In the world of patio flooring, pea gravel is one option that’s easy to lay and yields great results.
This small type of gravel can be carefully placed on the patio floor and form the basis for other cool elements, like pavers, fairy lights, or whatever your heart desires.
Can you make a pea gravel patio yourself?
Pea gravel is easy to lay and an affordable option for a floor covering, with a single person being able to create a patio in just a couple of days of work.
If you want a DIY job that gives beautiful results, it’s one of the better ones to tackle yourself.
Pea gravel is a simple and classic look, and it suits so many other decors and elements you might find in a patio.
This guide will look further at the trend of pea gravel patios, their pros and cons, ongoing maintenance, and how to style your patio once it’s all said and done.
What is a Pea Gravel Patio?
Pea gravel gets its name from its shape and size, made up of lots of tiny pea-sized stones, and spread carefully around in areas like patios, pathways, and gardens.
This gravel has been used for centuries and offers a classic appearance that never goes out of style, although it’s an often-overlooked option.
Patios made of this special gravel are ideal for people who like low-maintenance and affordable floors outdoors.
The nature of this durable gravel means it’s perfectly suited to outside use as well, so you never have to worry about bits of wood swelling up or having to replace cracked concrete slabs.
Pea gravel is an all-encompassing term that covers small, smooth stones that measure between 1/8 to 3/8 inch in size, just like their namesake.
They come in a range of colors like brown, white, and gray, and you’ll commonly find them all mixed together, which further adds to their wonderful appearance.
The Best Use for Pea Gravel
One of the best things about pea gravel is its versatility, and looking around the average home, you’ll be able to find many ways to put it to good use.
These are some of the common uses for the gravel:
This small gravel can be filled into the excavated ground or poured into a pre-made border or edging to form a garden path.
You could also place pavers to form the stepping stones of the path and then use pea gravel to fill in the empty space.
Pea gravel is a great alternative to mulch and can be placed around containers and inside garden beds.
The gravel won’t decompose and doesn’t have to be replaced, it stops weeds from growing and keeps the moisture in where it’s needed.
Scattering pea gravel around a playground is a cheap and easy way to cover the ground.
As the pieces of rock are small, they’re easy to walk on, unlike other forms of gravel, and can make a comfortable landing surface for children as well.
A pea gravel patio is an economical way to create a beautiful space for backyard entertaining.
As you would with a pathway or garden bed though, you need some form of edging to keep the tiny rocks from traveling too far away.
Pros and Cons to Weigh Up
Choosing the type of patio your home will have is a big task, and you should weigh up all the potential options for flooring before deciding.
If pea gravel is on your list of potential patios, you’ll want to know what pros and cons it brings to the table.
- The cost of installing a pea gravel patio is incredibly affordable, not to mention the money you can save by doing the job yourself. You can expect to pay around $1 per square foot of pea gravel patio, but this doesn’t include extras like the base rock and edging.
- If you like a timeless appearance for your patio, pea gravel can achieve it. The final look is reminiscent of an English garden or quaint tea party, and it gives you complete freedom to take it wherever you want to go, with additions like party lights and powder-coated bistro sets to finish it off.
- The durable nature of the rocks that make up this gravel means it’s naturally weather-resistant, waterproof, and won’t fade even with constant UV exposure. When you stack it up against something like hardwood, it’ll last years longer on your patio.
- There’s little to no ongoing maintenance with pea gravel so once the job is over, you can sit back and enjoy. You may need to top it up every few years if some pieces of gravel have gone astray, but other than that, there’s nothing to do to keep it looking beautiful.
- Certain things don’t travel as well over pea gravel as they do a smooth layer of concrete or a hardwood deck. If you plan on using devices like prams, wheelchairs, or even portable coolers a lot, you’ll want to rethink whether pea gravel and its tendency to shift underfoot is suitable for wheels.
- Due to the smaller size, pea gravel travels when you walk on it, so it’s not as simple as pouring it over the desired space and leaving it. It needs a high edging or border around it to keep it contained otherwise you’ll spend your weekends picking up scattered rocks from the grass.
- The sound that pea gravel makes when you stand on it can be charming but it can also be annoying. If you prefer a quieter surface or have to think about things like sleeping babies or neighbors close by, a smoother patio flooring is probably ideal.
