title collage of a mood board , a closeup of the stone walkway and an overhead view of the work in process

Crushed Granite Vs. Pea Gravel Patio:

Which One to Love?

Crushed granite patios are THE thing!

Yes, you can DIY one! With proper prep and planning, and understanding the pros & cons.

All found here!

This is the fourth episode in our March Super Series –Our Backyard Makeover. If you need/want to catch up:

Picture of the backyard progress being made with labels and arrows pointing out: Tool Cabana Done, Trees Planted, Railing Updated and Re-installed, Patio Foundation and Edging Repaired, and Brick Posts Added

Yes, so much has been finished, but still so much more to come!

NOTE: There are many terms floating around: Crushed granite (CG) = decomposed granite (DG)= pulverized granite (PG). They are all one in the same.

Pea gravel is a whole different gravel!

Why Add a Gravel Patio-

  • The Look – I first fell in love with them traveling around centuries-old parks and pathways throughout Europe. Particularly an old park in Paris where the paths have been there forever and made from crushed shale (I believe). To me they had an old world feel. Swoon!
  • Shapeable – You control the shape of your pathway or patio, narrow edging or a wide expanse. And the shape greatly influences the style. Sleek modern applications are using crushed granite also, but usually with straight lines and sharp angles.
  • DIY-able – Yes, its physically demanding! But it is not rocket science. We hired some younger backs to help place the large stone steps we incorporated.
  • Less Expensive – than most alternatives
  • “Temporary” – technically a gravel patio is considered not permanent. So for our small city we did not need a permit and all that it entails. And in our case, we own the lot next door. We have no intention of selling it any time soon, but it was smart for us not to put in a poured and stamped concrete patio, something more permanent.
  • Green – the surface is water permeable, so the rainwater flows back into the water table where it should go
Mood Board showing pictures of chunky stone steps, DG with stone edging, iron railing between stone pillars and a wispy garden bed lavender spilling over the patio edge

Looking back a one of our mood boards: chunky stones steps, lots of natural stone, and gravel patios were all over our mood boards.

Now, it was just deciding between granite vs. pea gravel. Here are the material specific pros and problems of each.

Pea Gravel Pros and Cons-

Closeup of typical pea gravel

Pros:

  • Pea Gravel is shaped like, and about the size of peas, appropriately named, right? So it is easier on bare feet because there are not as many sharp edges and points
  • Widely available

Cons:

  • Really tough to walk on in any heels or flip-flops
  • Since the gravel is a gazillion tiny, tiny balls, It’s kind of like “Honey, I shrunk McDonald’s ball pit”, they don’t lock together and form a solid base. It’s fun until it isn’t. Twisted ankle anyone?
  • Patio furniture on pea gravel is limited – the legs sink into the gravel. Not good for table and chairs. A stationary bench or sectional would work
  • Pea gravel will be constantly shifting and will require racking back into place periodically
  • Limited colors
  • Can get stuck in shoe soles and do a number on hardwood floors inside

Granite Patio Pros and Cons-

Pros:

  • Color Options – There are many colors of decomposed granite. Think of all the slabs of granite, now you can picture the wide variety of crushed or decomposed granite. However, your options will be dictated by your locale and how much you need. Check with your local stoneyard.
  • No problem with outdoor furniture – installed properly, with stabilizer, it hardens almost like concrete. Very solid
  • Stable and comfortable to walk on – no twisting ankles here.

Decomposed Granite Patio Problems-

  • Rough on bare feet. It’s crushed up granite, yes, it’s rough. But not enough to cut. I have been barefoot on it with no issue beyond temporary discomfort. (NOTE: We thought about embedding a path of paver stones across the patio, but in our situation, i’s not much further to run on the grass to the docks than to cross the DG.)
  • Can track granite dust and pieces in the house, which you wouldn’t want on wood floors. (NOTE: This is not an issue for us. You have to cross our original red brick patio to get to the house from the granite patio. Plus the entire downstairs of the house is the same red brick as the original patio.)

We ordered our granite with stabilizer and that may have made a difference, but we have not even noticed any granite dust inside.

