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Crushed Stone vs. Pea Gravel: What’s the Difference?

January 6, 2016

Whether you’re looking to add some landscaping or are trying to find the best aggregate for a project, two popular options you will consider are crushed stone and pea gravel. Some people may believe that these two products are interchangeable, and while each can be used for similar applications, they’re not entirely the same.

To the untrained eye, crushed stone and pea gravel may both just be some form of rock, but each one serves its own purpose and has its own specific set of uses. From shape and size, to applications, to even cost, these two materials are different. Thankfully, if you’re stuck in the crushed stone vs. pea gravel debate, we’ll clarify it all for you below.

What are the size and shape differences?

When you compare the two, the biggest differences you’ll notice are the sizes and shapes. Although gravel can come in a variety of sizes, pea gravel is typically 3/8”. It is often softer to the touch too thanks to its rounded and smooth sides. Plus, pea gravel comes in a variety of different colors, including neutral colors like brown and gray, as well as more eye-catching colors like red and blue.

Crushed stone is available in a variety of sizes, from 3/8” to 4”. Because it is literally crushed stone, there is no consistency to its shape. The edges tend to be sharper and it feels rougher to the touch than pea gravel. Also, most crushed stone will either be in a white or gray hue, giving you a more neutral look than the colorful pea gravel.

What is crushed stone used for?

There are many different uses for crushed stone, but it is typically used as an aggregate for underground projects. Many contractors prefer to use ½” or ¾” crushed stone as a subbase material before laying concrete. Since it’s durable, it is also regularly used for backfill, drainage solutions, or pipe bedding. Larger crushed stone, such as CA6 or CA5, is typically used for parking lots, driveways, shoulder stone, or railroad ballast. While it is typically found in underground applications, there are some people who opt to use crushed stone for landscape beds or as decorative rock around walkways.

With crushed stone, it’s important to consider its texture. Crushed stone can be easily tamped or rolled into place, which creates a more stable surface for areas such as driveways. However, because it has rougher edges, it may not be the best choice for areas such as playgrounds or dog runs.

What is pea gravel used for?

Because of its size, texture, and color, pea gravel is typically used for more above-ground projects and applications. Many home and building owners opt to use pea gravel to accent gardens or flower beds. The different color options allow pea gravel to complement the landscaping or to stand out from the foliage. Since it has a smooth finish, pea gravel is also regularly used for walkways, dog runs, playgrounds, patios, and a variety of other high-traffic areas. Like crushed stone, pea gravel can also be used for underground projects, such as drainage and pipe bedding. It’s also a good choice when looking for fence post installation aggregate.

When considering pea gravel, it’s important to understand how its size can impact a project. Because it’s small, pea gravel will move easily if not edged properly. If you’re going to add it to a walkway or a flower bed, be sure that you have concrete blocks or landscape trim set up to keep the pea gravel in place. It’s also important to note that pea gravel will retain heat, which can be bad for some plants. If you want to use this in a garden or flower bed, be sure you choose plants that will last in pea gravel, such as Spanish poppy, evergreens, and even thyme.

What is the cost difference?

The cost of pea gravel and crushed stone will vary depending on where you live, the specific type, and how much of that product you will need. To determine exactly how much each option would cost for your specific project, it’s a good idea to get a materials price estimate from a local supplier. This way, you’ll be able to determine exactly which option is the most cost-effective for your project.

Knowing the difference between crushed stone and pea gravel can ensure your project runs smoothly from start to finish. If you have questions, be sure to contact a materials specialist for more detailed information on the right product to choose.

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