In-Depth Guide: Pea Gravel Patio Pros & Cons

Pea gravel patios have become famous thanks to low maintenance, affordability, and easy installation. You are adding to the aesthetic design and function of the home. So, if you’re looking to give your outdoor space a makeover, you should consider one.

But is this a good choice for your home? Why should you prefer it over bricks or pavers? There are several pea gravel patio pros and cons to know before making a decision, and we’ve compiled them in this comprehensive guide.

In addition to learning the benefits of installing a pea gravel patio, you will also learn how to navigate the drawbacks. We also answer some other common questions that homeowners ask. Let’s get started!

What is Pea Gravel?

pea gravel

Pea gravel is small, rounded stones used for landscaping, mulch replacement, drainage, and other structural construction. It’s typically the size of green peas hence the name.

Pea gravel comes in different sizes, colors, and shapes, ranging from 1/8-inch to 3/8-inch. It’s also available in different colors like brown, yellow, gray, black, etc.

So, what benefits does a pea gravel patio offer?

Pea Gravel Patio Pros

Below are some advantages of using a pea gravel patio for your space.

Very Affordable

Pea gravel is cost-effective compared to other fillers like stone and concrete, and this is a better option, especially if you’re on a budget. Most DIYers prefer pea gravel to avoid the high cost of professional labor and material.

It’s best to buy pea gravel in bulk as it’s cheaper. For example, a ton of plain grey pea gravel costs about $25 to $53. In addition, costs may vary based on factors like color, overall quality, and size.

Low Maintenance

Like many construction projects, pea gravel requires maintenance. However, it’s easier to maintain than concrete or pavers, which are usually cracked or have grouts. Just raking and regular weeding will help maintain its surface. You need not worry about resealing or repainting pea gravel.

Prevents Weed Growth

Many patio materials are susceptible to weeds. However, pea gravel has a thick, protective layer 4 inches above the ground.

This landscaping feature deters water from penetrating the gravel and keeps sunlight away, preventing weed growth. Furthermore, it will avoid pest infestation as there is no vegetation for them to eat.

Readily Available

Another feature of pea gravel is that it’s easily accessible. Pea gravel is widely available in building and landscaping suppliers and home and garden stores. You can even purchase it online (although shipping costs will be high). This contributes to its affordability and low transport costs.

Versatile and Customizable

You can creatively use different sizes, colors, and textures of pea gravel. In addition, the ability to easily customize the shape of your pea gravel patio makes it a better option than other materials.

Pea gravel is a versatile material suitable for large and small spaces, walkways, garden patios, etc. For a stunning landscape feature, you can combine stones and pea gravel. In addition, you can use pea gravel to conceal a large uneven area.

Promotes Water Drainage

Many homeowners are looking to make their homes eco-friendly, and that’s one of the reasons behind the popularity of pea gravel. While concrete may seem good for landscaping, it isn’t eco-friendly as it doesn’t support proper drainage. Surface water runoff is usually associated with concrete patios.

On the other hand, pea gravel patios are made of absorbent components which support drainage and control erosion. Unlike concrete patios, which need to be supported on an incline for water to run off, pea gravel allows water to soak into the stones. Pea gravel is popular in construction and mass landscaping projects due to its permeability.

Natural and Eye-Catching

Due to the variety of colors and natural look, you can use pea gravel anywhere. Typically, the wide range of colors is due to natural weathering.

The various colors enable you to match your pea gravel patio with your space and outdoor features for the most natural look. Combining various colors can make your patio and landscape aesthetically pleasing.

Easy to Walk On

Provided you wear comfortable footwear, you can easily walk on pea gravel. Its small, round shape and smooth surface make pea gravel easy to walk on.

Furthermore, the pea gravel surface becomes firm after some years and develops resistance to placing items. Therefore, besides adults, dogs and kids can play on the pea gravel patio without hurting themselves.

Easy to Install

Pea gravel patios are easy to install, contributing to their low labor costs. And you don’t require expert skills compared to pavers.

You can learn the installation process through a YouTube video and get it done very quickly. Installation usually requires digging up to 6 inches of soil and tamping.

Suitable for Fire Pit

backyard patio fit pit

How lovely will it be to sit with your loved ones on a pea gravel patio with a fire pit on a chilly evening? Patio fire pits make for an excellent location for family time and entertainment.

