What Is Decomposed Granite and What Can I Use It For?

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated November 8, 2021
two story home wit gravel pathway
Iriana Shiyan - stock.adobe.com

Decomposed granite is a mineral-rich landscaping secret you can use to scale up your yard

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Decomposed granite is a serious landscaping upgrade that, once you know it exists, you see it in many yards with epic curb appeal. But what, exactly, is this mystery material, and how can you use it to make the most out of your yard? Here’s the 411 on decomposed granite.

What Is Decomposed Granite?

Decomposed granite, or DG for short, is a finely weathered and eroded form of granite—a hard rock rich in minerals like quartz, mica, and feldspar. Most DG that you’ll find in stores is composed of particles as large as three-eighths of an inch to as fine as dust. 

DG is mined in quarries from many different regions of Northern America, giving way to many natural hues and colors, like varying browns, reds, golds, grays, greens, and tans. This variety allows you to customize your landscaping project to your aesthetics.

Decomposed Granite Best Uses

Compared to gravel, DG is far more stable without losing its form, while compared to sand, DG is much less likely to wash away. This makes the hardscape material ideal for the following elements of your yard:

  • Walkways

  • Patios

  • Driveways

  • Mulch

  • Roads

  • Garden trails

  • Xeriscapes

  • Fire pits, and more

The Different Types of Decomposed Granite

One of decomposed granite’s biggest perks is that it comes in various colors and particle sizes. And yes, this even includes glow-in-the-dark decomposed granite! However, with so many options to consider, there are still just two main types of decomposed granite: natural DG and stabilized DG.

Natural Decomposed Granite

Natural DG costs around $60 per ton and is the go-to for gardening projects and tree landscaping. You can use natural DG as you would mulch since it eventually breaks down and gives nutrients to nearby plants and soil. 

The best part about this type of DG is that it outlasts wood mulch and deters those pesky animals from digging away at your garden beds.

Stabilized Decomposed Granite

As beneficial as natural DG is for gardens, it’s not exactly the perfect material for your driveway, pathway, patio, or trail. You’ll want to use stabilized decomposed granite for these projects, which costs $185 per ton. 

As the most expensive type of decomposed granite, stabilized DG has the look and feel of an asphalt surface, only it has a more earthy color and is way more absorbent. Stabilized DG costs more than natural DG because your supplier needs to bind the material with a stabilizer agent, such as a resin, and allow the granite to decompose.

How Much Does Decomposed Granite Cost?

Before you load up bags upon bags of granite into your shopping cart, you’ll want to budget accordingly. Decomposed granite costs between $0.30 and $0.70 per square foot on average and is an affordable alternative to other paving materials. For comparison, the cost of gravel, according to HomeAdvisor, is somewhere between $1.25 and $1.80 per square foot. 

To help put that into perspective, consider a 400-square foot area. To hire decomposed granite installers near you, you’ll pay around $120 to $280 for supplies and between $120 to $300 extra for the installation.

Is Decomposed Granite Worth It?

decompressed granite landscaping
U. J. Alexander - stock.adobe.com

As with any home improvement project, whether or not decomposed granite is worth it really comes down to personal preference. If you’re looking for a versatile, natural, and affordable landscaping material, there’s a good chance decomposed granite is a good fit for your project.

But just in case you’re not sure, here are the pros and cons of decomposed granite:

Advantages of Decomposed Granite

  • Mimics the sound, look, and feel of gravel without the loose footing

  • Very permeable and suitable for runoff water if compacted well

  • Lasts longer than mulch while providing similar benefits to trees and plants

  • Hides unsightly patches of ground where grass won’t grow

  • Deters squirrels and other critters from digging around your yard

  • More natural than stark white or grey hardscape material

  • Breaks down and won’t obstruct garden beds if moved out of place

  • Affordable

Disadvantages of Decomposed Granite

  • Not suitable for stormy areas or major slopes, as the material can wash away with heavy rain.

  • Sticks to shoes, leading to a very messy home if installed too closely to entry points

  • Will also scratch indoor flooring if it finds a way inside

  • You or the installer needs to apply, moisten, and press the decomposed granite in thin layers to compact it successfully

  • Needs to be reapplied as it breaks down (though it’s relatively easy to pour more material down)

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