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Crushed Stone vs. Gravel: Understanding the Differences and Uses


When it comes to construction materials, two of the most commonly used aggregates are crushed stone and gravel. Although they might seem similar at first glance, they possess distinct characteristics and serve unique purposes. Crushed stone, as the name implies, is made from larger rocks that have been broken down through a crushing machine. It […]

Man's hand holding a handful of crushed stone

When it comes to construction materials, two of the most commonly used aggregates are crushed stone and gravel. Although they might seem similar at first glance, they possess distinct characteristics and serve unique purposes.

Crushed stone, as the name implies, is made from larger rocks that have been broken down through a crushing machine. It often includes a mixture of stones and rock dust, which creates a stable, compactable material. Its rough texture aids in binding and provides a strong foundation for construction projects.

On the other hand, gravel is naturally rounded and smoothed over time through natural processes like weathering and erosion. It’s found in riverbeds and other natural environments. The shapes and sizes of the particles can vary greatly, but they are generally larger and smoother than crushed stone.

Comparing the Physical Characteristics

Size and Shape

The size and shape of crushed stone and gravel vary significantly. Crushed stone is typically larger and has rough, jagged edges. These edges allow the material to lock together and create a firm surface. Meanwhile, gravel is usually smaller and naturally rounded, providing a softer, more aesthetic appearance.

Colour and Appearance

Crushed stone tends to come in a wider variety of colours due to the minerals present in the parent rock, making it suitable for landscaping and decorative applications. Gravel, on the other hand, is commonly found in lighter, earthy hues like brown, tan, or gray.

Common Uses of Crushed Stone and Gravel

Road and Path Construction

Crushed stone is often used for road and path construction due to its stability and ability to withstand heavy loads. Its irregular shape helps it interlock when compacted, providing a sturdy base layer. On the other hand, gravel is commonly used for more decorative pathways and garden trails due to its natural aesthetic.

Landscaping

Gravel, with its smooth and rounded appearance, is preferred for landscaping projects, including garden paths, water features, and rock gardens. Crushed stone, given its diverse color range, can also be used for decorative landscaping purposes.

Drainage

Both crushed stone and gravel serve as excellent drainage materials. Gravel is often used in French drains, septic drainage fields, and other drainage applications, while crushed stone is used in similar applications where a firmer base is needed.

Cost Differences

The cost of crushed stone and gravel can vary based on several factors, including their source, the cost of transport, and the sizes and types required for your project. Generally, crushed stone tends to be more expensive than gravel. The processing and mining costs associated with crushed stone are usually higher, driving up its overall price.

On the other hand, gravel, being a naturally occurring material, typically incurs lower production costs. However, costs can also be influenced by factors like the distance from the source to the project site, the quantity required, and the specific type of gravel chosen.

Durability and Maintenance

When it comes to durability and maintenance, both crushed stone and gravel have unique characteristics that make them more suitable for specific applications. The type of aggregate you choose largely depends on the project requirements and the long-term maintenance you’re willing to undertake.

Crushed Stone: The Durable Choice

Crushed stone stands out for its exceptional durability. Created from hard rock, it is crushed and screened to achieve the desired size and shape, usually angular. These angular shapes interlock well, providing a stable surface that resists shifting under load. This durability is largely due to the inherent hardness of the rock types used, such as granite, limestone, or trap rock.

This material’s hardness also makes it highly resistant to weathering, erosion, and wear, which is why it’s often the aggregate of choice for heavy-traffic areas like driveways, car parks, and certain types of road constructions. Its sturdiness makes it particularly suitable for foundational work, where a reliable and durable material is paramount.

Gravel: Easy Maintenance

On the other hand, gravel, while not as durable as crushed stone, typically requires less maintenance. Naturally rounded by the action of water in rivers or oceans, gravel doesn’t interlock in the same way as crushed stone, which means it tends to shift less.

However, the softer nature of gravel means it can wear down more quickly in high-traffic areas, requiring more frequent replenishment. Despite this, many prefer gravel for residential driveways or garden paths because of its softer, more natural look and feel. Furthermore, it’s often easier to install and replace, reducing the workload for maintenance and repair.

Environmental Impact

Both crushed stone and gravel have their environmental considerations. The production of crushed stone involves mining and crushing, which can have a significant environmental impact due to emissions from mining operations and energy usage.

On the other hand, while gravel extraction can also cause environmental disruption, it’s often less intensive than crushed stone production. Plus, gravel is a naturally occurring material that doesn’t require energy-intensive processing.

However, both materials can be sourced locally in many areas, reducing the need for long-distance transport and associated carbon emissions. Furthermore, both crushed stone and gravel can be recycled, reducing the need for new material production and thus contributing to more sustainable construction practices.

A.L. Blair’s Stone and Gravel Products

At A.L. Blair Construction, we pride ourselves on supplying a diverse range of high-quality stone and gravel products. Understanding the unique characteristics and uses of each, we ensure our clients choose the most suitable material for their projects. From durable crushed stone suitable for heavy-duty construction to aesthetically pleasing gravel perfect for landscaping, we have it all.

Not only do we guarantee quality in our materials, but we are also committed to sustainable sourcing and production methods, thereby reducing our environmental impact. Trust us for your aggregate needs, and together, let’s build a stronger, more sustainable future.

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Jon Blair
Jon Blair is an integral part of the A.L. Blair Construction team, a company that has been setting high standards in the aggregate industry since 1932. With a heritage deeply rooted in Eastern Ontario, Jon is committed to delivering quality and reliability in every project.

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