Last Updated on January 16, 2023 by Grow with Bovees
Pea gravel patios are becoming increasingly popular these days thanks to their easy installation, low cost, and simple maintenance.
But does that mean it’s right for you and your home?
We take a look at pea gravel patio pros and cons, how to lay a backyard patio using pea-sized stones, and answer some frequently asked questions that you may have.
What is Pea Gravel?
Composed of small, rounded stones of around a ¼ inch in diameter, this material is the size of green peas, which is where it gets its name.
Larger pea gravel is also available in sizes up to around 1″, although people often go for the smaller size.
Pea shingle, as it’s also known, is a naturally formed hardscaping material that can usually be found near rivers and lakes where water and natural weathering have worn down and eroded the rocks into smooth, round, pea-sized pebbles.
Used for a variety of purposes in outdoor construction and around the yard from garden beds to walkways, lawn accents, paths and recently, patios, fancy-colored pea gravel comes in a wide range of options from a neutral white or gray to more natural earthy reds and yellows.
It’s no wonder pea gravel popularity has shot up in recent times.
How Do You Install a Pea Gravel Patio?
Laying an amazing pea gravel patio is a fairly easy DIY project that most homeowners can undertake with a little bit of planning and site preparation for the initial installation.
Unlike laying concrete pavers or slabs, there are just a few simple steps and it doesn’t even matter if the base isn’t perfectly level as you will see below.
The main thing that you need to remember is that because of the small size of the stone, the patio will need to have an edging of some sort to keep it all in place.
Preparing the Patio Area
The first step in creating a patio from pea gravel is to prepare the area where it’s going to go.
The simplest way is to mark the boundary of the intended place with pegs and string, chalk or spray paint and then dig down into the ground at least 3 inches across the entire space.
If the patio needs to have a raised edge, because you’re digging into a slope for example, then use some gravel board or other material to provide a solid edging that will hold the pea gravel in place.
It doesn’t matter if the depth is not exactly 3” or level all the way across the entire patio area. As long as it’s somewhere around that then the gravel will level itself once installed.
Tamping Down the Base
Next, the earth will need to be trodden or tamped down to compact the soil.
This is just to provide a firm foundation to lay the gravel on so that once it’s in place it doesn’t sink at all.
Best Gravel for Patio Base?
If the soil is particularly difficult to tamp down into a solid base, it is possible to lay down some crushed rock as a gravel patio base layer.
Something like #57 or ¾ inch crushed stone would work really well and provide a suitable foundation, but you will need to dig down another couple of inches to allow room for it.
Laying Down Some Landscaping Fabric
Putting down some landscaping fabric is an optional step, but we highly recommend it.
Not only does it stop the earth base from becoming a muddy mess, but it also acts as a weed lock fabric.
Lay the fabric over the entire patio area and secure it with stakes so that it will be fixed underneath the gravel.
Install Some Patio Edging
As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to put in place some edging to keep the pea gravel in place.
There are many materials available to use including plastic edging, pressure-treated wood, and concrete paver edging.
Pour in the Gravel
It’s now time to get out the wheelbarrow and start filling the patio area with pea gravel.
Fill the space with a layer of pea gravel around 1 inch deep and then tamp it down so it provides a firm base before topping up the gravel and raking it smooth.
That’s it! You now have a lovely new pea gravel patio to enjoy.
Now that we’ve briefly gone through how to install your new patio, let’s take a look at all the gravel patio pros and cons of using pea gravel instead of something like pavers or natural landscaping rock flagstones.
Pea Gravel Patio Pros
Affordable Pea Gravel Cost
One of the biggest benefits is that a pea gravel patio cost is much lower than if laying one using other materials making it quite easily the cheapest DIY option.
Costs depend on several factors, including where you live, color, quantity, etc. but can usually be found at bulk rates for around $30-$50 per ton, or you can often buy it per square foot or cubic yard.
As a guide, a ton of gravel will cover around 72 square feet at a depth of 3” so it’s very cheap for larger projects.
If you compare this to other materials used for patios, the price difference becomes clear. For example, 200 square feet of poured concrete will come in at anywhere between $800 and $1600 by the time everything is finished.
Easy to Find
Decorative pea gravel is readily available from home and garden stores, building and landscaping firms in large bags or in bulk. No matter where you live, there will always be somewhere nearby or online where you can buy bags of stone.
With so much choice available, it’s important to make sure you take the time to find the right size and color to go with your garden project rather than just purchase the first load of stone you come across.
