Why Do People Use Rock Around House Foundation?

Have you ever wondered what those gravel and rock borders between a house and a flower bed are needed for? Now you will find the answer!

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Many of you have probably noticed that quite many houses have a border made of gravel or rocks which surround the foundation of the building. And you definitely wondered what this border around house foundation is needed for. 

In this article, we will explain the tradition and purpose of putting the crushed stone and/or gravel around a house’s foundation. And in addition, you will learn a few benefits of doing so and of course, we will provide you with a detailed guide that will teach you how to lay gravel or rock borders around your house’s foundation.

Table of the popularity of decorative stone in the United States

11"-2" Decorative GravelGrey
21/2"-1" Decorative GravelWhite
33"-6"  Decorative StoneBlack
42"-4"  Decorative StoneRed
5MarbleWhite, Black, Red
6Pea GravelWhite, Black, Grey
7River RockBrown, Grey, White
8FlagstoneRed, Brown, Grey


A well-maintained house foundation with a rock border for drainage and protection
Have you ever wondered what those gravel and rock borders between a house and a flower bed are needed for? Now you will find the answer!. itishouse.com

Here are the top three choices:

  1. 1"-2" Grey Decorative Gravel: This type of stone is not only the most popular but also is one of the best landscaping materials around foundations due to its durability and ability to withstand various weather conditions.
  2. 1/2"-1" White Decorative Gravel: The light color of these stones provides a stunning contrast against darker home exteriors and natural greenery. They are also great for improving drainage around foundations.
  3. 3"-6" Black Decorative Stone: Black stones provide a sleek, modern look. Their large size makes them effective for preventing erosion.

What Is the Purpose Of Gravel Borders Around the House?

If you have ever seen gravel borders next to a house’s foundation, you might be curious about the purpose of those. Of course, the very first idea that comes to one’s mind is that these borders serve as a sort of decoration to create an aesthetically pleasing view. Well, this version is also true to a certain point. 

Gravel border near the house
By vista.com

However, the major reason is different. See, a rock or gravel bed around a house serves for drainage. Every homeowner is well aware that keeping water away from your home is always a wise idea! If you have a basement, for example, proper drainage surrounding your home can help keep water from leaking into your basement and damaging your belongings. 

And one of the most widespread and affordable ways to make sure that water drains away from your house is by landscaping in a strategic manner. In particular, by utilizing rocks for drainage. This simple trick allows you to keep water away from your foundation and your entire home easily. However, laying rocks around a house has certain specifics and nuances.

Reasons to Use the Rocks Around House Foundation



Improved Drainage: 40% The use of rocks around house foundations is a well-known practice to improve drainage and prevent water from pooling around the foundation.

  • Curb Appeal: 25% Rocks can significantly enhance the aesthetics of a home's exterior. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
  • Weed Control: 20% When used in conjunction with landscaping fabric, rocks can act as a barrier to prevent weeds from growing around the foundation of the house.
  • Pest Deterrence: 15% Some homeowners use rocks around their foundations as a deterrent for pests like insects and rodents.

Things to Consider When Putting Gravel Or Rock Next to Your House’s Foundation

If you decide to make a gravel or rock border around the foundation of your home, you need to take several factors into consideration to make it work best. With these factors being considered, you can be sure that the gavel border does its job great.

Gravel border acts as a drainage
By vista.com

The choice of implementing a gravel barrier or using rock around your house foundation can impact your property in several ways. The functional aspects such as drainage and soil erosion prevention are the key reasons to consider this option. But the aesthetic and environmental benefits of a rock or gravel barrier shouldn't be overlooked.

Choose the Correct Size Of the Rocks Or Gravel

It may not seem very important at first, but the size of the rocks or gravel you will be using for the border really matters.  Depending on your home’s makeup and the location where it is situated, you may not want to use larger rocks. 

Set of different sizes of stones
By vista.com

In this case, pea gravel is a good alternative that works quite well, at least, no worse than larger rocks. The most important thing is that your home’s foundation remains protected and that it is properly secured. Gravel (as well as other rocks) work as barriers that shun rain and other forms of precipitation away from a building’s foundation.

The size of stones or gravel used for curbs.

Gravel SizePercentage of Curbs
1/4 inch to 1/2 inch20%
3/8 inch to 1 inch50%
1 inch to 2 inches20%
2 inches to 3 inches10%

This data shows that the most common size of gravel used for curbs in the USA is 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. This size is ideal for providing a solid base for the curb and preventing it from sinking or shifting. The next most common size is 3/8 inch to 1 inch. 

This size is also suitable for curbs, but it is more likely to crack or break if it is subjected to heavy traffic. The smallest size of gravel used for curbs is 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. This size is not as common, but it can be used in areas where a more decorative curb is desired.

