Last Modified: April 6, 2024

Patio Gravel Ideas

DIY Guide for Rockery Construction

Contemporary limestone patio with white furniture

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist

Overview

In landscaping parlance, a patio is like a family living area of your landscape. This section of the property is where the family relaxes and entertains guests. It is the outdoor area that gets the most extensive use but may not be seen by many people due to its location at the rear and its purpose, as the outdoor family living area is usually designed for full or partial privacy. Therefore, the family area's quality of design is crucial, as it serves a distinct purpose.

Are you considering adding a patio to your garden but not sure where to begin? This guide covering the fundamentals of how to make a patio with gravel is tailored to provide DIY enthusiasts and homeowners with information and inspiration about the installation of a gravel patio. We begin with the basic aspects of planning, choosing the right aggregates, creative ideas for design, and how to integrate your gravel patio meaningfully into your overall garden theme. We also provide some budget-friendly tips. By the end of this article, you should be all boned up on the main issues to consider when building a patio with gravel and be ready to take the next step if it is right for you.

Oh, and don't forget to explore our 'Pebble Picker' tool, located in the sidebar or menu. This allows you to effortlessly select and compare various decorative aggregates, based on their colour and type.

Polar ice chippings with brick edging patio

Key Takeaways

  • What are the essential considerations when planning a gravel patio?
  • How can one choose the right type of gravel for a patio?
  • How can one integrate a gravel patio into the overall garden design effectively?
  • What are some cost-effective tips for creating a gravel patio on a budget?
  • What are some creative and easy DIY gravel patio ideas?
Black and white paddlestone pavers path. Jpg

Broader Design Considerations

As we stated in our introduction, a patio is like a family living room in the garden. Therefore, it is logical for the outdoor family living area to connect with the indoor living area whenever possible. However, due to the layout of some houses, this can be challenging. Typically, the outdoor family areas are situated towards the rear or the side of the house.

The success of these areas depends, in part, on their direct connection to the indoor rooms they serve. A visual connection through a window is almost essential, while a physical connection through a doorway is highly desirable. It is enjoyable to be able to walk directly from the living room or family room into the outdoor family living area. This can also help minimise the carrying of dirt and mud throughout the house. On the other hand, having to go through the kitchen or garage first can be a nuisance.

In summary, when you begin planning your patio, take into account these spatial considerations and, wherever possible, connect to the main living area of your house.

Are Gravel Patios a Good Idea?

Taking these issues into account, decorative gravel can offer a combination of practicality, budget-friendliness, and aesthetic versatility. It is a great renovation for homeowners looking to add a feature to their outdoor space, which can be placed just about anywhere. Let's first take a deeper look at some of the benefits we just mentioned before exploring some DIY gravel patio ideas to really get your creative juices flowing.

Cost-Effective and Easy DIY Installation

One of the best things about a gravel patio is how easy it is for people of all experiences to install a functional and attractive-looking decorative aggregate feature. Gravel patios are also very cost-effective, especially DIY installations. Depending on the type of stone or aggregate, the materials are generally very cheap, and the installation can be done with tools around the house and in the shed. Even a professionally installed gravel patio is more affordable than you might think.

Cleanliness and Maintenance

Thanks to the excellent drainage qualities of gravel, when installed at the right depth, the transfer of mud and grime between living areas can be kept to a minimum. Further, due to the nature of stone chippings and gravel, upkeep is also a breeze. Unlike grassy areas, it does not require regular mowing, weeding or suffer due to a lack of sun in the winter. It also won't get muddy! Add to that the fact that an occasional rake and clearing of debris is the most it will require on a regular basis, and you have a great entertaining surface!

Environmental Considerations

Gravel is one of the more environmentally friendly options for patio construction, with many materials available derived solely from recycled materials or off-cuts from other processing. The processes are also very low carbon intensity, which really begins to add up when you consider the durability of gravel and how long it will last - which is definitely longer than anything else out there. Further, its permeable nature allows rainwater to soak into the ground, replenishing groundwater and erosion and reducing runoff. This can be particularly beneficial in areas prone to flooding or where water conservation is a priority.

Versatility in Design

With the vast range of gravels and chippings available in the UK, you can accommodate any taste, from the traditional to a contemporary sleek or rustic look. Many other styles can easily look the part, like country gardens and Japanese Zen gravel garden themes. They are often more budget-friendly and easier to install than a paver patio.

