How To Install A Decomposed Granite Pathway

A decomposed granite pathway is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the look of your yard or create an informal walkway. It's also an accessible project for DIY enthusiasts. Decomposed granite, often shortened to DG, is literally that – granitic rock broken down into fine particles that hold together better than simple dirt and come in a variety of colors.

Decomposed granite pathways require proper installation. While not difficult to install, there are a few tricks you can use to provide a solid, lasting surface. It’s best if you have some basic carpentry skills and have access to water and a roller or compactor before you get started.

What You’ll Need 

  1. Decomposed Granite
    • For a firmer pathway and easier installation, buy DG that has a stabilizer pre-mixed in. The instructions below are based on this type of DG. If stabilized DG isn’t available, you can purchase a soil stabilizer like Marloc-SS and follow the instructions on how to apply it to your pathway. 
    • Choose a color that matches your landscape and price range. Our most popular DGs are Desert Gold and Southwest Brown. Both are inexpensive and have great natural color. 
  2. Header Boards
    • Header boards, generally about 4” wide, will form the edge of your pathway to contain the decomposed granite. 
    • We recommend using pressure-treated redwood, or plastic extruded materials that are weather proof and will hold up over time.
  3. Weed Barrier Fabric (optional) 
  4. Compactor – heavy roller, vibrating plate compactor, or a flat board
  5. Rake
  6. Hose with a nozzle that can create a “shower” flow pattern or similar 
  7. Measuring tape, calculator, paper, pencil

Step-by-step DG Pathway Installation Guide

1. Lay out the location of your path. 
You can use rope, spray paint or header boards to help you visualize where your path will go. Experiment with different widths and gentle curves until the pathway looks natural and complements the yard around it. Excavate down up to 4 inches if you’d like the edges of your pathway to be even with the surrounding areas, and make sure you’re starting with a uniform, flat, solid ground area.
2. Estimate how much decomposed granite you will need. 
Have a calculator, pencil and paper handy. Measure the length and width of your path and multiply these two numbers together. This will give you the square footage of your path. Plug that number into our coverage calculator and select “Decomposed Granite” as the product to find out how many tons you’ll need. We recommend getting enough DG to achieve a depth of 2" to 3" throughout your walkway, and 4" if you are covering a whole driveway. Calculations on our website are based on a 2” depth of coverage, and should be confirmed with our staff before you purchase.

3. Install header boards 
Excavate soil in the layout of the header board to a depth of 1". This provides for the decomposed granite to be 3" deep for the path surface (1" of soil, 3" of decomposed granite). Next, secure your header boards by anchoring them with stakes about every four feet.

4. Add a weed barrier (optional!)
If you’re worried about weeds, pick up a weed barrier when you purchase your decomposed granite. Spread out the weed barrier fabric along the length of your path before adding any layers of DG.

5. Add the first layer of Decomposed Granite
Fill the area between the header boards with a 1.5” thick layer of the decomposed granite. Thoroughly soak the material with water. Allow the moist decomposed granite to sit for about eight hours and then compact it with a heavy roller or a vibrating plate compactor. Don’t have a compactor? For informal paths, place a flat slab of wood onto the DG and walk on it for a quick DIY fix.

Pro Tip

Applying decomposed granite in thin layers, then moistening and compacting each layer, is very important. Otherwise, only the very top of your pathway is compacted and the pathway will become a sand box once the upper crust cracks.

6. Add remaining layers of DG
Apply another 1.5” thick layer of decomposed granite and soak it thoroughly with water. Wait about eight hours and compact again. Since the material is compressed down to about 1” each time, a third layer usually needs to be applied to make the path flush with the top of the header board.

7. Finishing Touches and Maintenance
Once you’ve finished all your layers, you can gently rake the surface of your pathway to loosen up the very top surface for a natural look. If your pathway wears down over time, it’s easy to refresh it by simply adding another top layer as described in step 5.

That’s it! You’re ready to create an attractive path out of decomposed granite. All the supplies you’ll need are available at a Southwest Boulder location near you. In fact, visiting a Southwest Boulder rock yard and seeing the different colors of decomposed granite in person is a great way to get started. Our team is extremely knowledgeable and is on hand to make suggestions and to help you pick out everything you’ll need.

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