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How to Build a Loose Material Patio

Updated on September 20, 2017

Outdoor Patio Ideas

Loose material? What exactly does that mean? Basically, it's a patio design that is made of material such as crushed stone, rocks or mulch. Loose stuff that is not hard and static. It's easy to buy a bag full of loose material and just pour it into an area of your yard to create a surface that you can entertain on. Sounds easy doesn't it? But if you want a loose material patio that will last there a few more steps.

Nothing beats having an area in your own backyard to escape to and enjoy. A place to sit and read or just to relax in the sunshine. We spend a lot of time indoors and we need to get outside more often. The best way to encourage this is to create an inviting outdoor room in your own backyard.

The steps to creating this simple patio type and all you need to get started is outlined below. We will look at what you need to create your patio. Loose material can be installed in as little as one day with a little help from your friends and, of course, your friendly neighborhood home and garden center!

Patio Construction - Here Is What You Will Need

Patio supplies
Patio supplies | Source

List of Equipment

  1. Hammer or mallet
  2. String
  3. Tape Measure
  4. Level
  5. Shovel
  6. Hand Tamper
  7. Stakes
  8. Rake
  9. Gravel
  10. Landscape Fabric
  11. Wheelbarrow
  12. Drum Roller (optional)
  13. Loose Material
  14. Edging Material
  15. Hose and water

Loose Material: Three Main Types

The most common loose material products used for patio installations are crushed stone, river rock and wood chips. The hardest and smoothest surface is crushed stone. Wood chips will create a soft spongy surface and river rock is the most "rocky". Rocks are more difficult to walk on so it really depends on the purpose of your patio.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Is it going to be used for lots of social gatherings? (perhaps crushed stone)

2. Is it just a place for yourself and your family to sit? (wood chips would do)

3. Is it a focal point, more for decorative purposes? (river rock is a good choice here)

But It really depends on your personal preference, visit some garden centers and look at the materials to see what appeals to you!

The Most Important Thing

Remember to check before you dig because there may be underground cables. Be safe!

Patio Edging

Keep your loose material in place with Patio Edging

One step you should probably not skip when installing your loose material patio is "edging". This will keep your loose material from spilling out all over your yard and will give it some stability and definition.

A common edging is paver stones, available in a variety of sizes and colors, they create a decorative as well as functional finish. Another popular edging is pressurized wood posts. Cut it to the lengths you need and remember to miter those corners!

Common rubber flower bed edging is another choice although it is more functional than decorative, it can almost disappear and is great if you do not want a noticeably defined edge.

Loose Material Patio Installation - The Easy Steps!

Start to dig
Start to dig | Source

Directions for Creating the Patio

  1. Layout - determine the dimensions of intended patio. Outline with stakes and strings to define the area before you dig.
  2. Dig out the area to a depth of 4 inches.
  3. Remember to grade it away from your house about 1/8 inch per foot for water run off. You can use a 2 x 4 with a level on top to run over the area to ensure it is even.
  4. Cover with landscape fabric cut to fit into the excavated area, overlapping the strips of fabric as required by 6 inches.
  5. Fill with gravel that can be compacted.
  6. Compact it down with a hand tamper or power tamper to a depth of 2 inches.
  7. Install edging such as pavers, pressurized wood, or rubber flowerbed edging. Install around the perimeter - the edging should rise about 1/2 inch higher than the dug out area.
  8. Fill with your loose material! Crushed stone, river rock, or wood chips. Add 2 inches or more of the rock or wood chips. For the crushed stone add 1 - 2 inches.
  9. Tamp it down with your tamper or drumroll it
  10. Spray it down with the hose to clean and settle the material. Now stand back and admire your work!

Patio Examples

Need some inspiration? Scroll down for some ideas for loose material patios. A picture is worth a thousand words!

River Rock

Rock patio
Rock patio | Source

River Rock Patio

Rock patios, such as this one, create more a visual impact and are really not highly functional. River rock is more are pleasing to the eye and decorative. Walking on the rock can be challenging so using it as an accent around stable surfaces that can be used for entertaining is best.

Rock Patio - Natural

Flagstone and loose rock
Flagstone and loose rock | Source

Loose Rock and Flagstone

Rock patios create a very natural looking backyard escape made entirely with stones, rocks and boulders placed randomly around the yard. Included is a tranquil water feature that is also created using some stacked rock. Flagstone is used to create one sturdy area for seating. You can do so much with loose material - get creative!

Mulch Patio - Boulder accents

Mulch Corner Patio
Mulch Corner Patio | Source

Mulch Corner Patio

Mulch can be used in any corner easily and with the addition of some well placed boulders you have instant seating. Perfect around a firepit.

Mulch Patio - Stones for seating

Mulch is soft underfoot
Mulch is soft underfoot | Source

Mulch Foundation Patio

Mulch area with a boulder "edging" providing a place to sit. This is so natural and blends well into the environment. Come on let's sit around the fire! Marshmallows anyone?

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons - Field Outdoor Spaces

Flagstone and mulch walkway

Flagstone and Mulch
Flagstone and Mulch | Source

Combine a hard and soft surface

Flagstone is very pretty and natural looking hard surface stone. By blending Flagstone with mulch you create both a hard walking surface with the softness of mulch.