Planning Our Decomposed Granite Patio-

After looking at that list, you aren’t surprised we opted for the granite are you?

Shall we begin?

reminder to Pin It Now
Pin titled Backyard Makeover with a before picture of the yard with the new patio location circled and two pictures of how we found the elevation levels. Additional captions read: "Adding a Gravel Patio" and "plan & Plot Installation"

Level, level, level!!!

This is true with ANY patio, but even more so with a gravel patio of any kind. You don’t want the loose material washing away.

Determine the Size and Shape of Your DG Patio-

Picture of the area where the new DG patio will be and the outline of the plan is marked

We’ll have three straight sides with one curved edge that will be edged with a landscaped berm.

Determine Your Elevation Change-

picture of area with lines drawn showing how to figure the change in grade for your new patio

Now that we know where our patio will be, we need to determine the slope, or the change in elevation, so we can plan for our entry and exit points (our transitions).

If you are on a relatively flat yard, and your patio be very close to the same elevation as the yard, you don’t need to establish these points. except maybe for landscaping puposes.

We installed a new stone walkway to transition from patio to Tool Shed to side yard to new gravel patio. Our highest elevation is the height of the original brick patio and the walkway. Our lowest point is where the yard meets the corner brick post we just added.

super closeup view of a string level suspend over brown dirt

Now to Measure the Elevation Change:

  1. Mark these highest and lowest spots with stakes.
  2. Tie a string to the highest point stake at that highest point.
  3. Pull the string taut with a string level suspended and raise and lower the string on the lowest point stake until your line is level. Mark that level spot on the stake.
  4. Measure the distance from the lowest grade point to the marked level spot.

This is your change. The red marking in the pic is our elevation change.

Plan Retaining Walls, Edging or Steps For Your Gravel Patio-

To mark our edging, We used stones that were strewn about. A garden hose works well too.

I wanted a straight border bed between the brick patio and this new DG patio for lavender, baby’s breath and maybe herbs.

Along the outside curved edge will be a berm with some uplit shade trees, lilac bushes, Spring bulbs and such. We have quite an assortment of natural stone from other beds and locations. Perfect for edging between beds and the DG:

  • Already on site
  • Free
  • They will tie together all the elements of this growing makeover

The east edge will require a short retaining wall.

Birds eye view of the stone walkway with all the transition points marked: brick patio, to sideyard, one step down into DG patio, 2 Steps up into Tool Cabana

If you have an elevation change, now is when you determine the transitions, the entry and exit points.

Ours was roughly an 18-inch drop from the patio to the yard in front of the new DG patio. So we needed three steps with 6-inch rise each.

There are several ways we could have done this. We decided to split the steps. One step down from the brick patio and stone walkway into the DG patio. And then two steps from the DG patio down to the yard.

This was the best from a design standpoint and how and how we use this area. Fortunately it was the option that required the least amount of materials and back-breaking labor. Win-win!

It means just over a 12-inch retaining wall on the east side of the future crushed granite patio and the wall will flank our two steps down into the yard.

Overhead image of the DG patio worksite with retaining wall on the East  and stone walkway on the west

Here we are working on that short retaining wall that we built with stacked natural stone.

See that one lonely stone step on the pallet in the yard? We have to move that all the way around the patio to the stone walkway where we will place it in the DG.

We’re just waiting on all the strong backs on our block to help hoist it in place. Don’t worry. In anticipation, the beer is on ice!

Can you see it? We are getting so close!

Next up; I’ll share the process of building the stacked stone retaining wall, even an oops or two that hopefully you can then avoid.

Do you have plans for your outdoor spaces as the weather starts to warm up? And questions, just shoot them to me and if I don’t have the answer, I will certainly search it out for you.

Here's to Joy-Filled Living, Diane

4 Comments

  1. Kimberly Snyder

    What a great post! So much good information! thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Diane

      Thanks so much Kimberly. Don’t hesitate is you have any questions!

      Reply
  2. Cindy

    Dragging it in the house would be my issue.

    So much helpful information

    Reply
    • Diane

      Definitely, a big factor to consider. I’m lucky that our patio set up and floors works well with this. But i wanted to point it out as it could be very problematic for some.

      Reply

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