shingle for decorative patios
  • Aesthetic – Rustic and natural gravel or sleek, modern shingle look?
  • Maintenance – Gravel requires raking while shingle may need replacing pieces.
  • Durability – Gravel withstands driving, shingle is too fragile.
  • Drainage – Gravel promotes drainage, shingle can allow pooling if not installed properly.

If you keep these considerations in mind, you’ll be able to choose the best material for your unique needs and have beautiful results!


What is the Difference Between Gravel and Shingle Stone

When comparing gravel vs. shingle stone, the main considerations are the differences in composition, size, shape, uses, and maintenance needs. Gravel offers an affordable, versatile landscaping material perfect for driveways, drainage, and informal paths where a natural look is desired. For more refined patios and walkways with a contemporary appeal, slate shingle is an elegant choice despite the higher cost.

Choosing between gravel and shingle depends on your budget, project needs, and the aesthetic you hope to achieve. If planned and installed properly, both can create a beautiful, long-lasting addition to your landscape. Knowing what sets these two materials apart allows you to select the right one to bring your yard vision to life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of gravel is best for driveways?

For driveways, crushed gravel made from stone chips of 20-40mm size works best. Look for angular gravel rather than smooth, as it compacts together well for stability. Granite gravel is a great option for strength and an attractive appearance.

Can you use shingle pieces for a driveway?

Shingle is not a good choice for driveways because the thin, flat pieces will crack and break under the weight of vehicles driving over them. The shingle is better suited for walkways where it will not be directly driven on. Gravel is the recommended material for driveway use.

Is installing a shingle patio difficult?

Installing a shingle patio takes more time and care than a simple gravel patio, but it is not overly difficult.

The key steps are:

  • Dig out and level the area to create a solid base as you would for a paver patio.
  • Install edging around the perimeter to keep the shingle contained.
  • Spread 1-2 inches of crushed stone dust over the base and tamp it down.
  • Lay the shingle pieces in your desired pattern, tamping them flush into the stone dust. Use a rubber mallet to gently tap pieces together.
  • Fill gaps between pieces with stone dust rather than gravel so it matches the shingle color.
  • Every so often, tamp the entire area again to keep pieces locked in place.

Go slowly and focus on creating a level, tightly fitted shingle surface. Having the right base preparation makes the job much easier. Follow the steps carefully and your shingle patio can turn out just as beautifully as a professional job.

What is the most affordable way to decorate my yard with stone?

For affordably adding stone on a budget, gravel is the best option. A simple gravel pathway lined with edging and raked smooth creates a nice look for just a few dollars per bag. For flowerbeds or accent areas, pea gravel gives a finished look for less cost than mulch or shingle. Go for softer, rounded river rock gravel for the most natural effect. With creative gravel use, you can get a beautiful stone look that goes easy on your wallet.

How often does shingle stone need to be replaced?

Slate shingle is a durable material, but pieces may need occasional replacing every 5-10 years depending on climate and usage. In colder regions, freeze-thaw cycles can crack and break down slate over time. Pieces along heavily used walkways may also crack from foot traffic. Plan to inspect your shingle once a year and replace damaged pieces as needed to maintain its aesthetic. Proper installation and draining help minimize shingle deterioration. With routine maintenance, most shingle patios will only need minor repairs over the years.

Can I use decomposed granite instead of gravel?

Decomposed granite makes an attractive alternative to traditional gravel. It contains small pieces of granite that form a compact, solid surface similar to gravel. The fine texture has a very natural, earthy appearance. Decomposed granite stabilizes well for pathways and driveways. One downside is cost, as it is typically more expensive than gravel. Overall, decomposed granite can make a beautiful, unique alternative to standard pea gravel.

Author: Brielle Walker

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