Large gravel path
By vista.com

The largest size of gravel used for curbs is 2 inches to 3 inches. This size is not as common as the smaller sizes, but it can be used in areas where heavy traffic is expected. The larger size of gravel provides a more durable curb that is less likely to crack or break.

Consider the Soil

Be sure to only use rocks for drainage if your soil slopes away from your home’s foundation! If your home is situated in the direction of water flow, keeping rocks at your home’s foundation will not do much to help. In this case, the water will simply have nowhere to flow! 

In this instance, it is best to contact a landscaping professional to determine how you can prepare your yard for heavy rains or snow so that water does not continuously pool around the foundation of your home. See foundation protection against water damage.

Soil preparation before gravel
By vista.com

Like that, now you finally know what those gravel and rock borders mean and what they are used for. Of course, even though their major purpose is to protect your basement and foundation from water and leaks, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use gravel or rocks simply for decoration! 

By the way, if you know for sure that the foundation of your house needs no water-protecting barrier like the barrier made of gravel, but you would still like to make its foundation look nicer, feel free to make a bed of rocks around it. For this purpose, you can choose larger pieces of rock (or pick the pieces of unusual shape) in order to create an eye-catching design. And of course, don’t just stick to rocks only. Gravel can be a great option too, especially considering the fact that it comes in different sizes and colors!

Benefits Of Putting Gravel Next to House Foundation

Of course, we mean both gravel and rocks. As you already know, these materials are used for making borders around the foundation of a house in order to keep the basement and the building safe from water. However, there are a few other benefits of such a rock barrier around your house.

Gravel and large stone slabs laid in front of the house
By vista.com

It Absorbs the Heat

Yes, you heard it right. When you make a border of rocks or gravel around the foundation of your house, you don’t only protect it from water.

Another benefit of using rocks for drainage is that exposed rock absorbs the heat from sunlight. In fact, rock possesses the heat-absorbing ability even more than other materials like mulch! When rock gets heated, it then radiates this heat at night. In winter, this helps to melt ice more quickly and move water away from a home’s foundation in a much faster way.

Gravel And Rock Beds Help To Prevent Overgrown Weeds

Are you tired of battling weeds that keep on sprouting and spreading around your home? Having gravel or rock borders around the foundations of your house is one of the most cost-effective methods of preventing overgrown weeds and shrubs! And possibly, this method is also good for preventing the soil mounds from infiltrating the building.

Laying a weed membrane before gravel installation
By vista.com

If you want to make your gravel or rock border work as a weed-protecting “shield”, the final step of preparing the ground will have to involve laying a weed membrane to discourage unwanted growth. Stopping weed growth using a gravel bed next to the house wall will not only help with maintenance but will also keep the building looking tidy.

A Rock Border Around the House’s Foundation Is Good For Drainage

Yes, we have already said that, but here is a bit of theory for you to prove why it works. Gravel naturally possesses great draining capabilities. This feature helps it stop the accumulation of unwanted water and thus prevent any plants from being drowned during periods of heavy rain. 

Laying gravel to prevent accumulation of unwanted water
By vista.com

Compared to most types of soil, water drains through gravel more quickly. This is why puddles accumulate less frequently on gravel-covered pathways and borders than they do on soil surfaces. And even though water will drain through gravel, it is the underlying soil profile that ultimately determines the overall soil drainage. 

In order to get the best drainage results, make sure that the soil around your house slopes away from the foundation. For example, if you build a house on a slope and there is a gravel bed, you already have a natural irrigation system that guides all the groundwater down and away from the building. In this case, handmade gravel borders are not needed.

Gravel Borders Stop Excess Moisture Accumulation

Putting gravel next to your house’s foundation has one more benefit. Gravel beds don't retain moisture which makes them perfect to prevent a number of different issues that can afflict the property if the foundations become too moist.

Heap of organic mulch
By vista.com

Termites and other pests thrive in the moist conditions provided by organic mulch which is a very popular alternative to gravel beds. Although there is no guarantee that gravel won't keep the soil below it moist, it's less capable of absorbing and retaining moisture to provide the preferred condition for pests to develop a colony.

Now that you know what benefits you can get by making gravel or rock borders around your home, you should definitely consider getting one should you haven’t done this yet!

How To Add A Gravel Barrier Around Your House

Of course, you are probably curious now about how to make a rock border around the house foundation. In fact, it is very easy to do. You just need to follow the given instructions precisely to make sure that that border is made correctly. Like that, it will be doing its job longer and much better.

