How to Compact Down a Gravel Patio

gravel patio can add a nice touch to your home. Gravel is a type of small rock, that ranges in size from 2 millimeters to 2.5 inches. Quite often, a gravel mix will contain sand, clay and small rocks. The material ranges in color from charcoal black to tan. It is commonly used as natural cover for driveways, walkways and patios. Gravel is one of the easiest materials to work with for outdoor installations. It can be used to create simple, yet very attractive outdoor features. Once you understand how to compact down a gravel patio, it shouldn’t be too difficult to install one in your home. Below are a few steps to guide you along.

Materials Needed

  • Gravel
  • Edging
  • Plate compactor
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • 2x4 builder’s level
  • Wooden stakes
  • Garden hose

Step 1 – Edging

Install some edging along the perimeter of the patio. Suitable materials to be used for edging include timber, bricks, large stones and railroad ties. Place the material closely together, to eliminate gaps in between. This helps to contain the gravel more securely within the patio.

Step 2 – Establish the Grade

It is vital that the patio slopes away from the house. This will ensure that rainwater doesn’t flow into your house. Ideally, the surface should drop by ¼ an inch for each foot away from the house. Use wooden stakes and a 4 foot level to ensure you have a sloped base for proper water runoff before you add gravel. The first row of stakes should be closest to the house and at the highest level. Drive in another row of stakes about 4 feet from the first row. The top of these stakes should be 1 inch lower than the previous row. Insert more stakes in this manner, with each new row 1 inch lower than the previous row, until the entire patio is staked in a sloping manner.

Step 3 – Add the Gravel

Pour gravel onto the patio. Use a rake with thin tines to spread the gravel so that it is at the same level as the stakes. This will ensure that you maintain the established grade as you spread.

Step 4 - Compact the Gravel

You can rent a plate compactor from a home improvement store. You operate the machine pretty much as you would a lawn mower. Begin at one end of the patio and compact down the gravel in small sections. Run the compactor up and down the section. Once you complete one section, proceed to the next until you’ve covered the entire patio. If the gravel is too dry, sprinkle it with some water, so that it packs better.

Step 5 – Add More Gravel and Compact

Add some more gravel onto the patio, and compact it down as before, one small section at a time. Repeat 3 more times, so that you’ll have added a total of 4 1-inch layers of gravel onto the patio. Once the gravel surface feels compact and there’s no movement, you can stop the compaction. Ideally, there should be a ½ inch allowance between the gravel surface and the top of edging. Check at various points along the perimeter of the patio to confirm a ½ inch allowance, which also confirms that you have the proper grade for the patio.