Gravel Pads: The 9 Top Places to Use Them

A gravel pad for a shed foundation

While crushed stone/gravel pads are most commonly used as foundations for sheds, there are quite a few other uses for these versatile landscape features. Gravel pads can support parking lots, outdoor buildings, pool equipment, hunting blinds, garden paths, hot tubs, horse barns, and tons more.

It’s important to note that “gravel” pads, as referred to in this article, are actually made with crushed stone. Real gravel, or “river stone,” is smooth and has round edges, meaning it cannot be compacted and is unsuitable for use as a foundation or weight-bearing pad.

It is recommended to check with your local building department to make sure a gravel pad meets local building requirements for the intended use. Also, give your local utilities a call (811) before you begin any excavation and risk damage to the phone, cable, gas, water, and electricity lines on your property.

1. Gravel Pad for Shed Foundation

A gravel pad for a shed foundation with the completed shed

Gravel pads are one of the most economical and inexpensive types of shed foundations out there. They drain much quicker than concrete pads. Additionally, a gravel pad helps to protect the runners of the shed from rotting and decaying. There are companies (like us) that specialize in professional shed foundation installation. (If you want to DIY your gravel shed foundation, check out our guide on how to build a gravel shed foundation.)

2. Gravel Pad for Gazebo Foundation

A gravel pad for a gazebo foundation

Adding a new gazebo to your property is exciting, but it requires careful planning. A gravel pad makes a great gazebo foundation, as it allows water to drain away from the base of the gazebo. Gravel pads for gazebos are a relatively simple type of foundation and can be installed on any property.

A gravel pad for a gazebo can be installed professionally by a landscaper or a dedicated site preparation company or you can build it yourself with the right tools and knowledge. There are the essential features, such as ground leveling, maintaining stability, and drainage systems that need to be considered when building your own gazebo foundation.

3. Gravel Pad for Horse Barn Foundation

A gravel pad for a horse barn foundation

When it comes to building a gravel pad for your horse barn, it is a good idea to consult a site preparation professional. Gravel pads for horse barns typically require stone dust instead of larger crushed stone used in other types of gravel pads; large crushed aggregates or gravel can be hard on horses’ feet and medium or small stones can become lodged in hoofs. Stone dust protects horses while still reducing mud and keeping the paddock in good condition.

Small horse shelters (run-in sheds or loafing sheds) are often placed directly on a stone dust pad. For larger horse barns, concrete footers may be required to support the weight of the building; they area around the footers can then be filled in with stone dust as usual.

You can see examples of completed gravel horse barn foundations here.

4. Gravel Parking Pad

A gravel parking pad with lumber retaining walls

Gravel pads can make an excellent option for a parking area, both in residential, small business, and commercial applications. Gravel (or crushed aggregate, more specifically) can be an especially good choice in rural areas or if you already have a gravel driveway. 

Although asphalt and concrete parking lots are more common in urban contexts, they face specific issues that gravel parking pads do not. Affordability and permeability are two of the significant factors that make gravel parking pads an appealing choice. Grass parking and dirt driveways are other options, but they are generally not long-term parking solutions due to erosion and other concerns.

Gravel parking pads strike a good balance in many regards as they are relatively inexpensive, stable, well-drained, and erosion-resistant.

5. Gravel Pad Under Deck

A gravel pad under a deck

When building a deck, what you place under the deck can be just as important as the materials you choose for the surface. Pouring a layer of gravel on the ground under the deck helps you maximize the performance of your new deck. 

Weed management is one common reason for adding a gravel pad under a deck. This is a particulary important concern if the deck is more than a few feet off the ground, as the additional light coming in from the sides will encourage dormant weed seeds to germinate. Even with lower decks, some weed seeds might sprout if the ground is uncovered, eventually pushing up between the deck boards as unsightly intruders. A gravel pad under a deck can help keep weeds in check.