Pea Gravel Patio Cons

While a pea gravel patio has its benefits, they’re not without drawbacks. Knowing the downsides is essential to help you make an informed decision.

Typically, the drawbacks aren’t much of a big deal if you can navigate around them. However, below are some cons of installing a pea gravel patio in your space.

Easily Displaced

This is probably the biggest drawback of a pea gravel patio. The patio easily shifts and moves, not staying in place. So even when you take extra measures, the pea gravel gets displaced over time.

Nevertheless, you can curb this problem by edging it or adding more gravel regularly. After edging, you can place a border around the gravel to prevent it from shifting.

Chances of Weed Growth

While pea gravel helps prevent weed growth at the soil level, it doesn’t stop weeds from growing on the patio. Weeds may grow back if there are organic elements in the soil that support the germination of seeds.

weed barrier fabric on crushed stone for pea gravel patio

It’s best to use landscaping fabric to stop weed growth. This serves as a layer of weed barrier between the gravel and ground to prevent weed growth. Install the landscaping underneath the patio to reduce the chance of weeds growing.

Furniture May Sink and Become Uneven

Due to the shifting motion of the pea gravel patio, furniture may sink, causing chairs and tables to be uneven. You may need to secure the furniture legs firmly into the gravel for support. If this will be your dining area, consider opting for a 6-inch gravel depth or using a firm base for balance. Also, choose furniture with wider legs instead of the sliding ones.

You could also use supports directly on the soil, such as cinder blocks. Then, hide the cinderblocks with pea gravel.

Difficulty Removing Snow

Clearing snow and removing debris can be an arduous task when you’re using a pea gravel patio. You’ll need to be cautious when shoveling to prevent the removal of the top layer of pea gravel. Use salt to remove ice without disrupting the patio.

Uncomfortable for Bare Feet

If you enjoy walking barefoot on a patio, especially in the summer, a pea gravel patio may not afford you that luxury. While it’s easy to walk on, the pea gravel patio has a rounded and smooth surface with sharp edges that make it uncomfortable to walk barefoot.

Gravel Polishes Itself Over Time

If you combine pea gravel with pavers or flagstones on your patio, you will notice that these materials polish and shape themselves over time. This is due to constant walking over, making the pebbles look like marble. You may need to refill the patio to maintain its compact structure.

Patio Furniture on Pea Gravel

Now that you have installed your pea gravel patio, how can you add to the aesthetics? First, furniture adds some finishing touches to your patio. There are some shapes and styles of furniture that complement a pea gravel patio. And some don’t.

Furniture with wheels, loungers, and coolers is not suitable for the patio. Also, furniture with thin legs doesn’t work well with pea gravel patios as they can sink, causing unevenness.

Chairs and tables with evenly distributed weight are the best choices for a pea gravel patio as they don’t sink. Ensure you opt for furniture with a wider base. In addition, you can add a layer of rubber, pavers, or wood to support furniture on the patio.

Once you’ve placed the material underneath the leg of the chair or table, add gravel around it to conceal it. This method is suitable for stationary furniture. In choosing furniture for your patio, ensure you prioritize stability.

The durability of patio furniture depends on the material it’s designed. Though metal and wood are durable, they’re susceptible to scraping from the stone. This can change the look of your furniture, especially the base area. In addition, a material subjected to scraping will likely get more damage.

While plastic doesn’t rank as the first choice for outdoor furniture, it’s a better option as it’s less prone to damage. Plastic can also get scraped, but it doesn’t lead to further damage like rot or rust.

If you’re considering metal furniture for your patio, ensure it has a protective coating to safeguard against weather conditions and other damage. In addition, since most wear and tear occurs at the base of the furniture, you should aim to protect that area.

Some parks and schools use sliced open tennis balls around the furniture base. While this may not be pleasing to the eyes, it’s protective and improves functionality. You might be able to come up with another item that serves the same purpose and is more appealing to the eye.

Common Questions

Is a Pea Gravel Patio a Good Idea?

Pea gravel patios are easy to install, cost-efficient, low maintenance, promotes water drainage, versatile and customizable. It’s also aesthetically pleasing, readily available, and prevents weed growth. With these benefits listed, it’s a no-brainer that a pea gravel patio is a good idea.

