Wondering how to build a large patio that looks amazing for less than $300? Keep reading!
I am immensely proud of this project. I sit in my garden every morning drinking my coffee grinning from ear to ear looking at my patio. I’ve dreamt about this day for years. When I bought my house four years ago, there were two trees, an unsightly shed, and a basic concrete patio off the back door. I immediately put in a faux flagstone (stamped concrete) patio and replaced the falling down shed with my fire pit patio.
I have since added a large vegetable garden, an herb garden, tons of roses, trees, and flowers, and I redesigned my courtyard last spring. I always intended to finish out the back with another patio but I’m on a budget and my yard had to be done piece by piece. If you want a private oasis but don’t know where to begin: just begin! Transform your yard piece by piece, plant by plant. That’s what I did with my first yard too. Now, here’s how to build a DIY patio for less than $300. For your reference, here’s how bare the yard was before this project:
Compared to now:
And that’s before the grass totally died under the shade of the tree. Trust me it did NOT look this cute the year before I did this project. It was a mud pit. So ugly that I don’t have a single photo of it and sadly, I didn’t think to take a true “before.”
Prep the area. I lucked out because my grass had died under the trees where I wanted the patio. Assuming you still have grass, use a shovel to clear the area of all grass and excavation. This project is definitely doable for beginners. No fancy tools are required, just a pick axe to loosen and remove the grass, and a steel garden rake to smooth the area.
Buy gravel wholesale. This is my best tip! I was pricing out bags of gravel like an idiot until my dad insisted we check out Classic Rock Stoneyard. Alyssa was incredibly helpful. She quickly calculated how much gravel we’d need for a 40-square foot, 3″ deep patio. One and a half tons of gravel cost me just $160 – a fraction of the price had I bought it at a hardware store or nursery! Had I known that I could buy gravel for so cheap, I would have finished out my backyard ages ago.
There are certainly fancier gravel types than the pea gravel I chose if your budget allows but I loved how the pea gravel felt under my feet. Plus, I think it looks great! I sprung for delivery (at $45, it was worth it) so we just had to get it from the driveway to the patio.
Now there are a lot of cheap options out there for trim such as the horrid green metal edging we’ve all stepped on by accident if you wanted to build a patio for less than $200, but I decided that Austin stone would really class up the pea gravel. Plus, my dad built the garden beds in my courtyard with Austin stone and I thought if I used it for the gravel patio, my yard would look more cohesive and less like someone built it piece by piece over four years.
The Austin stone cost about $70 for 40 feet, enough for the edge of the new patio and my existing patios. That’s right, my fire pit patio had the horrid green edging and my stamped concrete patio had no edge at all. The edging goes all the way to the end of the fence and we put a shade bed on the other side of the existing patio.
To get the curve around the tree’s roots, we wedged a few small rocks together. So far I’ve had no problem with grass getting in or pebbles getting out. My dad did an incredible job fitting the edging together perfectly!
When you have the gravel on site (in this case, in my driveway), smooth a weed cover over the prepared patio site. Typically this is landscape fabric, but we actually used a giant painting tarp that cost about $15. I researched first to make sure that it can in fact go under a gravel patio. It absolutely can! We poked holes in it for drainage so that the ground beneath the patio wouldn’t harden under the patio.
Shovel, shovel, shovel
A wheelbarrow is your friend here. The delivery truck dumped the pea gravel onto my driveway in a giant heap. My dad and I then shoveled the pea gravel into a wheelbarrow, wheeled it to the patio area, dumped it, and spread it out. Since my patio was oriented against a fence, we dumped the gravel close to the fence, working our way back to the front of the patio. Lay about three-fourths of the gravel, then stop to work on the edging.
Lay the stones out the way you want them. We did quite a bit of stone swapping to get the edge just right. Use two spikes and a string to get a straight line for your edging. This is more critical than you would think! Then move the stones out of the way and use the pick axe to dig a shallow trench wide enough to nestle the stones into the ground. Set the stones into the trench one by one, taking care to make sure they are level with each other and are straight. They should fit snugly together so as to not let any gravel slip through.
Finish it off
Once you’ve got your stone set in the trenches, you’re ready to finish the patio! Simply wheel the gravel to the stone edge, dumping the gravel over the side and into the patio. Smooth the gravel so that it is evenly distributed.
That’s it! Just look at how much living space was gained in my yard. Can you believe this cost so little?! We could have gotten the patio project done in one day but my gravel was delivered pretty late in the day and we only had daylight until about 5 pm, since this project took place in November. If you started in the morning, I think you could definitely do this in one day. Certainly a weekend.
HUGE thank you for my dad for building this patio with me! I furnished the patio with a new hammock and a gorgeous six person teak dining set from Lowe’s. I added some potted plants, a concrete bench I’ve had for a decade nestled in the rounded area in front of the tree, and I (okay, dad) strung solar lights between the trees. The dining set matches the new teak chaise, love seat, and coffee table that I got for my stamped concrete patio last fall, which I think really ties the whole yard together. Here are some more photos of my refurbished backyard!
I hope this article inspired you to DIY a patio. Get outside and enjoy!