Dig Down Three Inches
Remove the soil until you have roughly three inches removed from the entire patio area. I found that three inches is the perfect depth for a pea gravel patio. Too shallow, and the rocks can mix with the soil and create a muddy mess. Too deep, and it’s hard to walk across.
To help dig out tough soil, I suggest using an electric cultivator like this one. Ryobi provided me with this handy tool for my backyard makeover project, and it made it much easier to dig out the patio area.
Another benefit of a pea gravel patio over pavers is that the ground doesn’t need to be graded or perfectly level before you pour the stone. I tried to keep the depth consistent around the outside for the paver edging, but the middle varies between two and three inches depending on roots I encountered along the way.
Dig Out The Path’s Shape
Start by marking the location and shape of your path with a garden hose, length of rope or spray paint. If using spray paint, buy line-marking paint, which allows you to easily spray lines while holding the can upside down.
Using a square-edged spade, remove the soil within that border to a depth of 4 inches.
Are Pea Gravel Patios Safe For Kids
We also wanted our backyard patio a safe place for our 2 year old to play.
We didn’t want to worry about Lil’ Mo getting slivers and tripping on boards.
The National Recreation and Park Association had a safety booklet about safety hazards at playgrounds and listed Pea Gravel has an ACCEPTABLE SURFACE. Versus concrete, packed Earth and grass as NOT ACCEPTABLE.
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Add Fire Pit And Benches
A pea gravel patio is perfect for a fire pit! I bought a propane fire pit, which doesn’t produce embers that could accidentally catch the nearby trees or deck on fire. It starts up with the push of a button, and doesn’t create obnoxious smoke that stings your eyes and seeps into your clothing!
Curved benches fit perfectly around the circular fire pit, and sink into the gravel for more stability.
How To Make A Pea Gravel Patio In A Weekend
– Last updated: May 21, 2021
This DIY pea gravel patio is cheap and easy to make yourself! I’ll show you how to make a gravel patio in just a few days for the perfect backyard hangout!
Looking for an easy DIY patio that doesn’t cost a fortune? A pea gravel patio is just what you need! Instead of spending days leveling the ground and laying pavers, you could be relaxing on your new gravel patio in no time! Need more inspiration? Check out these amazing pea gravel patio ideas!
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Purchases made through these links may earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you. Please visit my disclosures page for more information.
When I first started thinking about how to transform this neglected corner for my backyard makeover, I thought through several different patio ideas. Each has their pros and cons, so I’ll start with a quick comparison.
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Hardscaping : Pea Gravel
How did pea gravel get its name? Well give you one guess.
As gravel goes, it doesnt get any better. These rounded fragments of pea-size stone crunch underfoot as satisfyingly as crispy cereal. Good for covering driveways and paths, and for filling spaces between stone pavers, pea gravel is inexpensive and versatile.
Yet sometimes we overlook this humble standby, especially with all the sexier hardscaping materials around. But its natural appearance, permeability, and versatility often make pea gravel the best choice. If youre wondering how to build a weed- and mud-free garden path, edge a tidy vegetable plot, or put in a driveway without breaking the budget, pea gravel offers a lot of advantages.
Heres everything you need to know about this easy-to-install and inexpensive friend:
Stabilizing Pea Gravel For A Driveway
The first thing to do is to make sure that all leaves, tree limbs, and mud are removed from the driveway. If they are left behind, they will not compact enough to support vehicle traffic. You will need to dig down 8-12 inches below the surface of the driveway so you can rid of any roots that might be there. Doing this will help to stabilize your pea gravel driveway.
Then you will need to fix any drain issues. Water can loosen gravel in a driveway and you do not want it all to run out to the street, your yard, or drainage ditch after a rain.
If there are any low spots or potholes you need to fill them in. You want to make sure that you fill them with enough to make it level with the rest of the driveway. After putting the gravel down, you need to compact it by driving back and forth over the driveway until it is compacted.
You do not need to use a binding agent on the driveway. Just make sure that the driveway is firm and you do not leave any tire tracks when you drive on it. To make sure that the pea gravel does not move you can use edge restraints to keep the gravel on the driveway and not in the yard.
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Flagstone And Gravel Patio
A flagstone is a flat stone slab of slate, sandstone or limestone which is rectangular or square shaped used for paving. It is a preferred material for patios because of its narrow packed joints. Flagstones come in a variety of colors such as gray, brown, reddish or blue. It usually costs around $15 to $30 per square foot.
Flagstone and pea gravel patios are constructed by dry laid method wherein the large stones are set in a bed of sand or pea gravel. The recommended depth for this is 3 inches. The excavated area for the patio is filled with coarse sand and gravel then flagstones are placed in a specific pattern. The joints are filled with the specific gravel of choice or sometimes, mortared or planted with grass.