Plus, finally, there is a website where you can literally find every type of decorative aggregate available in the UK, which makes just about anything possible. All you need is to have the imagination and a starting colour or type of stone, and Outdoor Aggregates can present you with a range of options to match and help you find where to buy it at the best price. If you were wondering what that colour picker in the sidebar was, and you haven't clicked on it yet, it's our aggregate-matching technology. It allows you to dial in your preferences before showing you the types of stones and other aggregates that are close to or match your preference. It then allows you to mix and match everything on the website.

Choosing the Right Type of Gravel

The type of gravel you choose can dramatically alter the look and feel of your patio. In the UK, pebbles or pea gravel are popular choices due to their small sizes and smooth edges, which make them most comfortable underfoot. Pebbles are a fine option, but remember, the smaller stones compact better and are less likely to shift. Think of a permanent bench as opposed to a table and chairs, as rounded gravel in a seating area can make the moving of patio furniture a little more difficult.

Conversely, angular crushed gravels or alternative surfaces made from a well-packed layer of slate mini mulch interlock better to create a more stable floor, although they are less comfortable underfoot. If a stable and hard-wearing surface is what you are seeking, then a well-compacted crushed gravel surface can deliver the same kind of durability as some concrete installations, although they won't be as dead flat. For a striking look, consider crushed patio gravel options like Polar white chippings 14-20mm, silver blue granite gravel 14-20mm, or buff Cotswold gravel.

In summary, a gravel patio will suit many different situations and meet many other concerns. Due to its flexibility and durability, a gravel patio can be installed just about anywhere and last a very long time. Add to that the fact that it will still look as good in 10 years as it did the day you installed it with a bit of extra maintenance and you have investment for the long term that will continue to give you great satisfaction, pride and joy.

Sipping wine on a newly laid patio. Jpg

One golden rule is that the more detailed and intricate your vision, the more time you will generally need to spend planning in order to achieve it.

Ben Parrot // Landscape Designer

Essential Considerations When Planning a Gravel Patio

There are plenty of versatile and cost-effective gravel patio ideas, but when planning a patio for your garden, there are several factors to consider. These factors are key to ensuring that the end result achieves the outcomes you are aiming for while also being pleasing to the eye and long-lasting. For that reason, creating your gravel patio area requires a bit of thought and some careful planning if you want to maximise the potential. Here are the key planning factors to consider:

Draw a Skeleton Plan

When you are putting together any patio gravel ideas, it's worthwhile to draw a skeleton plan of your patio space. This will help you visualise the layout and decide how much gravel you'll need, where to place furniture or planters, and any other elements. You can go for a pencil on grid paper right through to collage-making that incorporates images of decor or features you are considering. It really helps to get-to-know your design before starting to purchase all that you will need to make your patio.

Location and Size

Try to choose a spot in your backyard that receives the desired amount of sunlight and shade and how it connects to your indoor family area. Think about how it will blend with the rest of your garden, including the patio entry points, like a pathway or doorways. Also, consider the size of the patio in relation to your garden's dimensions for overall balance and proportion.

The beauty of a gravel patio lies in its flexibility. You can mould it into any shape or design, be it a cosy nook for reading or a spacious area for gatherings.

Type of Gravel

Select the right type of gravel for your patio. Options range from fine pea gravel, which is small and smooth, to angular crushed gravel and larger, more decorative stones like 40mm plum slate chippings. Consider the colour and texture in relation to your garden's theme - and don't forget our colour-picker!

Underlay and Drainage

While there's no need for a gradient, proper drainage is important to prevent water pooling. An appropriate foundation should be laid down prior to installing a landscaping fabric to prevent weed growth and ensure good drainage.

Garden Edging and Borders

Define your patio with edging or borders. Materials like stone, brick, or metal can be used to contain the gravel and separate it from surrounding areas. We cover that in more detail a bit later.

We also have a step-by-step, easy-follow article about How to Make Edging For a Garden.

Accessibility, Use and Maintenance

Consider how the space will be used and ensure it's accessible. Fine pea gravel is more comfortable underfoot but can shift more easily and can be a challenge for people with mobility issues. Angular and larger stones are more stable but less comfortable to walk on.

Although minimal, understand the maintenance needs of each type of aggregate, including occasional raking to level the gravel as well as weed control or algae issues on white chippings.