- Areas where water runs through aren’t ideal for pea gravel as its smaller pieces can be washed away. If your patio is prone to water buildup, consider installing a grate or drainage system to prevent this.
DIY vs Professional: Which is Best?
If the ability to DIY is part of your goals for patio flooring, you can add another point for pea gravel.
In terms of simplicity, it’s one of the easiest to source and install, with just a few simple steps required:
- Determine the space where you’ll create a patio zone and mark it out so you can get exact measurements.
- Order the pea gravel based on the measurements you’ve done and make sure to order at least 20% extra. This will cover you for any mistakes and give you some backup gravel in case you have to fill your patio in later.
- Use a shovel to excavate the patio space and get rid of things like plants, rocks, and weeds. Use a steel rake to comb through the surface once it’s done and then flatten the earth down while wearing shoes, making sure it’s even.
- Choose your edging material, whether timber, steel, or plastic, and place this around the perimeter of the patio. You’ll want all pieces to meet up so there’s nowhere for the pea gravel to escape.
- Place a layer of landscape fabric like weed matting on the surface of the patio zone first. This will prevent weeds from growing through so you don’t have to pull them out through the pea gravel in the months and years to come.
- Load up a truck or wheelbarrow and slowly pour the pea gravel into the patio area. Take some time between each load to spread out the gravel using your wheelbarrow. When it’s done, look at it from all angles to check for evenness.
Of course, you can hire a professional to lay your pea gravel patio, if you want to save time and ensure a quality job.
With the pea gravel itself costing less than $1 for a square foot of coverage, you’ll then pay another $1 or less for each square foot for labor.
It still makes it an affordable option compared to other patio types so it depends on the individual.
Care and Maintenance
Among pea gravel’s many benefits, its low maintenance reputation has to be one of the best.
If you plan on using this timeless option for your patio, there are a few tips you can follow to guarantee it stays in perfect condition:
- Use a layer of landscaping fabric on the ground before you pour the base rock and pea gravel. This creates a barrier between the rock and soil which stops things like weeds and plants from poking through. Depending on the fabric you choose, you may need to replace this every few years as it deteriorates.
- Invest in a solid steel rake for your pea gravel patio and whenever it looks like it needs help, give it a once over. The rake can smooth things out and help you spread the gravel back onto areas where it might have moved.
- Choose an edging that’s high enough to keep the pea gravel in and then go above by a couple of inches. A smart choice in edging before you begin will save you years of hard work in the future.
- If you live somewhere that gets snowy during winter, head out during spring to see what needs to be done. Sometimes, the pea gravel will move with the ice and snow, and it’ll have to be raked back into place.
Choosing Furniture to Suit Your Pea Gravel Patio
With your pea gravel patio laid, you can then let your imagination run wild by adding the finishing touches.
When it comes to furntirue though, there are some styles and shapes that do better on this surface than others.
First, you’ll want to avoid anything with wheels, including coolers and loungers, as they’ll be virtually immovable on the gravel surface.
Anything with thin legs might sink into the pea gravel as well, which will lead to unevenness and tables and chairs that rock while you sit on them.
The best choices are tables and chairs with good weight distribution so that certain parts don’t go deeper into the gravel than others.
Look for good width on the base and if needed, add a layer of rubber or other material that can give the furniture some grip to the pea gravel surface.
Easy Peasy Patio
If you want a low-fuss patio flooring that you can lay yourself, pea gravel might be the answer you’ve been looking for.
This classic and elegant patio option can form the basis of any great open-air space, so consider its pros and cons to see if it’s a good fit for your outdoor plans.
Choosing a patio floor is harder than it sounds, with so many options out there like pea gravel, wood, and concrete, each with something unique to offer.
If you’re still struggling to come up with the best patio for your home, check out these FAQs and our expert answers that can give you a push in the right direction.
What is the Easiest Gravel to Walk On?
Pea gravel is known as one of the easier surfaces to walk on because of the small size of its stones.
Gravel is notorious for being difficult to walk across, especially with bare feet, so if it’s a high-traffic area like a patio, you want something that’s going to be comfortable.
Can You Make a Patio With Wood Chips?
Wood chips can be used to create a floor for a patio but the nature of this material means it won’t last very long and won’t do as well in wet conditions.
If your goal is to keep a woodchip floor, you’ll need to constantly maintain it by adding new chips and turning the previous ones.