A landscape fabric layer underneath gravel is a valuable part that many people overlook when laying a gravel driveway. Using landscape membrane, more broadly referred to as geotextile fabric, under your gravel driveway has many advantages that can increase the lifespan, reduce costs, reduce the maintenance required for your driveway, and lots more.
Applying landscape fabric under a gravel driveway helps limit weed growth, stabilize the gravel surface, and stop the driveway from slowly washing away due to rainwater erosion. A membrane layer also prevents the soil underneath the driveway from mixing with the gravel and making it look dirty.
Many landscape fabric types exist, including ones made from plastics like polyester, linens, and recycled materials. While not a necessity, geotextile fabrics provide significant benefits to landscaping and gravel driveway projects, no matter the exact material.
Here are some of the most important reasons why you should have a landscape membrane layer underneath your gravel driveway:
- Limits unwanted weed growth
- Retains soil moisture
- Can help keep driveway cool
- Stabilizes the ground
- Reduces the amount of gravel needed
- Stabilizes the gravel surface
- Improves runoff and rainwater drainage
- Reduces gravel holes and bare spots
- Stops the soil and gravel from mixing
- Inexpensive considering the benefits
- Easy installation
- Prevents grass from taking over your driveway
- Reduces rainwater erosion
- Stops pests from digging
- Improves driveway lifespan
- Reduces the need for herbicides
- Saves money in the long run
Below, we’ll take a more in-depth look at seventeen of the best benefits and reasons why using a landscape membrane under a gravel driveway is essential.
1. Limits Weed Growth
Most landscape fabrics market themselves as a fast and efficient way to stop weeds from growing. While they are excellent at controlling weeds from growing in areas where you place the membrane, landscape fabrics do not prevent 100% of unwanted plants.
Geotextile fabrics provide a barrier between the gravel and the soil, preventing most sunlight from reaching the earth in the area they cover. No sunlight kills existing plants and stops nearly all germinating seeds from maturing into adult plants. So in that aspect, landscape fabric works excellently. However, seeds dropped or blown on top of the membrane can still grow, and some weeds from underneath often make their way through the fabric layer.
Regardless, geotextile fabric under a gravel driveway does an excellent job of reducing the number of weeds in the area. Fewer unwanted plants in your driveway minimize maintenance and make the space look more put-together.
2. Retains Soil Moisture
The soil underneath a driveway and in the surrounding area can quickly dry out due to the gravel heating up and wicking moisture from the ground. Dry soil can kill surrounding grass, crack the earth, create dust, and lead to unlevel areas in your driveway.
A landscape fabric layer can help alleviate the problem of gravel drying out the surrounding soil. The geotextile fabric is a barrier between the gravel and dirt, trapping appropriate moisture levels below. Temperature changes and evaporation from above don’t affect the soil underneath the membrane as much.
3. Keeps Driveway Cool
If trees or another structure doesn’t entirely shade your driveway, you’ve likely noticed that the gravel can become extremely hot during the day. There’s not much you can do to make your driveway cooler, but a membrane layer separating the gravel from the soil underneath can impact the surface temperature a little bit.
While the effect is typically minimal, the moisture and cool air trapped underneath the landscape fabric can have a cooling effect on the driveway gravel above. The gravel rocks can get extremely hot from the sun, but having a membrane layer stops the heat from drying out the soil and can even limit how hot your driveway gets.
4. Stabilizes the Soil
As cars drive on your driveway, people walk on the surface, and nature erodes the ground, the soil in your yard can slowly shift and become uneven over time. Unstable soil underneath your driveway can lead to severe drainage problems that leave your driveway bumpy and ugly.
A good layer of geotextile membrane underneath your driveway can help stabilize the soil significantly. As people drive and walk on your driveway, the fabric will help more uniformly compact the ground to prevent ruts and divots from forming.
5. Reduces the Amount of Gravel Needed
Landscape fabric underneath your gravel driveway can reduce the amount of gravel you need initially and in the long run. The benefits of using less gravel can impact many areas of your project, including cost, maintenance, and installation time.
You can use less gravel because less gravel washes away due to rainwater or mixes with the soil underneath with a landscape fabric membrane layer. It’s essential to lay a few inches of gravel at a minimum to ensure a sturdy driveway and cover the fabric layer completely, but you don’t need much more than that.
With a good layer of landscape fabric, the maintenance your driveway requires is likely pretty low due to the fabric’s effectiveness at stabilizing the area and controlling erosion. However, your driveway will require less gravel over the long run when you inevitably have to fill in areas that need some more substrate.
6. Stabilizes the Gravel
In addition to stabilizing the soil underneath the driveway, as discussed above, landscape fabric also helps stabilize the gravel. The membrane provides a relatively solid foundation for the driveway and minimizes gravel shifting.
In many gravel driveway designs, stone edging plays a crucial part in stabilizing and containing the gravel within the bounds of the pathway. The layer of landscape fabric holds things together and stabilizes the substrate from the underside. There is less opportunity for gravel to mix with the soil underneath or get washed away by rainwater with a landscape membrane layer.
7. Uniform Rainwater Drainage
A landscape fabric membrane layer under a gravel driveway can also improve drainage and water runoff. For the most part, you do not want a lot of rainwater soaking into the soil underneath your driveway to prevent large mud puddles from forming. Mud can lead to low spots and an uneven surface.