It is a pleasing to the eye and not as formal a look as most static stone installations. This is an easy combination for the do-it-yourself person.

Flagstone with Mulch

Flagstone and Woodchips
Flagstone and Woodchips | Source

Another Example of Flagstone and Mulch

Another example of how wood chips and flagstone complement each other. This is a super easy combination.

Large soft mulch yard


Large backyard patio

Stop cutting the grass and turn your entire yard into a loose material patio. A wooden porch addition creates a solid place for the table and chairs. There is loads of room here to entertain and very soft underfoot!

Gravel and Flagstone

Loose stones
Loose stones | Source

Gravel and Flat Stones

Buy some flagstone pieces, look for unique looking colours and shapes and lay them in a bed of gravel. This is an easy installation. It's probably a little unstable for a patio set but great if you are just sick of mowing that lawn! You could pick a area and lay some flagstones close together to create a sitting area.

Crushed Stone Patio - Stone patio ideas

Crushed Stone with Edging
Crushed Stone with Edging | Source

Easy crushed stone

This is a super simple crushed stone corner patio with a flowerbed edging. It is perfect for a small yard where space is at a premium. Situated in a tiny corner of the yard it leaves just enough room for a couple of chairs and a small table. Very Cozy.

Crushed Stone Patio

Crushed Stone
Crushed Stone | Source

Beautiful Square Patio Among the Trees

Crushed stone is laid down and tampered after a perfect square area is cut out in the grass. You can create little corner areas by just adding a few patio stones for a hard surface. You can create as large an area as you like and its easy to maintain. Just add more stone and tamp it down to keep it solid. Don't forget to spray it down with water so it settles. Go back and read the steps!

More examples of Pea Gravel patios

What Loose Material is a Standout to You?


What's your Favourite Patio Material?

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Have Your Say!

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    • profile image

      Everette 16 months ago

      Great article. I am in the process of creating an extension from our current concrete patio and wanted to use a surface that is functional and affordable. I am planning to use marble chips and concrete pavers, but had not found the right step by step directions. This article is very helpful. Thank you!

    • Kelsey Farrell profile image

      Kelsey Elise Farrell 2 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Great suggestions, will definitely be passing along to my parents who just moved to a home with way too much room to create a cement or wood patio. Voting up for usefulness, thank you!

    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 3 years ago from Virginia

      I like this a lot. Great ideas! I shared it on our G+ page today, come and check it out!


    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      You have some beautiful idea for a do it yourself patio creation, I have been trying to figure out what to do with a section of my yard this could work.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Great options for an easy to "lay" patio surface!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I really love the homey feel of the lens, nice to stop by again. :)

    • BestRatedStuff profile image

      BestRatedStuff 4 years ago

      So detailed, some of these options would not have occurred to me. Like the descriptive info and photos too, gives me a good idea what I would try out.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Very helpful - blessed - pinned to my home beautification board for when I can get to it.

    • profile image

      Bartukas 5 years ago

      Great information .

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      @Lee Hansen: Your patio sounds wonderful, thanks for visiting and your informative comments!

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      @Snowsprite: Thank you, hope it helps!

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      @anonymous: Thank you Tipi for visiting and your comments!

    • profile image

      datakrunch 5 years ago

      This is new to me. Very interesting.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love your loose and natural look and am especially attracted to your fire pit area, that's where you'd find me! Now its time for that backyard party, congratulations on a very well done front page feature.

    • profile image

      milky-way-35977 5 years ago

      nice and informatife

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Lovely lens. I like stones for design impact and love your small areas shown here.

    • OliviaDaughter LM profile image

      OliviaDaughter LM 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing such a wonderul lens.

    • alaiamax lm profile image

      alaiamax lm 5 years ago

      Wow this lens is really nice!

    • verymary profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Chicago area

      this could solve our patio problem -- if I could talk my better half into letting me use part of the yard

    • Snowsprite profile image

      Fay 5 years ago from Cornwall, UK

      Very useful lens I have popped it on Facebook as my sister is currently in the middle of deciding on Patios and I think it will help her. Thanks.

    • profile image

      SandiCaldwell 5 years ago

      Thanks for the great ideas!

    • Keith J Winter profile image

      Keith Winter 5 years ago from Spain

      Great lens and instructions. You have given me some ideas for my garden. Crushed stone looks good when combined with flagstones.

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      This is so beautiful, I would like to have a stone patio.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Wonderful article! I love the combo of flagstone and wood chips the best I think. Angel Blessings for this very well done article. :)

    • ThePerfectPresent profile image

      ThePerfectPresent 5 years ago

      I love the step by step instruction and the photos. Great job!

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 5 years ago from Vermont

      I love using loose materials like stone and mulch to make pervious pavement surfaces. They're much better for the environment than hard pavements; they help recharge the ground water and filter storm water, plus they're just more natural looking. We just created a mulch surface area for our back yard patio with natural boulders for seating surfaces and garden borders. Love this lens!

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Great instructions and photos!

    • JodiFromFlorida profile image

      JodiFromFlorida 5 years ago

      I wish that I had a yard so that I could make a patio.

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      @FantasticVoyages: Yes, me too, my favourite is wood chips!

    • FantasticVoyages profile image

      Fantastic Voyages 5 years ago from Texas

      I have always wanted to do this. I like the look of loose material.