Hi everybody! This is Ryan and today I’m taking over the blog with Part 5 of the Backyard DIY series Ashley and I started last Spring. Today I’m outlining how we built our backyard patio and foot path using stepping stones and gravel. This proved to be an easy way to transform our back yard and, one year later, we’re still in love with the space!
If you haven’t already, get caught up with the Introduction from Part 1 (you don’t want to miss the before and afters).
How to build a Gravel and Paver Patio
I took the majority of these photos on my iPhone, but did not capture every step. (sorry!) If you end up with questions about a particular step, definitely comment below and I’ll do my best to help!
The materials for this project are surprisingly basic. Aside from basic garage tools (shovels, wide sweeper broom, wheel barrow), you’ll just need the following:
- Pavers/Concrete stepping stones (I used 24×24 inch for the patio and 18×18 inch for the foot path – Home Depot has some nearly identical ones)
- Pea Gravel (You can usually get free shipping with big box stores like Home Depot, which is worth it!)
- Metal Edging
- Weed Mat
- Landstape staple/stakes
I do not recommend pea gravel only as surface for a porch or any area seeing foot traffic. It has a tendency to move underfoot and may detract from your enjoyment that area over time. I used it for the surface of the flower bed, but on the porch and foot path used large stepping stones.
1. Design your Space
This is always the most important step. It’s easy to get an idea in your head and proceed right to the building, but taking a minute to sketch it out will help you visualize what you need to do even better. It will also bring things to your attention that you might have missed and help avoid expensive mistakes. You don’t have to be a great artist to do this as my little sketch illustrates below.
The second part of this is to use spray paint or chalk to mark where you will be digging.
2. Clear the Area of Debris
This will be different depending on the space that you’re renovating. For parts of our project I had to demolish a cement & brick flower bed and dig through some heavily rooted (nearby Oak) soil. For the side yard, I had carried out about 2 tons of large river rock the summer before and the area was overtaken by weeds. I sprayed them with weed killer the week before. Once everything was nice and brown it was just a matter of digging it all out.
3. Install Any Edging
Now is a great time to dig a trench along the areas where you want to install the edging. As you’re installing, be careful to make sure the lines keeps straight and that your edging remains level.
4. Dig to Depth
With your edging installed you need to dig to the right depth. If you are laying pea gravel and pavers, you will want to dig 2-3 inches deep. I chose to dig about 2 inches below the surface. Keep a tape measure with you through this process and make sure to check all sides of your area to ensure you’re depth is consistent.
*My project required me to move or cap off multiple sprinkler heads. If you have questions about that, feel free to leave them in the comments!
5. Resurface or Compact Soil
Now that you’ve reached the right depth, you’ll want to compact the soil using a hand tamper or, if you’re working on a large space, by renting plate compactor (you can easily rent on from Lowes or Home Depot). This is a really important step as it will provide extra surface stability for your large pavers and even keep your pea gravel from moving around as much.
*Side note – Some people would recommend that you lay down a paver base or leveling sand before tamping down the soil. While I’m sure that can only help, I didn’t feel like it was a necessary step for my project. It has been installed over a year and I still stand by that. But it’s up to you!
6. Install Weed Mat
I opted for the cheapest yet still contractor grade weed mat I could find. The main thing is that do not want weeds growing through your rocks constantly, so don’t skip this step.
If you are laying multiple strips down, make sure each line overlaps the previous one by about 12 inches. And use these landscape staple stakes — lots of them.
7. Place the large Pavers
There are basically three parts to this step.
Ask a friend to help: We installed 45 large 24×24 inch pavers weighing 70lb. each. If you’re working with anything remotely close to that size, think about having help.
Laying the pavers in a straight line: Lay a chalk line if you have one, or you can simply tie any rope or line to 2-3 stakes. Stretch them along the path where you want the pavers and hammer them into the ground.
Spacing the pavers: For the side yard I used a scrap 2×4 laid flat to make sure the pavers were 4″ apart horizontally and 2″apart vertically. On the foot path we cut a 10″ long 2×4 and used that to space the stepping stones.
8. Lay Pea Gravel
With the heavy lifting of the pavers done, you’re almost home free. Transport and dump the gravel using a wheel barrow and use a shovel to spread it out at first, then switch to a floor sweeper and push the rocks where they need to be. Fill in between the pavers. Continue the process until you have filled your area without covering over the pavers. You may need to inspect the pavers and move gravel underneath them if they’re not level. Use your sweeper or a blower to clean off the dust that comes with the gravel. You’re done!
Enjoy your new porch!
That’s it! Now you can really relax and enjoy your new backyard.
Just for fun here are a few images of the yard after everything was completed! More before & afters are over here. Again, if you have questions, please ask!
Follow Our Backyard DIY Series:
Part 2 – How to hang String Lights
Part 4 – How to Build a Cedar Wood Planter
Part 5 – How We Installed the Pavers & Gravel