What Are The Pros And Cons Of A Gravel Patio? (Find Out Now!)
With its many colors and shapes, gravel is a beautiful addition to your landscaping. It’s often used for driveways or as a drainage solution, but it can also make a charming patio.
Gravel is a cost-effective patio material. It’s widely available and comes in a variety of colors and shapes. Pea gravel in particular naturally prevents weeds and absorbs water. A high maintenance material, gravel must be constantly raked and refilled due to its constant shifting. It also needs a firm foundation and barrier edge to keep it in place.
Let’s explore some popular types of gravel and the pros and cons they bring with them.
Types of Gravel
Believe it or not, gravel is not just gravel. It comes in various shapes and colors. Even the stones themselves have different properties. Some of the common types of gravel used for patios include pea gravel, decomposed gravel, and angular gravel.
The most popular choice for patios and landscaping, pea gravel gets its name from its size. Between 1/8 and 1/4 in diameter, it’s roughly the size of a green pea. Some varieties go up to 1.25 inches, though these are not considered standard.
Pro: Available in a variety of colors, pea gravel is comprised of smooth, round stones that are comfortable enough to walk on barefoot.
Pro: Other gravel needs to be installed on an incline to promote proper water drainage. Rather than allowing water to sit on its surface, pea gravel absorbs it. There’s no need to grade your yard to make a slope.
Angular gravel is often used as a base when repaving a road. As its name suggests, angular gravel is more irregular in shape than pea gravel. It has angles and points, allowing the rocks to lock together and form a more solid surface.
Some popular types of angular gravel are lava rock and quartzite.
Con: This type of gravel is not as comfortable to walk on barefoot due to its sharp nature.
Pro: Because the rocks lock together, a patio with angular gravel will hold its shape for longer. Angular gravel patios are best for kids and pets.
This is solid granite rock that has broken down into very fine pieces after erosion occurs. Its consistency feels similar to coarse sand, and it creates a soft, stable surface. Like pea gravel, decomposed granite is available in a variety of colors.
Con: Decomposed granite is not the best in cold, wet climates that see snow as it tends to get mushy.
Pro: It’s a durable choice for mildly temperate areas. To solidify it even further, you can mix it with a liquid stabilizer before installing.
Gravel Patio Pros
While each type of gravel has its own pros and cons, there are many they share. The advantages of using gravel for a patio include its low cost, versatility, availability, and ease of installation. It also acts positively with various environmental elements.
Ideally, you want to lay at least 4 inches of gravel for a more stable patio surface. The average cost of most stones ranges from $15.00 to $33.00 per cubic yard. For a 12×20 area, you’d need 3 cubic yards. This puts the total price of gravel between $45.00 and $99.00.
While it’s not necessary, you may want to lay landscaping fabric before the gravel. This will help control weeds. The average cost of landscaping fabric is $15.00-$50.00 per 100 square foot roll.
For a 12×20 patio, the total cost for materials ranges from $60.00-$149.00.
As far as installation costs, you’ll always save more if you do it yourself. Gravel offers a nice bonus of excellent workability, making it perfect for DIY-ers. If you don’t feel comfortable laying it yourself, you can always hire a professional. Professional installation averages $6.00-$20.00 per square foot.
Compare this to the cost of a new concrete patio which averages around $3,044.
Pea gravel offers versatility in design. You can keep it as is or mix it with larger stones to create a unique look. It can also be used to fill the gaps between pavers.
Gravel can be sourced from a number of locations. Most hardware stores keep a variety in stock, and the online options are plentiful. To cut down even more on material costs, you can purchase from a local landscape supplier.
Gravel naturally prevents weed growth. If you lay it at least 4 inches thick, there’s no need for landscaping fabric unless you want a further weed barrier.
A thicker layer also prevents mess. Water can’t penetrate enough to make the ground muddy. Therefore, you’ll see fewer pests with a gravel patio.
Eventual Solid Surface
Gravel compacts over time, giving you a solid surface for a fraction of the cost. It can take an average of 7 years for gravel to compact into a solid surface. To further the process along, you can add a binding oil with the gravel as it starts to compress.
Gravel Patio Cons
There are a few negatives to consider before laying a gravel patio. They can be messy and high maintenance among other things.
Shapeless without Help
Without barrier edging, the gravel spreads all over the yard and travels to places you don’t want it to be. In addition, the edge needs to be raised, so you must create a step up to the patio. This increases the overall cost.
Similarly, gravel patios need a firm foundation to keep them from shifting. A base layer of rock is necessary beneath the patio surface to give the gravel stability.
No matter how thick a layer you use, gravel tends to shift. To keep the appearance you want, you need to constantly rake the gravel back into place.
Gravel also sinks into the soil over time. Therefore, you must constantly replenish the surface to refill areas with more gravel and keep the ideal depth. This usually needs to be done every 1-3 years. If your soil is exceptionally porous, it’ll be more often.
Gravel patios are not practical in places with heavy snowfall. They require much care for snow removal. To remove thick snow, you first have to use a shovel. Once you’re left with a thin layer, you can use a leaf blower or salt to remove the rest.
Not Furniture Friendly
Gravel patios are not an ideal surface for furniture. Even with many layers and a firm foundation, the furniture tends to sink into the gravel.
To create an outdoor dining space over a gravel patio, you should have no less than 6 inches of gravel, otherwise, the surface will become unstable. Even then, you still need to adjust the gravel to control shifting or risk damage to your furniture.
Do you still have more questions about gravel patios? You’ve come to the right place. Below are some questions other people had about using gravel as a patio surface.Is gravel cheaper than paving?
Even with the maintenance required of gravel patios, they can be more than 50% cheaper than paved surfaces like concrete or asphalt. Additionally, gravel is much easier to install with the option to do it yourself. This will save you even more in installation costs.Will weeds grow through gravel?
While gravel deters weeds, it doesn’t stop them from growing completely. This is true even if you lay landscaping fabric and a thick layer of gravel. On the bright side, weeds are easy to pull because their roots can’t go too deep. Just know that there’s a potential for this additional upkeep.How many inches of gravel do you need for pavers?
Perhaps you’ve decided to create a patio out of gravel and pavers. In this scenario, it’s ideal to lay 4 inches of gravel as a base on which to lay the pavers. This creates an acceptable level of stability.What is the best edging for gravel?
As we learned, gravel needs to be defined by some type of framework in order to stay contained. Some of the best materials with which to create barrier edging include brick, Bender Board, stones, or metal edging.
Summing It Up
A gravel patio is a simple and easy way to transform an area of your yard into a solid surface. With many colors, shapes, and edging choices, you can create a unique outdoor area.
Gravel is inexpensive. It’s more than half the price of other patio materials and is easy to install.
Gravel is available in many varieties. Whether you purchase it from a supplier, a store, or online, you have a ton of customizable options.
Gravel patios have preventative qualities. They help slow the growth of weeds and create a natural drainage solution. In addition, the gravel compacts over time to create a solid surface without breaking the bank.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of gravel patios is their high level of maintenance. With a constantly shifting surface, gravel patios need to be raked and refilled often. They also require extra care during snow removal.
Gravel patios are not ideal for furniture. If you want a patio that can encompass furniture for entertaining, you might want to reconsider gravel.
Brigid Levi is a wife, mother, and freelance writer who enjoys a good DIY project and creating beautiful spaces within her home. From cleaning and organization hacks to home decor ideas, she loves helping people in their quest to turn a house into a home. Her hobbies include pretending to be Joanna Gaines while updating her home with her husband and performing in local theater productions.
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