How Is Gravel Made?

How Is Gravel Made?

In Dust Control, Gravel Roads, Soil Stabilization by Frank Elswick

It’s the trusty material we hardly ever think about, yet don’t know what we’d do without. We drive on it, build houses with it, even filter water through it, but the question is, how do we make it?

Try to imagine a world without gravel. If you can, odds are you’re underestimating how integral this material is to our daily lives. Gravel has become so ingrained in the infrastructure and makeup of planet Earth that it’s almost impossible to envision modern society without it.

You’ll find gravel just about everywhere you turn, especially when you take the road less traveled. Gravel makes for a great alternative to concrete and tarmac, and is utilized on roads with light traffic around the globe. The United States alone is home to nearly 1.5 million miles of unpaved road, most of which is surfaced with some form of gravel.

Let’s take a closer look at the basics of gravel to see where it comes from and how it’s used.

What Is Gravel?

Also known as crushed stone, gravel is made up of unconsolidated rock fragments. The most common types of rock used in gravel are sandstone, limestone, and basalt. It has a wide variety of industrial and construction applications, from home building to road paving, and is categorized either as granular (coarse) or pebble (fine).

A small fraction of the United States’ gravel is naturally formed rock harvested from streams, riverbeds, and other geographical formations. The most common types of natural gravel include bank, bench, creek, and plateau gravels. And as for the rest, mining companies in all 50 states are responsible for producing gravel in regions where naturally crushed rock cannot be found.

Creating construction-grade gravel involves gathering large rocks and breaking them down until you’re left with small, irregular-shaped fragments that can form a pliable but durable surface. The original rocks are mined from various sources and stored in quarries, where they are exploded, crushed and, depending on their intended use, mixed with a stone powder.

Building gravel ranges in diameter from mere millimeters to several inches, with various sizes being optimal for specific scenarios. For instance, coarser grit gravel is utilized in railway ballast, as the larger diameter particles help hold ties in place and stabilize the rails. Residential and commercial walkways, on the other hand, require smaller particles — the most common sizes are 2 ½ inches (known as Number 2) and 1 inch (Number 57).

Maintaining Gravel

In addition to its use on railroads and walkways, gravel is utilized by industrial companies around the world to transport materials, deliver products and drive sustained business. Just like paved roads, unpaved gravel roads must be taken care of in order to extend lifespan, control dust, and ensure operations remain safe. Regular maintenance should be completed on every variety of gravel road to guarantee surfaces remain in tiptop shape.

That’s why so many municipalities and industrial operators have turned to Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. Midwest’s range of unpaved road maintenance and dust control solutions simplify the way companies care for their gravel roads. You rely on your road to get you where you need to be, and Midwest takes pride in ensuring safe travels for years to come.

Frank is the sales unit manager of Midwest's road construction and natural paving markets.