Erosion control is another reason to add a gravel pad under a deck. The area under a deck should be graded away from the house to keep water from pooling around the foundation or entering the basement. However, on steep slopes it’s important to make sure that the dirt itself doesn’t wash away. A gravel pad or a layer of larger aggregates can be a great way to keep the soil in place.

For decks that are at or close to the second story level, a gravel pad under the deck can serve as an easy and affordable way to add usable space for storage or other activities. It serves the same function as pavers or a concrete pad, but is much easier to install (and more affordable than concrete). In fact, some folks even place a shed on the gravel pad under their deck, making it functionally a shed foundation. (The photo above shows a deck with a gravel pad beneath that will serve as a shed foundation.)

6. Gravel Pad for Garden Path

A gravel pad for a garden path and shed

Garden gravel paths are an easy and straightforward way to add more to your garden. It is much cheaper to install than pavement and can better blend into any setting, especially if you are able to choose a colored stone. Gravel garden paths can be built with crushed aggregate ranging in size from stone dust up to 1/2″ or 3/4″ clean stone.

Having a gravel garden path will give you easy access to different parts of your garden by creating designated walking areas. It can help to prevent your plants from being stepped on and give you an excellent area to stroll through and enjoy your garden.

The best part is that it doesn’t necessarily require expert installation; just about anyone can build a gravel garden path.

7. Gravel Pad for Hot Tub

PC: Master Spas of Northern WI

A gravel base is an excellent way to ensure regular water drainage around your outdoor hot tub. It is a popular hot tub foundation because it can both easily drain water and handle the weight of a hot tub. There is no standard hot tub weight, but a two or three-person hot tub can weigh almost 500 pounds empty and 3000 pounds when filled with water.

When planning a gravel pad for a hot tub, it’s a good idea to account for the additional weight by adding a heavy-duty stabilization fabric or geotextile beneath the gravel. The gravel (crushed stone, technically) should be compacted well before placing the hot tub on it.

8. Gravel Pad for Pool Equipment

A gravel pad for pool equipment

A gravel pad can be a great option for keeping the area around your pool equipment in neat, orderly condition. In similar fashion to other gravel pad applications, a pool equipment gravel pad helps excess moisture to drain away from the equipment quickly. Plus, it will keep weeds down, help to absorb equipment vibrations, and keep the area around the pool equipment easy to access for repairs, filter changes, etc.

9. Gravel Pad for Generator

A gravel pad for a generator

PC: Masters Generator & Electrical Service

Backup and standby generators are heavy pieces of equipment and need to be adequately supported when placed at a home or business. Placing a generator on a gravel pad can be a relatively affordable option compared to pouring a dedicated concrete pad. While industrial-grade generators may require a concrete base, a gravel pad is often fine for residential and small-business generators. It’s usually a good idea to contact the generator manufacturer or supplier to verify that a gravel pad will be sufficient for a specific generator model.

Summary: The Benefits of a Gravel Pad

Gravel pads offer a lot a benefits as part of construction projects. Some of the main reasons to choose a gravel pad include:

Affordability

Practically, gravel pads are an economical way to build a foundation as they are much less expensive than concrete pads. In many cases, a gravel pad only costs about ⅓ as much as a concrete pad of the same dimensions.

Permeability

Gravel pads drain quickly, meaning there’s no risk of water pooling on the top of the pad as there is with concrete. This makes them an excellent option for any use that requires wood to be in contact with the pad, such as the floor of a prefab shed. This prevents residual moisture from leading to the growth of mold or fungi on the wooden base of the structure. Additionally, the permeability of a gravel pad can help it to comply with local water run-off regulations in larger applications, such as gravel parking pads.

Impermanence

Another major benefit of gravel pads is that they can be easily removed if the need arises. Compacted gravel pads provide a permeable, well-drained, level base for whatever is placed on top. All you need to remove a gravel pad is a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and determination.

All in all, gravel pads are an economical and flexible option in a variety of site preparation or landscaping scenarios. You can read more detailed articles about gravel pad uses, requirements, and installation steps here. Click below for a free quote on professional gravel pad installation in the Mid-Atlantic United States.

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