A beautiful border made of fine gravel on which a flower stands
By vista.com

Below you can find a universal guide on how to prepare the ground in order to add a gravel barrier around your house:

  1. Clear the space of all vegetation. This includes regular grass as well as weeds and plants
  2. Dig over the ground once or twice to make the condition of the top layer of soil better
  3. Rake well to even out the surface. In addition, it will help to break down any lumps and bumps
  4. Dig an outside border (about 4 inches wide and 2 inches deep) to separate the barrier from the surrounding area
  5. Lay a weed membrane or plant liner over the prepared area
  6. Spread the gravel as evenly as possible over the membrane or liner. For that, you will most likely need around 40kg of 20mm gravel to cover one square meter using the measurements taken before
  7. Rake the gravel to smooth out any uneven spots
  8. Keep any excess gravel to fill any future bald patches

As you can see, there is nothing difficult at all. You don’t have to be an experienced gardener to do this. And since the process takes quite a little time, you can get a nice gravel border in one day only. Of course, if your house is not very large!

What Type Of Gravel Should I Use For A Gravel Bed?

This question becomes crucial for those who have never used gravel or rock borders before. However, choosing the proper type of gravel does matter. So let’s try to figure out how you should choose the type of gravel for your future gravel border.

Coarse black gravel with sharp and dangerous edges
 By vista.com

There is a range of different-sized gravel available on the market today. For example, you can choose fine grades that are 10mm or less. Or you can opt for chunkier types that are 20mm or more. There are also so-called pea gravel, crushed stones, and different colored slate chippings available. All of them can be used to fill the gravel barrier around your house with equal success.

Beautiful small size yellow and black gravel
 By vista.com

However, when choosing the type of gravel, consider the following: very small gravel is the most difficult to work with! That’s because it can easily escape outside the borders you have set. In addition, cats may be inclined to use such a gravel border as a litter tray.

In comparison, medium-grade gravels are easier to work with. You just need to beware of the sharp edges that you can sometimes get with crushed stone. They may be a potential hazard for you should you walk bare feet. Also, these sharp-edged pieces can harm your pet’s paws.

Set of medium gravel in different colors
By vista.com

Well, now you know more about those mysterious gravel and rock borders that can be seen around the homes. But today we have solved the mystery! Now you know what those borders serve for and what benefits they have except for being drainage. In addition, you are now aware of how to make such a border yourself and even how to choose the proper type of gravel.

Links on this topic to authoritative sources:
  1. Gravel : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravel
  2. Foundation (engineering) : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation_(engineering)


Mulch or Rocks: The Fascinating Pros and Cons Around House Foundations

  1. Comparing Lifespans: Rocks have a nearly indefinite lifespan, while organic mulch decomposes and must be replaced regularly. This longevity can make rocks a more cost-effective choice in the long term.
  2. The Insulation Game: Mulch is an excellent insulator. It can help maintain soil temperature and moisture, making it a good choice for foundation plantings. Rocks, on the other hand, can absorb heat and potentially transfer it to the foundation. However, they also provide insulation in terms of temperature regulation in the home, similar to mulch.
  3. Water Control: Both rocks and mulch can help control water runoff. Rocks, due to their weight and density, are particularly effective at preventing soil erosion. However, mulch can absorb some water, reducing runoff and aiding soil hydration.
  4. Termite Troubles: Rocks can deter termites, which are less likely to cross a rocky border to reach the wooden structures of a house. Mulch, particularly wood-based types, can potentially attract termites and other pests.
  5. Weed Warfare: Mulch can suppress weed growth by blocking sunlight. Rocks can also deter weeds but may require a landscape fabric underneath to be truly effective.
  6. Aesthetics: The decision between rocks and mulch might come down to personal aesthetic preference. Mulch gives a garden a more organic, traditional look, while rocks lend a clean, minimalistic appearance.
  7. Environmentally Speaking: If you're concerned about sustainability, organic mulch is a renewable resource and can improve soil health as it decomposes. Rocks, while not renewable, require less frequent replacement and therefore less processing and transportation.
  8. Fire Resistance: In areas prone to wildfires, rocks are a safer choice around the foundation. They don't catch fire, unlike organic mulch, which can be flammable.
  9. Maintenance Matters: Mulch might need to be replenished annually, but it's also easier to move or change if you decide to redesign your landscape. Rocks are more permanent and, once installed, more labor-intensive to remove or replace.


The debate between using mulch or rocks around the house foundation truly is a captivating topic. Depending on various factors such as climate, pest concerns, aesthetic preferences, and maintenance abilities, the choice between the two can greatly impact both the appearance and functionality of a home's exterior.


