How to Build a River Rock Patio

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Things You'll Need

  • River rocks

  • Lime

  • Trowel or small hand shovel

  • Bucket

  • Gloves

  • Type S mortar

  • Sand or rock dust

  • Grout sponge

  • Shovel

  • Rakes

  • Rubber mallet


To create a smoother appearance around the edges of the river rock patio, use smaller river rocks on the borders and smear the grout in a downwards motion onto the ground.

River rock patios can add a feeling of beauty and spirituality to your home. They are time consuming, but are not physically strenuous, and will add value to your home. Creating a patio out of river rocks will provide a place for you and your family and guests to sit at a patio table and chairs, and enjoy nature.

Step 1

Decide where you want to build your river rock patio, and how large you'd like it. A common size for a small patio that can hold a patio table and some chairs, and possibly a barbecue grill, is approximately 12 by 12 feet. When you decide where you want it, and how large you are going to build the river rock patio, find the most level area of ground to construct the patio on.

Step 2

Start to set the river rocks up, starting on one far side of what will be the patio. Outline the exact measurements with the river rocks first, than fill the patio floor in with river rocks. You will need a large quantity of small, medium and large river rocks, with one flat side. Make sure you place the river rocks flat-side up. Since some rocks may be larger than others, dig them in deeper to create a level, even surface. Lay the river rocks as close to each other as possible and pack them in tightly.

Step 3

Pour room-temperature water all over the river rock patio. After you soak the rocks, go back and pack them all in again, securing them deeper into the soil. After you have adjusted the river rocks a second time, pour water over them again, and pack them in deeper. Make sure you do not press the stones all the way into the dirt; at least 1 or 2 inches should be above ground. Repeat this process until the stones are firmly anchored int he soil.

Step 4

Combine the lime, the sand and the mortar. Mix about 3 1/2 bags of sand and one bag of lime to every 1 1/2 to 2 bags of mortar. Mix small amounts at a time so you don't feel rushed to use the mixture before it has dried.

Step 5

Stuff the cracks between the river rocks with the mortar mixture. Use a small garden shovel or trowel to do this. Use your fingers to stuff the mortar down into the smaller cracks. Make sure the river rocks stay level throughout the procedure.

Step 6

Use a grout sponge and some room-temperature water to wipe the river rocks clean of grout debris and smears. Check on it a few hours later to make sure it is still smooth and even. Check again the next day. If it looks uneven, or if the river rocks are bulging out, use a small rubber mallet to hit the rocks back down into the ground.

Step 7

Let dry for several days. Do not walk on the river rock patio for at least a week.

Step 8

Add a patio table, chairs and barbecue grill.

Lauren Wise

Lauren Wise has more than eight years' experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food, wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, including "Runway," "A2Z," "Scottsdale Luxury Living" and "True West." Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Arizona State University.