Another issue with a patio made of solid concrete, pavers or flagstones is that they are not permeable and need to be laid at a slight angle to allow any rainwater that collects on the surface to run off.
This is not a problem with a pea shingle patio as water will just drain straight through, which makes them much kinder to the landscape where they are installed.
Versatile and Easily Customized
Another benefit to a gravel patio is that it’s easy to customize the shape of the area with curves and angles, which is very difficult to do with other materials unless you are experienced or pay a professional to lay it for you.
Pea gravel is so versatile with its different textures and colors that it can be used in virtually any situation where you need to create a seating area that looks great in all weathers, and it’s easy to cover a large uneven area with a smooth pebble surface.
Easy to Maintain
Anyone who has had to replace cracked concrete patios or repair the grouting between pavers will appreciate how simple it is to maintain a pea gravel patio.
Cracks, heaving, weather, and just general wear and tear all take their toll on most other patio materials.
With pea gravel, you just need to rake out leaves and debris from time to time and top up with more gravel where necessary.
One word of warning though, if using a leaf blower, make sure you use a low setting as a powerful machine can blow the small stones around.
Makes a Great Base for a Fire-Pit
A pea gravel patio with a fire pit is a lovely place to sit around on a chilly evening as you burn some of your favorite firewood. The gravel makes a great fire-proof surface to situate a wood burning fire pit, so it is an ideal location for your favorite open – air log burner.
Pea Gravel Patio Cons
Needs to be Contained
As we mentioned in the installation section, one downside of pea gravel is that it will spread if you don’t contain it with some sort of edging.
You have probably experienced how it shifts underfoot when walking down a gravel pathway even if it has been edged properly, so making sure there is a solid border around your gravel patio will really help keep it all in place.
Uncomfortable for Bare Feet
If walking over a smooth stone patio barefoot that’s been warmed in the sun is something that you really enjoy in the summer, unfortunately, with a gravel surface you will not get that pleasure.
Pea gravel screening is usually rounded and smooth, but you may still find the occasional sharp edge that can make it a little uncomfortable to walk on without shoes or sandals.
Furniture on Pea Gravel May be Unstable
One thing you sometimes find with gravel is that your patio furniture doesn’t sit properly, making tables and patio chairs unstable or off-kilter.
You can usually solve this by choosing furniture with a wider base and just making sure tables are bedded into the gravel properly before use.
As we mentioned earlier, you could find weeds starting to come up in your patio unless you put something down to stop them. Landscape fabric to the rescue! This helps to prevent weed growth, so we highly recommend you put some down before pouring in the gravel.
Difficult Snow Removal
Our final con is an important one that we need to bring to your attention.
If you need to clear snow off a gravel patio, it’s not going to be an easy task. You can’t very easily shovel the snow as it picks up some stones along with it, nor can you use a powerful snowblower as it might remove the small gravel at the same time.
Pea Gravel Patio FAQs
If we’ve done our job properly you now have some good pea gravel patio ideas buzzing around your head and may even be planning to install one soon, but let’s just take a look at some common FAQs to round off our article.
Is pea gravel good for patios?
Pea gravel is great for patios as long as none of the cons we’ve listed above concern you. There are plenty of benefits in using this very attractive stone as a patio surface, so it’s definitely worth considering.
Do pea gravel patios last?
Pea gravel patios can last for a very long time. They don’t crack or break and if you lose some stones over time it’s very easy to just top them up with some gravel bags from your local store.
Does pea gravel get muddy?
Pea gravel can get muddy if you don’t put down some landscape fabric over the dirt or make the gravel at least 3 inches deep. If you don’t want to use fabric then we recommend a 6-inch gravel depth to suppress weeds and mud.
How do you maintain a pea gravel patio?
Maintaining a pea gravel patio is simply a matter of raking out leaves and debris every so often and topping up the stones if the level has dropped at all.
How deep should a gravel patio be?
A gravel patio should be at least 3 inches deep as a minimum and up to 6 inches deep in some cases, especially if not using any landscaping fabric to suppress the weeds.
How do you stabilize a pea gravel patio?
The best way to stabilize a gravel patio is to always make sure you have strong edging in place all the way around the patio area.
This stops the movement of gravel over time and also helps stop the pea gravel from washing away.
We hope to have covered all your questions regarding the pros and cons of pea gravel patios, and that you are now ready to build and enjoy your own version of a pea gravel patio!