Local Climate and Environment

Take into account your local climate and environment and consider the placement of some larger boulders or rocks from local suppliers of local origin. These additions will create a more natural and realistic feel if that's what you are going for.

Installing a pergola can also provide a shaded spot in the summer heat whilst shielding you from intermittent rains - a key concern for gravel patio ideas in the UK. You can even add a fire pit for a cosier experience.

All of these are factors there to guide you, but they are by no means rigid guidelines. With your imagination and a well-thought-through plan, you can create a space that is not only a beautiful addition to your home but also a functional outdoor living area that reflects your individuality and originality.

Image by stocksnap from

Integrating a Gravel Patio into Garden Design

A well-integrated patio can significantly contribute to your garden's overall appearance and vibe. There are some lovely ways to draw the areas together, such as the use of textures, edging, common plantings and other decorative elements, which we cover in this section.

Edging

Gravel edging plays a number of significant roles in creating a durable and stunning patio. From a practical point of view, it prevents the gravel from spilling over into lawns and garden beds while helping maintain the patio's form.

The options for edging materials are vast. Timber provides a natural, rustic look; bricks offer another affordable option with a classic look. Pre-fabricated metal can give a more modern and sleek appearance. At the same time, stone edgings can be achieved by the placement of natural rocks or emulated with rubber edging that mimics classic stones.

When installing edging, make sure it's firmly embedded, especially in higher-traffic parts and high enough to contain the gravel. In lower traffic borders, you can also consider a 'living edging' by planting low-growing plants or herbs, which can add pleasant aromas, beauty and a source of ready-to-hand flavours to your outdoor entertaining space.

Decorative Elements

Embellishing your patio space with decor and other unique elements can make it a true extension of your home. Creating borders with planters that feature vibrant flowers, spring bulbs are lush green shrubs that can act as screens for privacy or form living walls. Incorporating a slate water feature for a soothing ambience or a firepit for cosy evening gatherings can all be done with little to no experience.

Outdoor furniture should be practical but also complement the style of your patio. A rustic wooden bench can create a relaxed, natural look. Sleek metal chairs in complementary colours to the gravel can be used for a modern vibe.

Then there is lighting, which can contribute so much to evening entertainment. Whether that means the addition of solar-powered lanterns, a string of stylised light bulbs or fairy lights, you can easily add an enchanting feel to your evenings outdoors without breaking the bank.

Golden gravel patio area with grass borders

Tips on How to Make a Gravel Patio on a Budget

When you take a DIY approach, building a stylish gravel patio can be far more affordable and very satisfying. Either way, whether you build it yourself or hire some professional help, most of the materials required for the actual patio surface will be unlikely to cost more than a few hundred pounds. 

The decor and outdoor furniture may also be purchased through secondhand sites at a fraction of the price, with much of what's out there as good as new, for half the price. If this is the way that you would like to go, start searching early. Put specific searches on sites such as Gumtree so that you are notified when something that you might like becomes available.

Materials

Limestone gravel is a very cost-effective choice, with colours ranging from white to pink limestone, through to dove grey limestone and the rare black limestone. It's usually sold in bulk bags, which can provide savings. For those on a tighter budget, look for local suppliers or secondhand options. Occasionally, local construction sites or garden renovations may have excess that you can pick up for a song. Checking Freecycle or trashnothing! in the UK can yield some spectacular results - you just have to be a member and do your part to get the real goodies when they become available.

DIY Installation

Obviously, doing the installation yourself will save a lot of money and labour costs. While it will take more planning and obviously a lot more effort, it is definitely a way to increase the value of your property and your family's enjoyment for a much lower final cost.

Whilst we don't cover the process of installation in detail for this article, there are some basic tools that you will require. These include a sharp-edged square spade, a garden rake, preferably metal, and some compacting tool for laying the base. Where possible, borrow tools from your friends or colleagues. If you aren't able to get what you need from your network, then hiring a compactor will likely be your only expense.

Just remember, the key to saving money is careful planning. Make sure to measure your site as accurately as possible, and use our gravel calculator to estimate your materials as accurately as possible and avoid excessive waste.

Need to work out how much gravel your project needs? Try our free gravel calculator.

Garden bench on gravel image by donna bigg from

DIY Patio Gravel Ideas

In this section, we present some DIY gravel patio ideas and concepts, ranging from straightforward projects suitable for beginners to designs tailored for those with more experience.

