Any Opinions or Photos of River Rock, Exposed Aggregate Patios?

kswl2October 26, 2011

We have a good sized patio and a sort of sidewalk in our backyard. I have been on the fence about it for six years, considering and rejecting flagstone (too expensive and too many construction joints in the existing concrete) and stamped concrete (in the end, I just don't like it). So we have finally decided to do an exposed aggregate finish with a mix of larger stones than the uniformly sized pea gravel you often see on pool decks. The area is about 1000 square feet and we are adding another 110 feet to the main patio area. The house is medium shades of Virginia wood mold brick., and the decks are two shades of dark khaki. I wanted a pale rock look that has variation in color and texture, and this is the only thing I can think of. Only, nobody seems to use this anymore.... Is there something I don't know about it? We don't plan to seal it as I don't care for that wet look and that also makes it darker and forces you to reseal. Any warnings, opinions, photos of a good, bad or indifferent installation of this? Thanks as always in advance :)

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A few friends/family have the exposed aggregate on thier patios. I really like the look, but after walking on it in my barefeet I am so glad that I did smooth concrete on my patio instead. I am always barefoot and it really hurts your feet!! My old house I had stamped concrete and I would do that over aggregate, as it is smooth..but, dirt does get into the nooks and crannies which I just used an old sweeper to clean it out. It was easier than a broom

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 8:41AM
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Nothing to help you (sorry), but I'm glad you posted this as we have been wanting to re-surface or replace a patio the last couple of years. Will be interesting to see what responses you get!!


    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 8:55AM
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Jeannie, did that painful patio have the larger rock or the pea gravel size that is tightly packed?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 9:10AM
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I'm interested also! Most of the pictures that I find of aggregate concrete, the pea gravel is very rough. I have seen some IRL where the pea gravel is deeper embedded where only a small portion of the smoother, rounded gravel is exposed and I really like that look. It also looks like it would be easier to clean.

Does anyone know if this is different than aggregate or of a website that shows this.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 9:19AM
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No photos, but we did have the river rock patio many years ago. The size of the rocks varied from pea to new potato.

The man that suggested we do the river rock had only one eye. He first poured the concrete, and then went back in by throwing handfuls of rock onto the concrete and smoothing them over with a broom. You can imagine the job he did with only one eye. We had clumps of rock in one place and nothing in others. Poor guy!

Yes, the patio was rough on the feet. Also, occasional rocks popped out and dirt collected around others. We didn't stay in that house long enough to see the long term wear, but I imagine the patio did not hold up too well.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 9:34AM
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our lanai had river rock.

It was really awful on (bare) feet. Even with yearly applications of the coating.

We changed to concrete pavers about 7 years ago and haven't been sorry.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 10:22AM
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Fori is not pleased

We have spots of pea sized aggregate as well as some of the bigger river rock (?) stuff. The big ones can get slippery!

None of us have problems with the aggregate hurting our feet but we probably have tougher feet than the average city folk.

It can look dated and it can look terrific. Sometimes at the same time.

Check the swimming pool forum--those people do a lot of paving and may have some pictures of these as well as other options.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 10:39AM
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My parents had a pebble driveway, courtyard they ended up replacing with concrete pavers. The pebble driveway became super slippery with wet and would ice up too easily... and they live in the south.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 10:40AM
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A designer I worked with once steered me away, cautioning that the river pebbles pop out after a while.

I still like the look though. (Smooth river pebbles, not coarse pea gravel exposed aggregate)

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 12:36PM
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we have an exposed aggregate pool deck (have had it for 6 summers now)and i love it... i like it more than a brushed concrete or stamped concrete deck, which were the only other surfaces we were considering... it has also held up really well!

it is rougher, so if you have very tender feet, it might really bother you, but we are fine with it...even my husband who doesn't go barefoot as much as the rest of us. the only problem with it is that it is in full sun/southern exposure and it does get hot... i have a outdoor rug under the bistro type table we have out there... but, it doesn't get nearly as hot as our trex deck does- that's REALLY hot in the full sun in the middle of summer.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 12:49PM
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Interesting. This brings to mind the shower floors people are doing in river rock that is supposed to be so therapeutic..pain is therapeutic??

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 1:07PM
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Pea Gravel ! Can't believe how hard and rough it feels - I wuold have thought that it would be smooth, but it could be that the concrete is also more "chunky" than when you put down smooth concrete.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 2:39PM
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This is a good topic for the same reason as others have stated - our deck is next summers project. We did stamped concrete to look like grey-rock type granite I don't mean like counters but like rock cliff granite) at our front door. I love the look and it's easy to sweep up but I'm not sure if I want it for the back.
The back patio is currently brick-sized-shaped pavers in a herring bone pattern which I will never do again. I don't like having to replace the sand and weed between the pavers all summer.
We were thinking aggregate but maybe not. Maybe we'll just lay sod down and call it a day.
Anyway, looking for more info and suggestions. What works and doesn't work for people.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 2:49PM
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I have a friend who did a beautiful river rock shower floor. It is spectacular. I love rocks in general anyway, but this is a thing of beauty.

And yes - it hurt my feet showering.

If it were my house, I would have had to put a rubber mat or something else to stand on in there.

