Patio Design: Understanding River Rock

River Rock can make a beautiful patio design. The variety and range of sizes provides you with a wide selection of designs to choose from. Every river creates unique colors in its stones. These stones have been formed in the beds of these rivers over time. It is not just as simple as arranging them in a pattern. There is a considerable amount of spade work to be done before you start. The river rock comes in sizes ranging from golf ball size to the size of cricket balls. The smaller sized stones, although harder to work with, actually work out better in the final result. The stones can be set in concrete or dry set in sand. Dry setting is the easier of these two options.

Decide on the Area

First you must decide where you will be paving. Next, you choose the types of river rock you will be using. Choose from the colors available and then design your basic overall pattern. This pattern will change as the project progresses; however, a basic beginning outline will provide you with a roadmap of how you will proceed with the paving. When deciding where you will be paving, the drainage of the area needs to slope away from your house. You also don’t want any dips or gullies in the river rock patio area.


The drainage of your patio area is the basic under-layer of the whole patio. You need to get it right. The slope should be very gentle, about 1 to 2 degrees away from the house in a continuous decline. This won’t be affect the placement of the river rock but will prevent water from flowing toward the house or standing on the patio.


Preparation for a paving project begins with digging out the area to lay down the necessary under-layers of sand and aggregates. These under-layers give you a good solid base to work on. If you are working on a sandy area you might need to put a layer of geo-textiles down and then lay more sand on top. This layer stops the sand from moving too much. Make sure at each stage that you ensure the level is still the same and keep smoothing the area in the right direction.

Putting in the River Rock

Once the under-layers are in place, the river rock can be installed. Sort through them and create you design. There are many kinds available depending on which river they came from. Basically they are tumbled stones which have rounded in the turbulence of the river bed. If you stick to small ones you can keep that rounded look. Larger ones can tend to get uncomfortable to walk on. It is much like cobbled stones in the older streets. If you sort the colors out first and then work from the inside out you obtain a good even color variation over the whole of the river rock patio. Your final stage will be to fill in between the river rocks. The spaces can be filled with concrete or packed with sand to dry set the stones.