Pea Gravel Patio Basics
Pea gravel is an affordable and versatile material that can transform your patio into a beautiful outdoor space. Unlike more expensive options like poured concrete or natural flagstone, pea gravel is easy to handle and install, making it a popular choice for DIY projects. Its smooth, rounded texture offers a comfortable walking surface and reduces the chances of clumping and retaining footprints compared to angular gravel.
Pea Gravel Project Details
- Working Time: 2 – 3 days
- Total Time: 3 – 4 days
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Estimated Cost: $800 to $1,000
This project guide will help you create a stunning pea gravel patio with dimensions of 16 feet long by 16 feet wide and a gravel depth of 2 to 3 inches. You can adjust the measurements to suit your patio’s size. To contain the loose pea gravel, it’s essential to build a sturdy wooden frame using pressure-treated landscape timbers or lumber. Ensure the wood is rated for ground contact to prevent rotting.
Call Before You Dig
Before starting your project, it’s crucial to call 8-1-1, the national “Call Before You Dig” hotline, to have all utility lines marked on your property. This free service will help you avoid damaging buried electrical, plumbing, or irrigation lines. Additionally, if you have a fenceless pet containment system, be aware of low-voltage wiring near the ground surface, which could be damaged during excavation. Turn off the power to the system and exercise caution when digging in the vicinity.
What You’ll Need
Equipment / Tools:
- Measuring tape
- Mattock or pickax (optional)
- Bow rake
- Drill and 1/2 inch wood bit
- Hand sledge
- Wheelbarrow or garden cart
- Garden hose and spray nozzle (optional)
- 3 cubic yards of Pea gravel
- 8 Pressure-treated landscape timbers (4×6″ or 3×4″), 8 feet long
- 24 pieces of #4 rebar, 12 inches long
- Landscape fabric
- Landscape fabric pins (garden staples)
- Select the Patio Space
Choose a suitable location for your pea gravel patio. Avoid steep areas, as the gravel may shift and become less stable. Heavy foot traffic and excessive water flow can also disrupt the gravel. Ensure the space is conducive to a stable and long-lasting patio.
- Order the Gravel
Contact a local supplier to order your pea gravel. For a 16-by-16-foot area with a depth of 3 inches, you will require approximately 1.58 cubic yards of gravel. Depths exceeding 3 inches may become difficult to walk on, while depths below 2 inches may expose the underlying surface over time. Consider ordering slightly more gravel, around 2 cubic yards, to accommodate any loss or replenishment needs.
- Square the Perimeter
Using twine, mark the perimeter of your patio. Measure diagonally between opposing corners to ensure the frame is square.
- Excavate the Area
Use a shovel to remove any vegetation, rocks, and debris from the patio area, including where the timber frame will be placed. If necessary, use a mattock or pickaxe to cut away roots and ensure a smooth surface.
- Rake and Tamp
Rake the soil to achieve a level surface, then compact it thoroughly by walking over it or using a hand tamp. This step is crucial to create a stable foundation for your patio.
- Lay Out the Frame Timbers
Arrange the eight landscape timbers to form a 16-foot square. Make sure to overlap the timbers at the corners, with one end of each timber butting up against the side of the neighboring timber. This arrangement will create a perfect square shape for your frame.
- Secure the Timbers
Drill three 1/2-inch holes through each timber: one near each end and one in the center. Insert a 12-inch length of #4 rebar into each hole and use a hand sledge to drive the rebar flush with or slightly below the wood’s surface. This will secure the timbers in place.
- Install Landscape Fabric
Roll out strips of landscape fabric to cover the entire patio area within the frame. Make sure to overlap each strip by 4 inches. Extend the fabric up the sides of the frame by an inch or two. Secure the fabric firmly with landscape fabric pins along the perimeter and at all seams. This fabric will help prevent weed growth while allowing for proper drainage.
- Add the Gravel
Load a wheelbarrow or garden cart with pea gravel and bring it next to the frame. Begin by lightly tossing shovelfuls of gravel at various spots within the patio area to secure the landscape fabric. Take care not to damage the fabric with your feet or shovel.
Gradually add more gravel to fill in any bare spots, maintaining a shallow layer at first. Continue adding gravel and use a rake to spread it evenly until you reach the desired depth. Use the rake to smooth the gravel surface, ensuring it is flat and level. Optionally, you can spray the surface with a garden hose to clean the gravel and give it a fresh look. Your pea gravel patio is now ready to be enjoyed!
When to Call a Professional
Building a pea gravel patio is generally a DIY project that does not require professional assistance. However, if handling heavy loads becomes challenging, you may consider enlisting the help of one or two assistants for a day to assist with pouring and spreading the gravel.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does gravel make a good patio? A: Gravel can create an affordable and easy-to-maintain patio that you can construct yourself. It offers a unique aesthetic and good drainage properties.
Q: What type of gravel is best for patios? A: Pea gravel is one of the top choices for patios due to its small, manageable size and ability to fit into various areas. It is durable, weather-resistant, and allows for proper drainage.
Q: What should be placed under a gravel patio? A: It is recommended to use landscape fabric under a gravel patio. This fabric suppresses weed growth while still allowing water to drain through effectively.
Remember to follow local building codes and guidelines during your patio construction project. Enjoy your beautiful pea gravel patio for many years to come!