Our Step by Step Guide On How To Create A Gravel Patio

Gravel patios can offer a great alternative to standard concrete, natural stone or brick laid patios. Compared to other styles of patios, laying gravel is much more cost effective & much less labour intensive.

 Not only do gravel patios cost less, the raw materials can usually be easily sourced from a variety of local quarries, garden centers & builders merchants.

If you are unsure if gravel is a suitable material for your patio or are unsure what type of gravel to use, take a look at some local garden centers or online shops to gauge colours & styles.

Step 1 - Planning Your Project

  • The first step of planning your gravel patio is to find the ideal location. For ease of installation, the ground should be a flat area & of sufficient size for your requirements. (The average size of a patio is 15-20 square meters). 

Take a look at the location of the patio & how you will be using it. If you will be using the patio all day, find a location that will get the sun all day, being mindful of trees or other large obstacles that can block the sun.

  • Next, mark out the area. Start by pushing road pins into the ground into each corner of your patio, or at regular intervals around curves. Tie a string line to the pins so that the perimeter of your patio has been defined.

Check that the marked area is of sufficient size for your requirements. You could place some patio furniture into this area to make sure it all fits nicely.

  • Calculate the amount of gravel & sub-base that is required for your patio. Measure the length & width of your patio & multiply these measurements together. If measuring in meters, this will give you the total square meters of the area. Take the square meters of your patio & multiply it by the depth of gravel required, this will give you the m3 of gravel required. You already have the square meters of your patio, again multiply it by the depth of sub-base required, this will give you the m3 of sub base required.

Your sub base should be 60-80mm thick for a patio

If using a 20mm gravel for your patio, you will require 50-60mm of gravel

A 20mm gravel will weigh approximately 1.6 ton per m3

Type 1 sub base will weigh approximately 1.8 ton per m3

  • You will require edging for the perimeter of your patio to stop the gravel spreading to other parts of your garden. Calculate the amount of edging required by adding together every side of your patio. Timber boards can be used to edge your patio. The boards should be 4×1 or 6×1 to give enough strength to the edges.

The overall length of the perimeter should be divided by the length of timber boards that you will be buying, this will show you how many boards that you require.

Step 2 - Understanding The Material Requirements

  • Next we should make a list of the tools & materials required for this project. Your materials should consist of sub-base, weed block membrane, timber edging & gravel. The tools required to complete this task should be a spade or shovel, handsaw, wheelbarrow, pickaxe (just in case you hit hard stone) a compactor plate & a rake. If you can’t dispose of the dug out soil in your garden, you will need a skip or muck-away service.

You can hire most of these tools including a compactor plate at any local hire shop

  • Take the quantity of materials required & start shopping around for prices & availability. You could start your search by speaking to local garden centres & builders merchants. Your deliveries should be scheduled in the following order.
  1. Any soil that can’t be disposed of in your garden will need a skip or muck-away service, this should be the first delivery or collection
  2. Once your soil is disposed of the patio area will require sub-base
  3. After the sub-base has been added you will need to fit the edging
  4. Finally you can add the weed block membrane & your finished layer of gravel
  • Consider the labour required for your project. Depending on the size/location of your patio & the soil conditions, you may need extra help or even a contractor to carry out the work for you. If you are able to hire a mini digger or swing shovel, the extra expense could take hours off such a labour intensive job.

If you are also hiring a compactor plate/hand tools, your local hire shop may be able to give you a discount if you hire all of your tools at the same place.

Step 3 - Preparing The Area For Your New Patio

  • Now you have your area set out its time to start removing any vegetation & soil within the patio area. Dig down to a depth of 110-140mm (depending on the combined depth of your chosen sub base & gravel) to allow for the sub base & finished gravel layer

Once you have dug down to the required depth, this surface should be as flat as possible

  • It’s time to start adding the sub base. Use a wheelbarrow to transport the sub base from the delivery point to the patio area. Tip the sub base into equal piles throughout the patio area, levelling off with a rate once all of the material has been added.

 

  • Now that you have levelled off the sub base you can start compacting the area using your compaction plate. You should pass the compaction plate over the sub base a minimum of 5 times to ensure there is no further movement.

 

  • You can now fit the timber board to the patio edging. Depending on your choice of boards, you may need to dig a channel into the sub base to get the correct finished height. Use a hand saw to cut the end of any boards that are too long for the area. 

 

  • The final step in the preparation is the addition of the weed block membrane. This should be fitted on top of the sub base & the edges should be folded against the inside of the timber edge.

In windy conditions you can use small pins to fix through the membrane into the sub base.

Step 4 - Adding The Gravel

  • Add your chosen gravel to the patio area using a wheelbarrow or if access allows you could ask the delivery driver to tip the gravel straight into the area. 

 

  • Rake the gravel out to a good level surface, being careful not to puncture the weed block membrane with the rake tines.

 

  • Now your gravel has been added, compact the area with the compaction plate. This will ensure that the gravel will bind together which reduces the risk of the gravel moving around. You should pass the compaction plate a minimum of 3 times over the area.

 

  • Finally, add your patio furniture, sit back & enjoy your new patio. Remember that your gravel patio will need maintenance over time which will include weeding & filling up any low spots in the gravel.

Seeds that are airborne are likely to blow into your gravel & germinate. If you catch these whilst they are still young they can be easily pulled out

If a low spot occurs, use a rake to pull some gravel from a high area to the low spot