The area to the right of our deck was a mess. Small, uneven, overgrown with weeds, rotting and generally unappealing. It housed the BBQ and the garden hose but provided no other purpose except looking ugly. As part of our Staycation Plans, the Mr. and I decide to replace this area with a much larger pea gravel patio.
I took to the internet to familiarize myself with the Pros & Cons of a gravel patio. The look can be classic or modern; as elegant as an English garden or as laid-back as an ashram. The colours of the stones will vary according to your geographical location, meaning you will be using a local product that reflects your home. It is easy to install and maintain, but the biggest Pro has to be the low low cost. No other hardscaping material can compare to the price per square foot of pea gravel. Some Cons to keep in mind are that snow removal is next to impossible, it will need intermittent but consistent raking and cleaning, and there is a chance of stones spilling out onto to grass or other parts of the landscape. Although easy to walk on, the gravel has a lot of ‘give’, making it inappropriate for paths or areas you’d want to move a wheelbarrow or other equipment across. For our needs, it was the perfect option.
We started by tearing up the brick patio stones and tearing down the rotten garden bed frames. We had to wrestle the stones from a swarm of fire ants, but we actually found a buyer for them on Kijiji! A little bit of cash in our pockets, but we’re mostly happy to be diverting waste from the landfill. Once the area was clear, we marked out the dimensions of the new patio and painstakingly removed all the grass using a flat edged shovel. This was a very labour intensive part of the project, requiring a lot of care that we only skimmed about 3 inches off the surface of the lawn. We are attempting to salvage the sod from this area to fill in where the shed used to be. Six weeks of consistent watering should do it, fingers crossed.
Even doing our very best to rip up the grass evenly, the dirt was far from level with low soft spots and rock-hard bumps all over the place. We rented a power sweeper from a home store which enabled Liam to power through the peeks and get us a nice flat surface for our base.
I laid landscape fabric over the whole area, being careful to overlap each strip. Follow your material directions, but I hammered in landscaping pegs every 3 feet or so. This should give us 3-5 maintenance-free years. Re-purposing wood beams from our now truncated side garden, we framed the patio so that the gravel stays neatly separated from the grass. To secure the beams we nailed in steel pegs right into the ground, first pre-drilling holes to prevent the wood from splitting.
Now it was gravel time! I ordered 3 cubic yards of 3/8″ to 5/8″ Coloured Riverwash Stone (a.k.a. pea stone) from Greely Sand and Gravel, using their on-line calculator to estimate how much stone we would need. The result ended up being pretty much bang-on, we have a tiny bit extra.
Liam lost count of how many trips he made with the wheelbarrow, it had to be at least 50. But after a back-bending day of shoveling 3 cubic yards of stone from one end of the house to the other, it was done. With a little bit of raking and smoothing, our pea gravel patio was complete.
The last step of this project was to soak the stones with a sprinkler. They got all dusty during transfer and look chalky here, but the beautiful river-wash colours really came out with a bit of hosing off … except I’m saving those pictures for later.
Even as an empty surface we like it and know it’s the right choice. The patio is now much more proportionate to the deck, and we no longer have dead space under the bay window. I cannot wait to finish our other backyard projects to show you how it all pulls together!