Things You'll Need
Hand tamper or plate compactor
Purchase bags of crushed rocks from a home improvement store to use on small patio projects, but shop a sand and gravel yard to lower your cost considerably on large patios.
Save leftover rock to refill any areas that deteriorate over time from settling.
Lay bricks or concrete pavers on their sides to create stable edging for your patio. If using wood for edging, choose pressure-treated or decay-resistant options for maximum longevity.
Crushed rock or stone is a form of gravel often used for walkways and landscape borders, but it can make an efficient and cost-effective patio. The sharp, irregular rocks gradually bind together under compaction to form a stable surface. Because crushed rock is available in so many types, sizes and colors, there is something to complement almost any landscape. With the flexibility of these loose stones, almost any patio design is achievable and changes are easy to make. The type of crushed rock you choose will dictate the cost, but it's one of the least expensive surface options available, regardless of your choice.
Measure and mark the outline of your patio with a measuring tape and marking paint. Drive a wooden stake into each corner, using the hand maul.
Attach mason's string between the stakes. Ensure that you have a perfect square or rectangle, adjusting the stakes if necessary.
Excavate the outlined area at least 4 inches deep, using the standard shovel. Rake the area as smooth as possible with the garden rake.
Tamp the bottom of the excavated area until it's firm, using the hand tamper or plate compactor.
Dig a trench wide enough to accommodate the edging around the perimeter of the tamped area and deep enough so that 2 inches of the edging are below the finished patio, using the square-nose shovel. Extend the trench an additional 2 inches below the bottom of the excavated area.
Lay out landscape fabric over the entire patio area to block weed growth and to keep the rocks above ground. Extend the fabric into the trench for solid edging materials. Overlap the sections of fabric by at least 6 inches.
Fill the trench with 2 inches of gravel to support any solid edging material. Install the plastic edging directly into the soil, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Ensure that any edging will extend ½ inch above the top of the finished patio surface and 1 inch above the adjoining ground level.
Install the solid edging material in the trench, keeping each piece level with the next. Use the standard level and hand maul to make any adjustments.
Fill the excavated area with 4 inches of crushed rock and level it out as much as possible with the garden rake.
Tamp across the patio surface until the gravel is firmly compacted, using the hand tamper or plate compactor. Make at least three passes over the entire patio to ensure even compaction.
Based in Washington, Mariah Elaine has been a freelance writer since 2010. She has professional writing experience in a variety of media including Navy correspondence, business documents and research reports. Elaine holds a Bachelor of Arts in natural science/mathematics from Thomas Edison State College.