Two Cool DIY Patios to Complete in a Weekend

Interested in creating a little outdoor living space on a shoestring budget? Instead of hiring someone to pour concrete or pour a concrete patio, consider one of these DIY options. Either one makes a great weekend project!

1. Gravel Patio

Gravel is a low-cost material, perfect for patios and paths. If you plan to walk barefoot on your new patio, skip the crushed stone and go for pea gravel or creek gravel, both of which are tumbled by nature to round off the sharp edges.

Mark off the area you want to turn into a patio and dig up the ground to make the area (mostly) level. (The gravel will handle the rest of the leveling work.)

If you plan to use the earth itself as your patio base, dig down about 2.5 inches. If you prefer a tamped-down gravel underlay below the looser surface stones, dig down 4.5 inches to allow space for the stone base. Smooth and even out the soil beneath your future patio, using a 3-foot level to check your work.

Edging the Patio

Although the dug-out edges of your yard can hold the gravel in place, it’s better to add structured edging to keep the gravel from spreading into the yard. Edging also lengthens the life and improves the good looks of your patio. Options include:

  • Low-cost plastic landscaping edging from a home improvement store
  • Pavers from a local garden store
  • Natural stones you harvest yourself
  • Railroad ties, cedar planks, or other treated lumber edging

Be sure the edging material rises about half an inch above the gravel, to help keep things in place.

Prevent Future Maintenance Issues

Before adding any stones, cover the leveled soil with a thick layer of landscaping fabric, which will allow water to drain, but will not allow weeds to grow through. Skipping this step will guarantee a constant battle with weeds on your patio. Landscaping fabric… it’s your patio’s best friend!

Gravel it In!

Fill the framed patio area with gravel on top of the landscaping fabric. Using a shovel and a garden rake, distribute the gravel and level it off.

Personalize Your Space

Gravel patios can be enjoyed as is or turned into a place to display beautiful, natural, sentimental, or eclectic flat objects purchased or collected as time goes by. Turn it into a mosaic!

Have a big flat rock you hauled back from a trip? Great! A brick you salvaged from the old family home? A paver you thought was beautiful? A concrete hand-imprint from the children or grandchildren? A piece of slate from a creek?

If the item is weather-proof and mostly flat, just dig out a bit of the gravel, fit in the new find, rake the gravel back into place around the item, and enjoy your personalized outdoor living space!

2. Pallet Patio

Sure, you know that people make all kinds of things from pallets, but a patio? Can you really make a patio out of pallets? Yes, you can!

Be sure the pallets you select are:

  • Heavy-duty, industrial pallets
  • Made to hold 1,000+ pounds
  • Do not have missing or broken boards (unless you want to repair them)
  • Have small, rather than large gaps between the boards

Sizing and Foundation

It’s best to pick patio dimensions that don’t require cutting any of your pallets. For example, if you’re working with 4ft x 4ft pallets, 16 pallets are perfect for a 16ft x 16ft patio.

To create a stable foundation for your pallet patio, set concrete blocks at the corner of each pallet. Dig down enough to “sink” the blocks into the ground, making each hole is as deep as the block, plus another 2 inches to add sand or gravel.

Tamp the sand/gravel base down, until you have a solid, level surface for each concrete block. Make sure all the blocks are level with one another, adding additional base material as needed. The blocks should extend high enough for the pallets to rest on the blocks, above the surface of the ground.

It’s also a good idea to lay down landscaping fabric, secured by these blocks, so you don’t have unwanted plants growing up between the patio slats.

Preparing the Pallets

Be sure to paint or spray the pallets with a weather coating, sealant or weatherproof stain. If you prefer, they can be painted with outdoor or porch paint. A paint sprayer will make the job faster and easier.

Once dry, place the pallets on the blocks with the slats all going in the same direction, or by turning every other one to create a checkerboard effect, adding visual interest.

Attach them to each other for a more stable platform, or leave them “floating” for the ease of moving them around, replacing sections or changing the shape of the patio in the future.

Now, add an indoor/outdoor rug, furniture, and planters and begin enjoying your pallet patio!