Placing a membrane layer underneath your driveway doesn’t let the water immediately soak into the ground and instead allows it to run off to the sides of the pathway. Some rainwater gets through the fabric to permeate the ground underneath, ensuring the soil doesn’t dry out too much. The fabric layer also helps stabilize the gravel, so less gets lost when it rains.
8. Reduces Gravel Holes
One of the most frustrating parts about having a gravel driveway is when the soil or gravel shifts and leaves divots or holes in your driveway. While holes and bare spots simply come with having a gravel driveway, installing a landscape fabric membrane layer underneath the gravel can help mitigate the problem.
Landscape fabric is a barrier underneath your gravel driveway and stabilizes the upper and lower substrates. As cars and people traverse your driveway, the soil underneath compacts more uniformly, and the gravel surface has a relatively solid membrane foundation. With the additional benefit of good rainwater drainage, landscape fabric overall helps eliminate low spots in your driveway.
9. Stops the Soil and Gravel From Mixing
Unlike other driveway substrates, gravel driveways can quickly look quite dirty if you allow the gravel to mix with the soil underneath. The most effective way to stop the dirt underneath your driveway from mixing with the gravel surface is to use a landscape fabric membrane layer.
Laying a landscape fabric membrane layer underneath your gravel driveway is an excellent barrier between the gravel surface and the soil underneath. When it rains, cars drive over, or people walk on your driveway, there is less opportunity for the two substrates to mix. Stopping the gravel and soil from mixing in your driveway will reduce maintenance and make your driveway look cleaner.
10. Inexpensive Considering the Benefits
Many people choose not to use landscape fabric underneath their gravel driveway because it can increase the project’s cost by a fair amount. However, considering the various benefits that landscape fabric provides, it is relatively inexpensive. For most gravel driveway projects, a fabric membrane is essential to the longevity and integrity of the driveway.
Geotextile fabric costs vary depending on the quality and quantity that you buy. Generally, you can expect to pay $0.50 to $1.25 per square foot for landscape fabric. The average two-car driveway is roughly 16×40 feet (640 square feet), so you should expect to pay $320 to $800 for landscape fabric, not including installation labor costs.
11. Easy and Quick Installation
Installing landscape fabric underneath a gravel driveway is extremely simple, so you could save on labor costs and do it yourself without much problem. Most driveways are relatively straight without many crazy design features, so measuring the fabric and laying it down is straightforward.
Make level the area and secure the landscape fabric using landscape staples or another attachment method. For the average driveway, laying down a geotextile fabric layer before adding gravel on top should only take a few hours. It is very straightforward and doesn’t require lots of skill to install.
12. Stops Grass From Taking Over
A significant problem with some gravel driveways is that the lawn can slowly encroach on the driveway. Depending on the type of grass you have, this could be a huge problem or a slight inconvenience that trimming the edge of your lawn could fix.
A landscape fabric layer under your gravel driveway eliminates the problem by blocking the sun from reaching the soil, stopping most grass from growing. Proper lawn care is imperative to ensure grass doesn’t overtake your driveway, but a geotextile layer can help significantly.
13. Reduces Rainwater Erosion
Rainwater and water runoff can wreak havoc on your gravel driveway without the proper precautions to minimize damage. Water erodes the soil relatively quickly, removing the substrate from your driveway, creating divots, and making the ground uneven.
Geotextile fabric creates a more uniform base for your gravel driveway and stabilizes the entire thing. The membrane helps with rainwater drainage to stop the soil under your driveway from turning into mud and destabilizing or making your driveway uneven. Landscape fabric can help to hold our driveway together and reduce erosion.
14. Stops Pests From Digging
In specific environments, pests such as moles, gophers, squirrels, and chipmunks can wreak havoc on your landscaping by digging into the ground. Usually, burrowing animals or ones that dig for food prefer digging in the dirt, but that often doesn’t stop them from ruining your gravel driveway.
Landscape fabric doesn’t do much to prevent pests from digging in the gravel of your driveway, but it can help prevent them from doing too much damage. Once they reach the barrier, most animals will stop digging and move on to the next spot, allowing you to rake gravel into the disturbed area without dealing with a time-consuming major driveway repair.
15. Improves Gravel Driveway Lifespan
Overall, landscape fabric under a gravel driveway provides a relatively solid base and stabilizes the entire thing. There are many benefits of geotextile fabric barriers, including limiting weed growth, better rainwater drainage, and stopping the mixture of soil and gravel.
By compacting the soil underneath more uniformly and stabilizing the gravel on top, the whole driveway should last much longer than without the membrane layer.
16. Limits Need for Herbicides
As we’ve discussed above, one of the significant benefits of landscape fabric is that it helps prevent weeds and grass from growing in your driveway. Not only does that make your driveway look better because plants are not overtaking it, but it also stops you from dealing with so many weeds.
Removing weeds from your driveway is time-consuming, and many people resort to using herbicides to kill off unwanted plants. Herbicides can pollute water and damage the environment, so it’s best to reduce your use of them. A geotextile membrane helps stop weeds from growing in your driveway in the first place, which can reduce your need for herbicides.
17. Saves Money in the Long Run
All of the reasons you should use landscape fabric underneath your gravel driveway come down to a few key benefits. One of the most significant that people often focus on (and for a good reason) is cost.
While buying and installing geotextile under your gravel driveway is an additional upfront cost, it can save you quite a bit in the long run. Not only do gravel driveways with a membrane layer tend to last longer, but repairs are often less frequent and severe. Landscape fabric membrane isn’t the fix-all for a gravel driveway, but the benefits significantly outweigh the few downsides in almost every case.