Pea gravel is commonly used for walkways, driveways, and as filler between stone pavers around the home. Pea gravel is made up of small, rounded stones. It is commonly used for high-traffic areas due to its smooth finish.
Pea gravel is highly desirable as it is versatile and cost-effective. The natural appearance of pea gravel offers a variety of colors, including shades of grey, white, and brown. The gravel also allows water to flow easily through the stones, allowing for great permeability.
When the gravel is loose, it is likely to travel, so an edging material such as bricks, stones, or metal edging is needed. The gravel travels when the pea gravel is not stabilized, allowing it to be displaced when someone walks on it.
Table of Contents
Methods of Stabilizing Pea Gravel
There are many methods of stabilizing pea gravel. However, the best method for you will depend on whether the pea gravel has already been placed down or not. Additionally, the method of stabilization will depend on what your final product is going to be.
If the pea gravel is used on a walkway or driveway, it can be enough to merely compress it to create stability. On the other hand, if you are using them on a patio, it is best if the pea gravel is completely immoveable. When chairs or tables on are placed on the gravel they are then less likely to be unsteady and fall over.
Installing Loose Pea Gravel
Installing loose pea gravel is relatively simple compared to other hardscaping materials. To first install the pea gravel, you will want to work the soil to a depth of approximately 6 inches. You will then want to lay down a two-inch layer of coarse base rock (also known as crushed rock).
You should then place a three-inch layer of pea gravel. The base rock will help to stabilize the pea gravel by offering a firm supporting surface. If there are a lot of weeds present, you may want to add a barrier of landscape fabric between the base rock and the pea gravel. The downside however, is that the landscape fabric can degrade or become visible over time.
If a pea gravel path acts like a pile of marbles and is very slippery, it likely did not have the base rock layer installed. To help with the slipperiness, you can add in stone dust to help stabilize the pea gravel.
When working the soil, make sure to get a few inches below the desired level of the pea gravel. It is also recommended to tamp the earth using a hand tamper. This will help to create a compact surface the base rock will sit upon and limit the deterioration of the earth.
When selecting your base rock, make sure to pick rough gravel that is large enough to allow the pointy edges to interlock and heavy enough to not be washed away in a storm. You will once again want to tamp the base rock until it does not move, as this supports the pea gravel.
To make the path very stable, you can also add a layer of decomposed granite after the base rock and before the pea gravel is placed. Once again tamp the decomposed granite until it does not move. Using decomposed granite will help the pea gravel to set and not move when people walk on it.
Working Decomposed Granite
When using a hand tamper on decomposed granite, it will stick to the bottom of the hand tamper in clumps. This can wreck the flat surface you are making. To solve this issue, apply WD-40 after wiping off the bottom of the tamper. This will stop the problem of the decomposed granite clumping.
Checking the Pea Gravel for Stability
The level of the surface can be checked by spraying the pea gravel with water until it is soaked. You fcan see the low spots where the water pools. This will then allow you to know where the pea gravel should be tamped down more.
Tamping the pea gravel after installation will help the final layer to be stable and prevent it from moving. If the pea gravel does not move when it is walked upon, then it has been successfully stabilized.
Stabilizing Pea Gravel for a Patio
In this case, to stabilize the gravel, it is best to use a binding agent that will keep the pea gravel in place. The method of turning the pea gravel into a patio will depend on if the gravel has yet been installed in its desired location.
In the case the pea gravel has yet to have been installed, first lay down a cement plaster under the pea gravel. Next, using pressurized water remove any loose gravel. Allow the pea gravel to show.
The pea gravel that has already been installed can be stabilized using polyurethane solution or epoxy coatings. This is a better alternative to gathering up the gravel and mixing it with cement.
Preparing the Patio Space
When using pea gravel for a hard surface patio, a binding solution will be used. First, you will measure the area of the patio and check you have the correct amount of binding solution. The area should then be cleaned, and all dirt and dry organic matter should be removed. A rake can then be used to level the pea gravel surface.
The edge of the patio is then lined with paper and tape for protection from the binding solution. It is also possible to use greased wood sticks around the edge.
Laying Down the Pea Gravel
After the pea gravel has been dry for at least three days, wearing rubber gloves follow the manufacturer’s directions for mixing in the binding solution. Either pour or sprinkle the binding solution over the pea gravel in even and light layers. If there are large areas, apply the binding solution in two or three coats. Allowing the pea gravel to dry at least 24 hours in between each coat. While drying is occurring do not allow anyone to step on the pea gravel.
Finishing the Patio and Checking Stability
Once the final coat is dried, test the pea gravel for stability. The pea gravel is stable if it does not move when stepped upon and does not feel slippery. If the pea gravel is slippery, apply another coating.
Before the coat is dry, apply sand over the binding solution. Then allow it to dry for another 24 hours. The protecting paper and tape or wood sticks if used can then be removed.
This will allow you to enjoy your stabilized pea gravel for years to come.