In the world of landscaping, edging is a process by which stones, bricks or blocks are placed along the edge of a driveway to prevent pebbles and other debris from migrating into the lawn. It’s also used to keep grass from growing up around the edges of driveways. Debris that slips through can cause damage to not just your car but also your house if it happens to be on the same property as well.
There are many different materials you can use for this purpose. Some last longer than others and have different aesthetic properties, so it’s important to consider what look you’re after before making a decision on material type.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the various types of edging materials available for gravel driveways in order to help you choose what’s best for your situation. We’ll also look at where to place the edging once you’ve settled on a material type and some methods that can be used to maximize its effectiveness.
Table of Contents
Dangers of Untamed Gravel
If you read our article in this section about Maintaining Gravel Drives, you’ll find out about spreading, where gravel is pushed sideways by the downward force of tyres and feet. This can lead to individual pieces of gravel getting into the surrounding areas and causing all sorts of problems (see our article Gravel Driveways: Advantages and Disadvantages on this site). Gravel spilling onto an adjacent path can roll underfoot and cause people to fall over. There is also more potential for damage if you have a lawn next to the driveway.
The small stones can damage the cutting edges of lawn mower blades, and there can be far worse consequences if a stone is flicked up by a mower. A stone can smash a window, dent a car or even, at worst, hit someone in the eye. So it’s worth taking edging seriously.
What Materials Can You Use?
The look you are after will almost certainly determine the type of edging you choose, along with price. Wood is one of the cheapest materials, although it will not last very long even if treated to protect it. Most other popular edging materials are variations on brick or stone, with many different profiles available, from plain blocks to decorative profiles specifically produced for edging.
Take a Look at Wood
Wood edging comes in treated and untreated varieties, although it is recommended that you treat it if you wish to extend its life. Particleboard wood, which sells for less than the pressure-treated variety, can be quite acceptable as a landscaping material but will not last as long. This wood may make splinters when using many types of lawn mower cutting-blades though, so take this into account.
At best you’d be looking at a 5-10-year lifespan for edging made from four by four timbers, but railway sleepers should last a lot longer. You will need to dig a channel so that the timber sits right, but try not to bury too much of it as this will hasten the rotting process.
Rows of small split logs bound together by wire have become popular in recent years as garden borders. But you may find, if you use them as driveway borders, that gravel works its way through the gaps between each piece of wood. Both these and ordinary Timber Edging will not cope well with being run over though, so don’t use them if you have a lot of cars using the driveway or if there’s not much turning room.
Stone, Brick and Concrete Block Edging
Both stone and concrete will last a lot longer than wood, but to get the real benefit they will need to be properly set in a foundation of concrete. This will allow them to resist being driven over – if they aren’t set, they will topple over like wood.
The same applies to brick, although some thin, decorative edgings, such as Victorian scalloped edgings, will break in half or lose a corner when driven over. These are best kept for border edgings rather than driveways, but if you really want that look, perhaps it’s better to simply insert them into the earth. They won’t do such a good job of retaining gravel but at least if they are driven over they are more likely to fall over rather than break. You will simply have to remake the turf and reset them.
Edging made from plastic has been popular for many years now and it still looks just as good now that it did when first introduced. Many people think it looks more attractive than its alternatives, and some like the fact that you don’t have to dig a channel for the edging. It also lasts longer than other materials with resistance to rot, rust, chemicals and impact damage, although there are some complaints from those living near busy roads who say that it is not sufficiently resistant to the impact of cars when driven into the edging.
Low Walls as Edging
If you decide to run more than one course of bricks or blocks, in effect building a low wall, be careful how high you go. Two courses will make a wall that will go beneath most cars, but three or four courses run the risk of being clouted by an opening car door or damaging the sills of a low-slung car.
This is unlikely to affect the wall much, but it might anger your family and friends! It may be better to build the wall a little higher so that it is obvious to drivers and they can avoid it more easily. The ‘neither-high nor low’ option is best avoided.
Finally, you need to patrol the edging every now and then as no border will be 100% effective at preventing the escape of gravel. If there is a lawn next to the drive, pull a fine rake through it to check for and trap any gravel. Look for gaps in the edging as well, and close them with earth or whatever material is appropriate.
This will keep your gravel in check for longer and keep your driveway in tip-top condition, too.
There are a great many different options for edging for gravel drives, and no one type is best in all circumstances. You will have to consider your needs and the aesthetic aspect before settling on what you want to use. It’s best to stick with the similar material as is used on the drive itself though, or there could be a mismatch that detracts from the overall look.
If you want to make your drive more attractive or keep it in shape for as long as possible, then you need to consider each type of edging carefully, look at its pros and cons for your situation, then choose which one is best for your particular needs. It’s important to avoid a mismatch though as that will not only hurt the look of your drive and waste money, but it may also cause damage to your car.
A gravel driveway gives you the chance to create a stunning entrance to your home or business premises if done well. The border edging for the drive can be as simple as laying pieces of wood over the soil in which you have worked your gravel or it can be as complex and time consuming as building a brick wall with earth filling. When choosing, don’t just look at the edging but also consider how easy it will be to install and keep in good condition.