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Gravel and limestone are versatile materials used in a range of industries for a number of different purposes. Primarily, they're used for hardscaping in the construction industry to create decorative or practical elements in a landscape.
Limestone is the chief component in cement which is the binding property for concrete. Similarly, gravel is an integral component of concrete alongside sand - together they make up to 85% of concrete composition when using the Portland formula.
They can also both be used in loose form to improve drainage, act as a general purpose filler in uneven areas and create pathways for domestic and commercial jobs. Gravel and limestone are often popular choices for driveways as an alternative to asphalt or concrete.
Gravel is a term to describe a mix of stones or pebbles that have been worn smooth by water - it is not a single type of rock. Usually, it's found near water sources (e.g. lakes and rivers).
This loose aggregation of rock fragments must be over 2mm in diameter; anything smaller is considered to be sand. There are different types of gravel which are usually graded by size. Most driveways use at least three different sizes of gravel that are put down in layers to ensure proper drainage and create a solid foundation.
Unlike gravel, limestone is just one specific type of rock. It's a sedimentary rock compound which makes up around 10% of all sedimentary rocks around the world. Limestone is also one of the rock types that can be included in gravel.
It's largely composed of calcium carbonate resulting from the ancient remains of sea creatures such as coral and shellfish. Limestone can be found anywhere that was once underneath the sea. One of the world's most famous limestone deposit locations is Niagara Falls.
Limestone aggregates are typically bulkier and more jagged compared to gravel which is characteristically smooth. It's available in a range of sizes from large-cut flat pavers (measuring 24" x 36") all the way down to crushed limestone which contains small stones of varying sizes similar to gravel.
These materials are very similar in terms of the advantages they offer. As already mentioned, gravel and limestone are versatile products that carry widespread appeal with landscapers and contractors around the world.
Limestone is one of the most commonly available rocks on Earth and is easily purchased from garden centres and hardware stores. Similarly, gravel is readily available in large quantities. The rarer the material, the more expensive it is to buy; therefore, limestone and gravel are both very affordable.
As well as their price, they're relatively easy to lay and maintain. On a pathway or driveway, you should expect for the loose top layer to be moved around, but it's easily raked back into place and you could even consider different edgings to keep it in place.
When you're looking to use gravel or limestone for a driveway, both products can be utilised as a base and top layer. You could even mix and match using one at the bottom and the other on the layer above. They're good materials for this purpose because they're stable and can last a long time. Indeed, limestone was used in the construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
Gravel and limestone are permeable and porous so they can absorb rain and replenish groundwater. They are also great for drainage purposes which is why they're commonly used in gardens and pathways.
The key difference between gravel and limestone is the way they look. While both are aesthetically pleasing, especially compared to asphalt and concrete, there is much greater variation in gravel because it's made from a collection of stones, pebbles and rock fragments.
In a bulk mixture of standard gravel, there will be different types of stones varying in colour and shape. The primary colours tend to be grey, white and brown, but you can also buy special mixes of selected colours.
In contrast, limestone is typically only available in varying shades of grey from close to white all the way to slate grey. The different shades are normally limited to the specific quarry the limestone comes from. This isn't necessarily a problem but could make adding a new layer of limestone in the future more obvious compared to the more random nature of gravel.
Ultimately, both materials perform the same jobs to the same high standard. Gravel and limestone are equally versatile, strong and easy to lay.
The decision will largely depend on the project, as well as the price and availability of both products in your area. If none of these are deciding factors, it could simply be down to appearance and which one you think looks better.
At Wiltshire Grab Hire, we supply a full range of gravel and limestone aggregates including Pea Gravel, 40mm Crusher Run Limestone and 75mm Clean Limestone.