The story begins with rocks, the hardy and abundant material of nature. When early humans began building shelters, they quickly noticed that rocks could serve a myriad of purposes. They used rocks as primitive tools, for making fire, and, importantly, as the foundation and structural elements for their dwellings. As civilization advanced, so did our understanding of architecture and building materials. It didn't take long for builders to realize the advantages of placing smaller rocks around the foundations of homes, not just beneath them. This practice offered protection against soil erosion and helped maintain a stable, dry foundation, particularly important in regions prone to heavy rains and floods.

On the other hand, mulch's historical use has a slightly different origin story. The word 'mulch' comes from the Middle English term 'molsh,' meaning soft or beginning to decay. For centuries, gardeners and farmers were aware of the benefits of natural mulch to enrich the soil and protect plants. Organic matter, like decomposing leaves or straw, would be spread around crops as an early form of mulch.

However, it wasn't until relatively recently in our history, around the 19th century, that we began using mulch around the foundations of homes. As landscaping and gardening became more common household activities, homeowners started to see the advantages of mulch. It retained moisture for foundation plantings, prevented weed growth, and even served as an insulator against extreme temperature shifts.

The decision to use rocks or mulch around the foundation of a home has become a common consideration for homeowners. But it's fascinating to look back and see how this practice has evolved over centuries, from the early days of using rocks to stave off water damage, to the more modern approach of mulching for plant health and aesthetic appeal.

While the materials and techniques may have evolved, the purpose remains the same: to protect and maintain the foundation of our homes, the literal groundwork of our domestic lives. It's a history of adaptation, innovation, and a testament to human ingenuity in creating comfortable and enduring habitats.

Expert Advice

  1. Assess Your Needs: Before you decide whether to use mulch or rocks around your house foundation, evaluate your needs and conditions. Are you primarily interested in aesthetics, or are you looking for a solution to a specific problem such as poor drainage or soil erosion?
  2. Benefits of Rocks: Rocks are long-lasting and require little to no maintenance once they are in place. They don't break down over time, making them a great choice for controlling erosion. Additionally, they can be beneficial in areas with heavy rainfall, as they allow for better water runoff.
  3. Pros of Mulch: Mulch can improve the health of your soil by adding organic matter as it breaks down. It's also beneficial for plant beds around your foundation, as it can help retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and prevent weed growth. Mulch typically provides a more natural aesthetic and comes in various colors and types to match your landscape design.
  4. Consider Your Climate: If you live in a very rainy area, rocks may be a better choice as they handle heavy water flow more effectively. On the other hand, if your climate is dry or you want to foster plant growth, mulch may be the better option.
  5. Mix and Match: Remember, you don't necessarily have to choose. Many homeowners use a combination of rocks and mulch in their landscaping. Rocks can be used for the foundation perimeter for drainage and erosion control, while mulch can be used in planting beds for aesthetics and plant health.
  6. Professional Consultation: When in doubt, consult with a landscape professional. They can assess your specific situation and provide advice tailored to your home's needs and your aesthetic preferences.


Choosing between rocks and mulch is a significant decision that can affect your home's foundation and overall curb appeal. By considering the factors mentioned above, you can make an informed choice that will benefit your home for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Gravel Absorb Water?

Not quite so. Gravel works as a drainage system, guiding water through it and thus removig it from a building.

What Is The Best Landscaping Material Around Foundation?

Gravel and rock are the two bestsellers. In addition, they are the most affordable ones

How Much Does A Gravel Border Cost?

It depends on the total area you need to cover. In general, the price is $1-3 per square foot

Can Using Rocks Around A House Foundation Help With Pest Control?

Using rocks around a house foundation can help with pest control by creating a barrier that deters pests like rodents and insects from nesting near the foundation.

How Thick Should The Layer Of Rocks Be Around A House Foundation?

The thickness of the rock layer around a house foundation can vary depending on the specific application, but generally, a 2-4 inch layer is recommended for effective drainage and erosion control.

Are There Any Disadvantages To Using Rocks Around A House Foundation?

Using rocks around a house foundation can potentially trap moisture against the foundation, leading to dampness issues if not properly installed with appropriate drainage measures.

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Delfina Lemke:
Do I need to make a new gravel border regularly? I made the current one last year and it still looks fine. But maybe it’s needed to refresh it?
Hilton Veum:
As far as I know, gravel borders need no replacement or fixes if they are doing their job well. Of course, if you want gravel of another color or size, for example, you will have to remove the current one.
Raina Nicolas:
Is gavel safe for pets? I have a labrador puppy, 3 months old, and he’s always chewing on everything! I’m afraid he can choke on a piece of gravel.
Eda Gutkowski:
Hi! Well, I also had this concern, this is why I covered my gravel borders with a net! Looked awful but at leat my doggo didn't try to eat them.
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