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How to Make a Pea Gravel Patio in a Weekend

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!

How to Make a Pea Gravel Patio

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!

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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.

Pea Gravel Patio vs Pavers

Cost

One of the biggest differences between a pea gravel patio and a paver patio is cost. A pea gravel patio is by far the cheapest DIY option!

I ordered one cubic yard of pea gravel from a local supplier. This was more than enough for a 100 square foot patio at 3 inches deep. It was delivered at the same time as my bulk mulch to save even more, and the gravel ended up costing less than $100.

pea gravel pile in driveway

Creating the same 100 square foot patio out of pavers would cost at least five times that price! You can compare the pricing with these paver options and see for yourself.

Site Preparation

To create a professional looking paver patio, you need to spend hours digging out the space, leveling and compacting the soil, preparing a solid base, then laying dozens of pavers. Check out the video below for an example of the work that goes into making a paver patio. It's not exactly an afternoon project!

On the other hand, you could make a pea gravel patio in a day (with a little help). It took me a few days by myself due to weather and the time it took to lay the edging (more on that later!)

Maintenance

Ever trip over a loose paver stone? It takes some work to level those heavy blocks again. Not to mention, they can get covered in moss and mildew over the years and need to be cleaned.

Pea gravel patios are a snap to keep clean! Just use a leaf blower to keep leaves and debris from mixing with the gravel.

blowing leaves off pea gravel patio

The one drawback is that sometimes the gravel escapes the patio and ends up in the grass or on the concrete path. A paver border can help keep the rocks contained. Top off the pea gravel patio with more stones as they settle or go missing.

Have I convinced you yet? 😉 Now I'll show you how to make a pea gravel patio yourself!

Materials Needed to Make a Pea Gravel Patio

How to Make a Pea Gravel Patio

Check out this quick video on how to make a pea gravel patio first, then follow the steps below.

Remove the Grass (if Necessary)

Determine the shape of your gravel patio, then spray paint the desired line (this one can spray straight down for a more exact line!)

marked grass for pea gravel patio

Use a straight edged shovel to cut away the grass along the line.

cutting grass with shovel for pea gravel patio

Then remove the grass to create a crisp line. This will make laying the paver edging much easier!

grass removed from pea gravel patio area

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.

Ryobi cultivator loosening soil for pea gravel patio

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.

roots scattered throughout pea gravel patio area

Compact the Soil and Lay Landscaping Fabric

Once you've got the soil cleared away, compact the soil with a tamper.

gravel patio area dug out

Then roll weed blocking landscaping fabric across the entire area and secure with stakes. This will prevent dirt from mixing with the gravel and making a muddy mess in the rain, and will stop weeds and roots from growing through.

landscaping fabric as base for gravel patio area

Install Gravel Patio Edging

You can use any kind of edging to separate the gravel from the grass. I chose concrete pavers with rounded ends to make it easier to follow the gentle curves I cut out of the grass. If you're making a standard rectangular pea gravel patio, you could even use pressure treated lumber that's rated for ground contact.

To prevent the concrete pavers from shifting over time and coming out of alignment, I installed this plastic paver edging underneath first. The raised side goes along the grass, and makes it easy to create straight and curved lines with the edging blocks.

paver edging being installed around pea gravel patio

Use a hammer and masonry chisel to cut the bricks for a custom fit. I created a 90 degree corner by chopping the curved ends off two blocks. Then I worked backwards to reach the walkway and trimmed the last block to fit.

curved concrete pavers forming a 90 degree angle

Make sure that the paver edging is level with the grass to prevent tripping and toe-stubbing. Dig out any high spots, and use the extra dirt to raise any low ones. I also put a thin layer of pea gravel underneath for added stability.

As you lay each paver, place a level on top. Mine tended to tilt in towards the patio because there wasn't anything holding them upright from that side yet. I used a hand trowel to poke pea gravel under the paver on the low side until it was level.

checking level on pea gravel patio border pavers

These paver blocks will eventually extend all the way around the yard. For now, they meet up with the edging I installed last year in the side garden bed.

Add retaining wall for garden bed (optional)

I wanted to create a clear division between the garden bed and the pea gravel patio. A short retaining wall will keep the spaces separate, but doesn't block the flow between the two areas.

The first layer of retaining wall blocks is even with the paver edging and the concrete walkway. I totally lucked out and got a perfect fit without having to cut any pieces or adjust the edging!

concrete pavers and retaining wall blocks

That ridge along the top locks into a corresponding valley in the capstone blocks. Offset the top so each one straddles two of the base blocks.

mulched garden bed next to a pea gravel patio with a block retaining wall in between

Now I could fill in the garden bed behind the retaining wall with some of the dirt I dug out of the patio area!

Fill Patio with Pea Gravel

Get your wheelbarrow ready, and start loading it up with gravel! I bought this dump cart with a quick-release specifically for this project to make the process easier. It felt like I made a million trips from the side of the house where the gravel was dumped to the backyard patio.

filling a pea gravel patio

Spread out the rocks with a metal rake over the entire patio area.

raking pea gravel patio level

When you've filled it about an inch, use the tamper to stabilize and compact the gravel patio base layer.

tamping down pea gravel patio base

Then fill the rest of the patio with even more pea gravel, and rake it smooth.

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!

backyard makeover final reveal

Curved benches fit perfectly around the circular fire pit, and sink into the gravel for more stability.

propane fire pit with curved benches on pea gravel patio

Enjoy Your New Pea Gravel Patio!

This backyard has been totally transformed! You can check out all the before and after photos of this makeover here. The dark, lifeless corner is now the highlight of the entire yard!

before and after of pea gravel patio area

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How to Make a Pea Gravel Patio

hammock hanging from deck with fire pit and gravel patio in the background
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