Easy DIY Gravel Patio Ideas

You can always start with a well-built base and beautiful-looking decorative aggregate and then add elements from there. For a minimalist and natural look with excellent all-round functionality, you can use crushed gravel and a simple brick border.

KISS - Keep It Simple Space

Constructing a small gravel patio in a prime position using up-cycled sleepers or bricks as the outer edge can be a great way to renovate your outdoor space. This is perfect for enjoying a lovely breakfast or having an evening dinner with friends. You can easily build it on a level lawn, and if you are on a really strict budget, you can use cardboard or heavy plastic underneath the gravel to prevent weed growth. Not only does this add an attractive and useful space to your garden, but it's also one of the easiest gravel patio ideas on a budget.

White and Bright

Imagine a serene outdoor space where a polar white gravel patio featuring a living wall created from the positioning of existing pot plants welcomes you. The addition of white furniture perfectly complements the peaceful ambience of the area. The 'white and bright' patio is not just a place to relax but also a versatile entertaining space. All you need is coordination between your gravel and the furnishings, and you are most of the way there.

Advanced Gravel Patio Ideas and Innovations

For those looking for a challenge or seeking ideas to solve certain problems, here are some slightly more challenging patio ideas with gravel:

Resin-bound Gravel Patio

While a bit trickier than a loose-fill gravel surface, resin-bound gravel is a very good solution for high-traffic areas and can be easily installed on a pre-existing concrete surface. It involves mixing fine pea gravel with an epoxy resin and spreading the pea gravel evenly to create a smooth finish.

Mixing It Up

Combining gravel with stepping stones, crazy paving, or some timber decking are different ways to create an interesting patio area. This approach allows for designated walking paths or seating areas, providing structure to the loose gravel, but may require some carpentry skills to complete successfully.

White gravel around patio slabs with seating. Jpg

Multi-Level Designs

This involves the establishment of multiple tiers, which can serve different purposes and create a very conducive entertaining area. This involves a much higher level of skill and obviously more space. However, it can be just two tiers and a more suitable option in spaces that have a natural slope. It's important to bear in mind that this type of project will require a lot more work and careful planning.

Incorporating Lighting

The addition of lighting can really add effect and turn your patio into a magical space in the evening. Placing solar-powered lights into the gravel or lanterns around the perimeter is easy and cheap. Fairy lights are also a very simple and effective way to set the mood.

Water Features

Adding a water feature, such as a small fountain or even a pond, can be as simple as purchasing a pre-fabricated product to taking on a whole other dimension and building it from scratch into your patio. Either way, let your budget and imagination guide you towards the relaxing sound of flowing water as a focal point in your design.

Summary

There are plenty of benefits to creating a gravel patio in your garden. A gravel patio is a practical and versatile addition that offers both functionality and a long-term attraction. With proper planning, materials, and creativity, you can design a beautiful outdoor space that is unique to your style and preferences. A gravel patio can also be an ideal choice for DIY enthusiasts and homeowners who seek to improve their outdoor living areas on a budget. So, if you're ready to expand your living space or you want to improve your current patio, a gravel patio could be just what you are looking for.

Statue on a patio overlooking the sea. Jpg

FAQs

How do I clean a patio with gravel?

To clean a gravel patio, use a soft broom to remove debris and then gently rake the surface to return it to level.

What tools are needed for cleaning a patio with a gravel surface?

The tools needed for cleaning a gravel patio include a garden rake, leaf blower or a soft brush. A garden hose can be used for spot cleaning and settling the gravel.

Can I use a pressure washer to clean patio gravel?

Using a pressure washer for patio gravel is not recommended, as it can displace the stones. If necessary, use it on a low setting, holding it at a distance to avoid disturbing the gravel.

What can I do to prevent moss growth on my gravel patio?

To prevent moss growth on a gravel patio, ensure good drainage, regularly remove organic debris. Using vinegar and warm water with a brush can be used in advance to prevent growth. If your chippings start turning green you can consider using a moss-killing chemical.

How can I prevent drainage issues on my stone chippings patio?

Prevent drainage issues on a stone chippings patio by installing a like landscape fabric, ensuring the base has been made using properly sized gravel for effective water dispersal.

What are some good gravel patio edging ideas?

Good gravel patio edging ideas include using materials like timber, stone, bricks, or metal edging to contain the gravel and complement the garden's aesthetic. Living edges with plants can also be effective.

We have every type of gravel available to choose from in the UK. Check them out!

About the author 

Ben Parrot is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.