Is Pea Gravel Good For Playgrounds?

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When it comes to surface options, pea gravel is one of the go-tos of home and commercial property owners. It’s aesthetically pleasing with different vibrant tones. But is it a great choice for kids' playgrounds? We dug a little deeper, and here’s what we found.

Made of smooth round stones with a consistent size, pea gravel makes a perfect material for playground surfaces. It also has a soft but firm texture that absorbs shocks from slips and falls, minimizing the chances of children getting hurt.

Like other products, though, pea gravel does have its drawbacks. Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about pea gravel before you make a decision. 

Made of smooth rount stone which is called pea gravel, Is Pea Gravel Good For Playgrounds?

What Is Pea Gravel Best Used For?

Pea gravel is versatile; it can be used for drainage, runways, and driveways. It is also ideal for dog runs and patios, particularly when paired with pebbles or slabs.

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6 Factors To Consider When Buying Pea Gravel For A Playground

Here are important considerations to make if you're planning to buy pea gravel for your playground improvement project:

pea gravel and it's purposes on the landscape environment


The U.S. is far from getting short of crushed stones, sand, and gravel. These are readily accessible throughout the country, making them affordable to transport.


Regular raking is the only maintenance pea gravel requires to stay leveled and in place as they shift over time. The challenge, however, is snow removal. 


You'll have to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It's a law that governs public playgrounds within the country. One aspect of the law, which covers what types of ground cover are acceptable, provides that playgrounds must accommodate all people, including those with mobility and disability issues that are on wheelchairs or crutches. 

Loose stones are cost-effective and visually appealing, but they can make it difficult for individuals in wheelchairs to navigate.


Pea gravel is a multicolored product. When wet, its colors intensify, providing a striking finish for many projects.


The average cost of a cubic yard of pea gravel is $15 to $75. But it may vary, depending on the color, source, and volume. 


Pea gravel is all-natural, it has not been treated with additives or chemicals, so it’s a safe choice for playground surfaces.

What Do You Get From Pea Gravel?

benefits of pea gravel on drainage system

Ready to order pea gravel for your children's playground? Familiarize yourself first with the convenience and limitations of the product.


  • Shock absorption: Pea gravel absorbs the force impact that would have been directed to any surface when installed at the right depth. 
  • Hygienic: It deters the growth of harmful microbes. It’s also an unattractive waste spot for unwanted critters like cats and raccoons.
  • Drainage: This allows water to flow through, which in turn reduces mud and standing water on the playground. 
  • Ease of installation: The installation requires no special tools or skills—simply spread the material on a prepared area and level it with a rake or shovel. Within just a few hours, you'll have a beautiful playground that will last long!
  • Cost effective: Pea gravel is the most cost-effective as it costs less than any other popular alternative, and it doesn’t degrade as easily or require high maintenance. 


  • Age-appropriate: When using pea gravel, be sure to keep an eye on children under five, as they have a tendency to put things in their mouths and the stones can be a choking hazard.
  • Bordering: Pea gravel is hard to contain, as it tends to roll off the surface. You need brick, stone, or edging to keep the rocks in place.
  • Limited mobility: As mentioned, pea gravel isn’t suitable for people with disabilities; the uneven surface can cause difficulty for foot placement and maintaining balance. Since ADA requires that playgrounds to be compliant with its anti-discrimination laws, you may need to add materials to make your playground accessible to all, such as putting down ramps or rubber mats. 

How To Install Pea Gravel On A Playground

pea gravel installed in the playground for safety measure

It might take some time to get everything set up but it’ll be worth it once you finish carrying out these simple steps:

1. Set Apart The Playground Zones

  • Separate the playground areas with rope or tape to determine the spots you will cover with pea gravel.
  • Make sure to reserve some space for the equipment. 
  • Calculate the area in square meters.

2. Get The Surface Ready

  • Dig the ground 4 to 6 inches to level it with your lawn. But if you want it slightly higher than your backyard, dig 2 to 3 inches.
  • Remove all soil but be careful to avoid hitting water pipes.
  • Take out roots for easy installation.
  • Level and flatten the ground.

3. Lay Down The Landscaping Fabric

  • Install landscaping fabric to prevent weed from growing once the pea gravel is put on top. (Choose a high-quality one to avoid frequent replacement.)
  • Secure the edges with stakes so it stays in place despite surface movements.
  • Double check for wear and tear.

4. Install A Border

  • Mark the area you will add a border on. This prevents stones spills while children play. 
  • Measure its length then mark the corners. 
  • Water the area then dig holes.
  • Draft your placement first, so you can make adjustments if necessary. You can opt for rubber or plastic playground borders.
  • Place and pound the stakes as firmly as possible.
  • Cover the ground with a rubber mulch or woodchip.

5. Add Pea Gravel

  • Pour the pea gravel over the dug ground.
  • Don’t press down the stones as they are intended to stay loose. 
  • Level the rocks with a rake.
  • Check the pea gravel for impurities and sharp materials. Remove, if there’s any. 

How Long Does Pea Gravel Last?

Pea gravel doesn’t decompose but will eventually settle into the soil, causing shifting—you may need to add more gravel every two to three years.

Pea Gravel Maintenance

The simple tips below will keep pea gravel in good shape:

  • After a hard rain, major storm, and wind, the rocks can get displaced, just use a shovel to move them back into place.
  • Clear off the layers of snow that accumulate on top of the pea gravel then use a leaf blower to remove the remaining buildup.
  • Blow away the debris with a leaf blower. However, always use the lowest power setting and aim the tool directly at the ground. The force in a leaf blower can cause small rocks to fly out and hit some or a property.

Is Pea Gravel Dusty?

Pea gravel that is stored at a landscape supply store has a fair amount of dust. But the gravel will look much better after you wash it off with water.

Can You Walk Barefoot On Pea Gravel?9

Walking on a pea gravel stone with comfort

Smaller rocks compact, forming a solid base, so you can walk barefoot on them without any problem. But it’s not the same for larger rocks, they can hurt your sole but do not tend to get stuck on your feet.

Other Playground Surface Materials

If you're not sure pea gravel is for you, check out the best alternatives below:

  • Rubber mulch - It provides a safe, functional, hazard-free space for children and pets. It has a higher initial cost compared to other playground surfaces, but you can expect it to last about 10 years before needing to do a comprehensive replacement.

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  • Grass mats - These impact-resistant mats come in 5-foot by 3.3-foot squares, are non-toxic, and do not pose a choking hazard to children. With grass mats, you can also use the space under your play area to grow grass.

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  • Engineered wood fiber - Engineered mulch is a recycled material that serves as a "loose-fill" surface for playgrounds. The material is comprised of wood fibers, which are compressed and bound together. When properly installed, it can withstand tons of foot traffic. However, some pieces could become displaced over time.

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In Closing

Made of smooth rount stone which is called pea gravel

Pea gravel is a safe and affordable option for playground surfaces as it is made of smooth, round stones with a consistent size. Also, it provides cushioning in case of falls. The only downside is it tends to sink and shift over time, so you need to add more every two to three years.

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