Flagstone and gravel patios have a natural and organic look and works for both informal and formal design styles. If you are aiming for a casual patio setting, use irregularly shaped flagstones and arrange them in a random pattern. While if leaning towards a more formal vibe for your patio, lay rectangular flagstones in a uniform pattern.
Rectangular gray slate laid out in a mosaic like pattern give this slate and gravel patio an interesting focal point.
How To Install Pea Gravel
There are a few important things to keep in mind when completing a DIY install with pea gravel.
First, it travels, so youll need to have a solid border or edging material to make sure it stays contained. Stone pavers, metal edging, or treated lumber are all great options. Without this, your pea gravel will end up spreading around the yard and causing headaches .
Although pea gravel is easy to maintain in the short term, it can be cumbersome and difficult to clean or replace down the road.
Set yourself up for success by laying down a layer of landscaping fabric before installing the stones so that no stray weeds or nuisance plants find their way into the gravelly mix. This should prevent the growth of weeds and keep cleaning low maintenance.
Next, pea gravel shifts underfoot, so youll need to carefully plan how deep your layer will go. Go too deep and the graveled area will sink like quicksand when stepped on, but too shallow and it will quickly become a muddy mess.
Start with a heavy tamper to compress any soil underneath, add a sturdy base layer of either crushed rock or sand, layer on about 3 inches of pea gravel, and then tamp down again to make sure everything is compact. A sturdy base is especially important for gravel driveways.
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Establish A Level Line & Start Digging
Once we had a plan of action and had some measurements, first we established how deep we needed to dig. This was super important because of how sloped our yard was.
Using some plastic steaks, we hammered them into the ground on all the corners to make the outline of our patio space. Then we attached a string to all the steaks to create a string box. After placing the line level on the string, we moved the string up and down on all the steaks until it was level.
This basically shows how much we needed to dig in order to create a level ground. Once we established that, we started digging.
Once we got to the main patio area, we actually didnt need to dig as much as we needed to fill in more dirt because of the drastic slope. So we had about six more yards of dirt delivered and we filled it in as much as possible.
Without Further Ado Heres How To Install A Pea Stone Patio
I listed affiliate links to all the supplies I used at the end of the post. Read more about affiliate links here.
1 | CLEAR THE GRASS. My son Peter and I did this a month ago by renting a sod cutter. You can read about the process here. It was a pretty hefty job but the sod cutter made the bare ground perfectly even and ready for the pea stone.
2 | INSTALL EDGING. This is a biggie when using gravel in landscapingcontain it with a border of some kind. Our driveway parking area has a pressure treated wood border that works great if you are installing a squared off design.
This is what Thom Filicias gorgeous lakehouse firepit has around it.
Cobblestones make a beautiful border
I wanted to use them, but at $3-5 per stone they were out of my price range. Our patio is rounded, so I went with black powder coated metal edging that can be curved. I was a little leery of metal edging at first because its not all that aesthetically pleasing in and of itself, but look at the difference it makes between the patio and the gardens!!
Here is a closeup of both two pieces joined, and the stakes driven through the edging into the ground.
Once the gardens are filled with plantings and mulch Im hoping the metal will disappear, but in the meantime its pleasing to the eye to have all the pea stone contained.
3 | INSTALL LANDSCAPE FABRIC. After the edging is installed, but before the pea stone comes into play, I strongly suggest you install a weed barrier.
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Pea Gravel Allows For Drainage
There have been drainage problems and other things we discovered in our backyard and we’ve been trying to find solutions to the problems so our backyard can finally be livable. We’ve done a lot of projects to make our back yard look beautiful but this side yard has long been a problem for us.
One year we had a mud pit, literally, in the backyard! The kids loved it but me, not so much.
Okay, truth be told this photo is from my front yard but you get the idea
We tried gravel with black plastic, which kept some of the weeds out but mostly caused a stinky runoff problem because of the lack of drainage in our yard.
So what do you use to allow drainage with pea gravel?
When someone told me that I could use the same felt that I make crafts with as a barrier for a rock patio, it got the wheels turning in my head. I was sent several bolts of felt by my favorite felt company, Kunin Group, and we set to working. Eight weeks later, it really does work and the patio looks great!
Pea Gravel Epoxy Patio
Pea gravel epoxy patio, as the name suggests, is composed of 2 materials : pea gravel and epoxy. Epoxy acts a binding agent to keep the stones smooth and leveled for the patio. When these two materials are mixed, it creates a durable flooring material which can cater to high traffic areas.
This type of patio is also quick and easy to do. Installing a pea gravel epoxy patio is basically just mixing gravel with epoxy and spreading it.