Do Pea Gravel Patios Last?

Pea gravel patios do not decompose or crack over time than pavers and stones. Thus, they are durable and long-lasting. If stones get dislodged after a while, you can replenish or add more stones by purchasing some from the nearest local store.

Is Pea Gravel Hard to Maintain?

While pea gravel is easy to maintain in the short term, cleaning them, in the long run can be difficult. You’ll need to use a leaf blower to keep dirt off the surface or rake the stones regularly. Adding more gravel can solve unevenness and loss of rock density.

How Thick Should it be?

A pea gravel patio should be about 3 to 5 inches thick (or 13 cm deep) because it gives room for the stone base (10cm) and decorative gravel (3cm) to fit in perfectly.

How to Clean a Pea Gravel Patio

You can use a dry/wet vacuum cleaner, hose, and bucket to clean the patio. While vacuuming, it’s likely that some stones will get sucked up. Empty the debris and stones into a bucket and add water. The debris will float on top of the water with the stones beneath. Discard the debris above water.

Ensure you mix the stones under the water to loosen the dirt. Once the dirt is gone, you can scoop stones out of the water and spread them on the patio. Evenly spread them to fill thin spots. Cleaning may seem daunting, but you can ask for an extra hand or clean on a sunny day to ease stress.

How Much Pea Gravel is Needed for a 12×12 Patio?

To know the amount of pea gravel you’ll require for a 12×12 patio, you’ll need to measure the patio and calculate gravel and other materials.

Here’s how to determine how much pea gravel you need for your patio.
Measure the length and width of your patio using a measuring tape.
Multiply the length and breadth to obtain the square footage. For example, for a 12×12 patio, the square footage is 144 square feet.
T
ypically, a base layer of gravel patio should be 4-inches deep. 4 inches equals one-third of a foot. Multiply 144 square feet by one-third to get the cubic feet of gravel needed. You’ll need 44 cubic feet of gravel for your patio.

Gravel is often sold by cubic yards. So, to calculate the cubic yard, divide the cubic feet by 27, which means 44 divided by 27, which equals 1.6 cubic yards. Then, add 5 percent to the cubic yard to create room for adjustments and allowance.

Besides gravel, you may need a base material (depends on the type of soil you’re working with). This will usually be sand or, more commonly, crushed stone.

Some Maintenance Tips

Rake the Gravel Surface

Since pea gravel moves or shifts around often, it will be best to rake the surface. Raking helps to keep gravel in place while filing the low spots.

Weed the Patio

It’s not surprising to see weeds growing shortly after placing a patio. You can easily hand pick the weeds. Or, apply a herbicide (consult directions and follow safety precautions).

Another conventional way to get rid of weeds is using hot water. This is a good natural alternative to herbicides.

Get Rid of Potholes

Fill potholes with fine sand and large gravel. Pour fine sand first to form the base, then add large gravel. Next, level it to make sand and gravel compacts. Overfilling potholes may be a good idea as material may settle over time.

Create a Drainage System

When leveling the gravel, ensure the middle is higher than the other sides because it stops water from building up in the middle, resulting in potholes.

Remove the Leaves

Over time, leaves will fall on the patio. Use a leaf blower to remove the leaves. It’s best to remove the leaves when they’re dry. When leaves are wet, they get stuck to gravel, making them difficult to remove.

Add a Fresh Layer of Gravel

Add more gravel every two to four years when it thins out. Spread it around the patio and level it. Ensure it’s well layered to prevent water from accumulating and promote proper drainage.

There you have it! If you adhere strictly to the maintenance tips, you’ll realize that maintaining a pea gravel patio isn’t labor-intensive.

Videos

Basic installation of a pea gravel patio with a wood border and crushed stone base.

He followed a similar process in the above video and kept the cost under $200. He does not mention if he used weed barrier fabric or base material.

Final Words

A patio is a perfect place to have memorable times with family and friends. Adding a pea gravel patio to your space has many benefits: It’s affordable, versatile, customizable, easy to install, and comfy to walk on.

While a pea gravel patio has its downsides, the pros outweigh the cons. So don’t sleep on this landscaping feature! Instead, upgrade your home aesthetics and enjoy.