Small, smooth-finished, and multi-colored, pea gravel is a favored hardscaping material for patios, as well as for other areas around the yard like paths and driveways.
Should you use pea gravel for your patio? Pea gravel is certainly inexpensive, simple to install, and comfortable underfoot. But it does have a few attributes that make it less than favorable, especially when compared to materials like crushed gravel or pavers.
Uniformly sized pieces
Easy to rake
Cannot be tamped down
Pavers don't stay in place
Difficult to clean
What Pea Gravel Is
Pea gravel is small, smooth, naturally rounded river rock, each stone about the size of a pea (3/8-inch). Also called CM-16 stone, pea stone, pea pebbles, or pea rock, pea gravel comes in a broad palette of colors, including gray, cream, tan, gold, black, and white.
Pea gravel stones are irregular. Though the pieces are the size of peas, they are not uniformly round. Some pieces might be round, while others will be oval or have fractured shapes.
Patios, walkways, driveways, playgrounds, dog areas, and paths often use pea gravel. When wet, the colors are vivid. So, pea gravel is sometimes used in garden ponds.
Pea Gravel Patio Cost
Pea gravel is one of the lowest-cost patio hardscape materials that you can install by yourself. The cost of bulk pea gravel varies by location. Expect to pay between $26 to $68 per cubic yard. On average, that's $47 per cubic yard.
Though convenient, bagged pea gravel found at local outlets costs much more than the bulk product: about $284 per cubic yard. That makes bagged pea gravel about six times more expensive than bulk pea gravel.
Having a landscaping company or contractor install a pea gravel patio will cost from $7 to $20 per square foot. So, a 100 square foot pea gravel may cost about $1,350 or more.
Amount of Pea Gravel Needed for Patios
Along with the cost savings afforded by bulk delivery, convenience is another reason why commercial delivery is a good idea when building a pea gravel patio.
Even a moderately sized patio of 10 feet by 10 feet, thinly filled at 2 inches, requires nearly 1 ton of pea gravel (0.84 ton). Increasing the area by just 2 feet on each side adds another one-third of a ton of pea gravel. That's a total of 1.21 tons (or 2,420 pounds) of pea gravel.
In bagged form at 48 pounds per bag, 51 bags of pea gravel would be required for a 10-foot-square patio at 2-inch depth. One way to make bagged pea gravel easier to deal with is to arrange for palletized delivery. A pallet of 64 bags of pea gravel brings over a ton-and-half (3,072 pounds) of pea gravel directly to your home.
|2-inch Depth||4-inch Depth|
|8-foot by 8-foot||0.54 tons||1.08 tons|
|10-foot by 10 foot||0.84 tons||1.68 tons|
|12-foot by 12-foot||1.21 tons||2.42 tons|
Maintenance and Repair
A pea gravel patio can be surprisingly difficult to keep maintained and repaired.
Due to its smooth, rounded profile, pea gravel easily shifts. It is not stable or tidy. Walking through a pea gravel patio leaves deep footprints. Pea gravel isn't self-leveling, so those depressions must be smoothed out by hand. However, adding polymeric sand to pea gravel can help keep the gravel in place.
Pea gravel is so lightweight that it's difficult to use a leaf blower without scattering at least some of the stones. Still, a leaf blower is your best tool for clearing pea gravel, since rakes and shovels pull away too many stones.
Pea gravel's many spaces collect fine bits of organic material, providing a rich environment for weed growth. A pea gravel patio does drain well. Unlike a patio built of pavers or slab concrete, water permeates directly into the surface instead of draining off.
Even though a pea gravel patio easily collects grooves and hillocks, it's equally effortless to repair. Just rake the patio smooth with a garden rake and replace scattered or lost gravel from a bag.
Pea Gravel Patio Design
From a design perspective, a pea gravel patio doesn't call attention to itself like flagstone, stamped concrete, brick, or quarry tile. Instead, pea gravel steps modestly back and lets everything else around it take precedence.
The small size of the stones fits into nearly any border or edging shape. They'll even fit tightly into 90-degree corners or in seams between larger stones.
Pavers and heavy items like fire pits sink into pea gravel. Seat heavy items on the base product (like crushed gravel) and add the pea gravel around the item.
Pea Gravel Patio Installation
Pea gravel patios are simple to install. Bagged stone pours out easily. Bulk stone deposited in piles is equally easy to shovel. All loose gravel materials need retaining borders but none more so than pea gravel. A pea gravel patio without edging or borders will quickly lose its shape and scatter stones.
To install a pea gravel patio:
- Remove soil 4 inches down (remove turf if there is any)
- Level the soil and remove obstructions like roots or large rocks.
- Use a tamping tool to flatten the soil.
- Add a rigid border around the perimeter.
- Add 2 inches of crushed gravel
- Water the crushed gravel.
- Tamp the crushed gravel.
- Roll out landscape fabric.
- Pour in 2 inches of pea gravel.
- Rake the pea gravel smooth.
Brands of Pea Gravel
Local suppliers such as quarries, landscape supply companies, and nurseries sell bulk pea gravel by the ton or half-ton. You'll need to pick up the pea gravel by yourself with a pickup or arrange for delivery to your home.
Bagged pea gravel is found at most home centers and nurseries, too. Concrete manufacturer Quikrete sells 50-pound bags of pea pebbles under its HardScapes by Quikrete brand. Fertilizer manufacturer Vigoro distributes bagged clean, washed pea gravel at prominent home centers. Each bag of Vigoro pea gravel is enough to cover 2 square feet at a 3-inch depth.
Comfort and Convenience
Pea gravel is so smooth that it's one of few gravel materials comfortable enough to walk on with bare feet. This makes a pea patio ideal if you have small children. A pea gravel patio can be difficult to walk on, especially in deep gravel.
Pea Gravel Patio vs. Crushed Gravel Patio
Cannot be tamped
Easy to rake
Poor support for heavy items
Can be tamped
3/8- to 3-inch
Difficult to rake
Supports heavy items
Crushed gravel is the closest competitor to pea gravel in the category of loose patio hardscape materials. Crushed gravel differs from pea gravel in three ways: shape, size, and color.
Crushed stone is angular and sharp-edged because it is made from larger rocks that are reduced in rock crushers. These angles and edges lock the stones together in a way that rounded pea gravel cannot do.
Crushed gravel will tamp down and flatten, and it will stay that way until it is disturbed. Plus, it takes much more force to disturb crushed gravel than pea gravel.
Crushed gravel sizes range from those comparable to pea gravel—3/8-inch—on up to 2 or 3 inches. For bulk products, the color of crushed gravel is often dependent on your area's geology. Quarries source local stone, so the color of your area's stone will determine the color of your gravel.
Is a Pea Gravel Patio Right For You?
A pea gravel patio might be a good choice if:
- You want to install the patio by yourself.
- The patio won't have a lot of foot traffic.
- You'd like a softer, more gentle patio surface.
- Few large or heavy items will be placed on the patio.
- You don't mind occasional touch-ups or adding extra gravel.