Set up as a fancy outdoor living room, this pea grave patio evokes a rustic yet old world feel. The area rug adds flair to the whole look of the space.
This is an example of a minimalist backyard design with a crushed gravel patio with a fire pit. The plain concrete finish of the raised planter box and natural wood for the fence provides a unique beauty in the unfinished overall look of this patio.
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Preparing The Patio Space
When using pea gravel for a hard surface patio, a binding solution will be used. First, you will measure the area of the patio and check you have the correct amount of binding solution. The area should then be cleaned, and all dirt and dry organic matter should be removed. A rake can then be used to level the pea gravel surface.
The edge of the patio is then lined with paper and tape for protection from the binding solution. It is also possible to use greased wood sticks around the edge.
Chapter : How Much Did This Backyard Makeover Cost
We did this backyard makeover for under $1,000.
That’s including a table, chairs and umbrella we already had.
The red Adirondack chair is from Fred Meyer. $17
The grill was from Target. We got it on sale for under $150.
The gas fire pit was also from Target. It was $320.
If you notice, the style is very similar to the style of the gas fire pit we had at the Suncadia house. It’s much smaller and I’m sure less expensive. But like I said, being there really inspired me.
The DIY cinder block bench is just six cinder blocks and 2 – 4 x 4’s. I wanted something that fit with the style and look and was also basically weatherproof.
We are loving our backyard makeover and enjoy having extra living space in the form of the pea gravel patio.
I’m usually in the backyard having coffee in the morning, sometimes with the fire going.
And most nights, after we put Mo to bed, Katherine and I go and sit by the fire and catch up on the day.
We are also doing a lot of work in the backyard. I wrote probably half of this HOW TO sitting in the backyard.
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You Can Get Pea Gravel In Bulk And Delivered To Your Home
Local rock yards will deliver pea gravel to your home and you can order it by the scoop for about $40-80 per scoop.
Why not bark? Bark comes in bags that you have to buy individually at a home improvement stores so you’re paying for all of that packaging, even though you don’t need it. I have yet to find bark in bulk to buy for the public.
Concrete patios. You can mix concrete yourself but you need a mixer or need to order a concrete truck, both of which are an additional cost and another step for creating the patio. And you’ll also need to build a from for the concrete pad, which is more work and requires additional supplies and tools like 2x4s and a saw.
Gravel is simply the easiest choice!
Four: Lay Paver Base + Sand
Once the full patio area is dug out, install your landscape border. We went with a flexible plastic one, but they also sell nicer metal ones that are a bit more sturdy! We havent had any issues with rocks escaping the patio, so the plastic stuff seems to be working just fine!
If youre doing paver base, youll want to put down about 2-3 inches of that here. Like I noted earlier, we didnt use it for our project, so I dont have photos of that. Please be sure to do your research before deciding to skip this, though we feel confident that our patio will hold up just fine without it, but make sure to talk to someone in your area with experience before making any decisions.
Our next step was to lay the sand. You should use concrete sand for this step I highly recommend you find a local landscaping supply company to get it from. For us, it was about 1/3 of the cost of just buying bags of sand at the hardware store! We had them deliver it directly to our house they just dumped it in the driveway for us and I used a wheelbarrow to bring it back to the yard.
After youve laid about 1 of sand, use your tamper to compact all of the sand around the patio. This is where things can get tricky you arent supposed to step on the sand at all once its been compacted, so you may have to re-tamp it as you work.
Heres a quick rundown of how to screed your patio:
I make these mistakes so you dont have to.
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Add Pea Gravel In Between The Pavers
Once everything was in place, the only thing left to do was add in the pea gravel in between the pavers! I just shoveled small amounts in between the pavers and used a broom to sweep them into place. I went back and forth whether we should use pea gravel, a decorative rock, or grass, but ultimately, I went with pea gravel. I didnt want a bold rock in between the pavers, and long term, I think I would have maybe hated the upkeep of grass since there are so many pavers. So pea gravel it was. Plus, it was inexpensive and also helps to hide pine needles and other debris!
Phew, well there you have it! Exactly how we made our modern paver patio with pea gravel!
What do you guys think about our patio transformation? I honestly cant get over the before and after. Dang- what did we even do with ourselves before this space?! Its going to look even better once everything grows in, too!
Were currently enjoying the rest of the summer with some patio furniture on it, but next year we plan on executing phase two of our design and making a raised garden area, so stay tuned!
Also, If youre interested in all the details on how I made this modern feature fountain or freestanding trellis, I have blog posts for both.
I hope you found this blog post helpful and inspired you to transform a weird spot in your yard into something amazing!
Until next time,