For many homeowners, every extra dollar spent on one area of your home means another area is left neglected or unfinished. If you recognize this in your own home, you're probably looking for cheap home improvement alternatives that still retain the beauty and quality you demand from your home projects. One of the opportunities to stretch your home improvement dollars is to consider eschewing high-end stones and bricks for loose paving in your outdoor landscaping projects. Gravel, sand, small rock and wood chips are all types of loose fill. They are just as functional as any other landscaping material and with a little creativity can be nearly as beautiful.
Loose Paving Options
Because there are so many loose fill options, you need to assess the use of the area before deciding which fill would work best. If you are installing a swing set or playground for your children, sand, wood chips and pea gravel are appropriate and have adequate shock-absorbing properties when installed at an appropriate depth. For even better shock-absorption, you might also consider rubber mulch.
For driveways, coarser gravel is appropriate. If the rocks in the gravel are fairly small, and you live in a region that experiences moderate to heavy precipitation, you may need to maintain the driveway each year by raking holes and redistributing the fill to an even level. To prevent weeds from growing between the gravel, apply weed killer before pouring the gravel. Consider using recycled gravel, also called RAP, for your driveway. This type of gravel holds up better under water and snow and is cheaper than standard gravel.
Wood chips are good for areas that have minimal traffic yet require a fairly finished look. They also work well for areas with plants and trees since they help retain water while minimizing the impact of foot traffic. For moderate traffic area, loose fill can be used in combination with paving stones to create attractive walkways.
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Gravel and Loose Fill Paving
Wood chips and sand are great materials for play areas and gardens, coarser gravel is a cheap option for driveways, but fine, decorative gravel is probably the most versatile loose fill paving material available. Sure, carelessly chosen and laid gravel looks tacky, but gravel installations can be quite a bit more than this. Colored gravel with well-planned borders can allow you to use gravel for decorative walkways. Common borders include stone, brick, or metal. They transform gravel into a decorative installation worthy of any home and will still less expensive than the alternatives. Plus, not only does gravel come in a lot cheaper than stones, bricks, pavers and virtually every other walkway option, but you can always fill in your loose paving at a later date with the material of your choice.