It was just done a few months ago so I have no idea how well it will hold up, and I'm not even sure if you can generalize much from an inside shower to an outside patio....other than I can indeed testify that those pretty stones hurt like heck in bare feet.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 2:56PM
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maybe how 'painful' it is for some people has to do with how well it has been done--again, we love it. (the only thing i don't like about it is kneeling on it to attach the vacuum, but i don't think i would love kneeling on concrete either!!)

i think this may come down to personal preference, such as tile/wood in kitchen(some find wood much more comfortable to stand on than tile) or wood/tile in family room/bedrooms vs carpet. what bothers some might not bother should probably find a concrete guy you would use, see his work and walk on the surface in barefeet before making a decision.

i will think twice before i put trex on my deck again because of how hot it gets but i would absolutely get exposed aggregate again...our aggregate is more like pea gravel- not river rock.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 5:09PM
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Busybee, we decided against trexx because of the heat retention issue and also because of the mildew/lawsuits. So we have wood decks and I wanted a more natural material than concrete or stamped concrete. It's funny, I never even considered how the surface would feel to bare feet, since I NEVER leave my house without shoes.... We live in the country and share our land with several varieties of poisonous snakes. I am not sure I have ever seen anyone on the patio without shoes, so I am hoping that won't be an issue.

I hadn't thought about this type of surface in years, until we were walking through an arboretum in Virginia. All the sidewalks/paths were exposed aggregate, and the color was a pale tan. It looked very natural and unobtrusive, which is what I want. We have a lot going on out there, an irregular patio with columns, decks, aluminum fence, brick, etc., so I need a hardscape piece that will not make any kind of statement, just provide a very neutral background. I kind of like the retro vibe it had in Virginia.... And they were putting in new walkways of the same material.We're going to see some examples over the weekend and will make our decision then. We don't have enough clearance under the doors to do pavers of any kind---which would be too busy anyway. There just aren't that many materials for patios, oddly enough!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 10:25PM
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So, here are a few types of exposed aggregate (commonly called river rock surfacing)

Smaller rock

Much bigger rock

I think I would like something between the two... any opinions?

REALLY like this mix, but the color is too dark:

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 12:26PM
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I LOVE that last one kswl!

We too have concrete patio areas that could use an update. They have not cracked in any way, they are just pitted, and different colors, and some have sunk a bit. We have a LARGE area in the back of the house and we also have front steps that are concrete and a walkway around the front of the house.

I am wondering, is this something they put on top of your existing concrete? I wonder if that makes it less expensive than starting from scratch.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 12:48PM
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Sorry, boopadoo, I did not see your question. Yes, this is an application they are putting on top of our existing patio, as there is just enough clearance at the doors to do that. The 1000 square foot existing patio plus another 110 sq ft of patio poured and topped with the river rock is costing about $8500. Before we signed on to this I went to a stone yard to see if we even could find a very pale stone in tones of white, light tan and light gray (like the stone path we put from a side gate to the tennis court) but the flagstone was much darker than I want. And, more expensive and had to be laid on top of all those expansion joints... So we chose the river rock. The size varies as new homebuilder's did---- from pea gravel to new potato.

So they have already etched the concrete, and put up the wooden forms to pour, and are planning to do that tomorrow. After that it will just be a week or so until the job is finished. But they said that after the aggregate is exposed, the surface will have a white "bloom" on it for at least a month, which will wear away. Fingers crossed!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 8:13AM
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Our front porch and back screened porch are both exposed aggregate using the small pea gravel. I would not do it again, as it is difficult to walk barefoot on. We did do stamped concrete for our patio and walkways and I love it so very much...and have so many compliments. We did not do it ourselves, but hired it out.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 3:24PM
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Cial, I'm not following..... the brick looking path above looks like stamped concrete, but what is the green area? Neither is exposed aggregate, right?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 5:02PM
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Oh, I'm sorry...I was not clear in my picture...forgot to label. The pic is of stamped concrete...a cobblestone pattern in the red, and the green large blocks would be a stamped slate pattern.

I will try to get a picture of our exposed aggregate and post.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 5:16PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

One thing that came to mind for me is how furniture would sit on the river rock if it is on a patio, not just a walkway. Seems it would be rather uneven. Pretty, but maybe not practical?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 5:31PM
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Connie K

cia1953, do you have any issues with dirt getting trapped in the crevices of your stamped concrete? I've heard this can be an issue, but I also don't know how easy/difficult it is to sweep it out.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 5:40PM
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cia1953, we don't have a problem. We either sweep with a blower or a broom. The crevices are not real deep, so it doesn't seem to be a problem for us.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 6:02PM
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Thanks for that clarification, cial. Please do post a photo of your exposed aggregate, thanks!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 6:46PM
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Cyn427: I wondered about the unevenness of the surface as well. But flagstone is uneven and pavers, and stamped concrete---- basically anything other than flat concrete. We are ready to level the outdoor furniture. :)

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 7:35PM
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Does anyone have this in a colder climate? I am in NY with hot summers and very cold winters. I was wondering if this is prone to cracking from expanding and contracting with the temp changes..... I'd love to do our walkway like shown above in that last pic of 3.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 9:59AM
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I am right there with you on the stamped concrete and have been doing a bit of research myself on what you mentioned. I think that the River Rock is a gorgeous look and definitely am swinging that way myself. Here's some inspiration for you!

Here is a link that might be useful: River Rock examples

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 9:11PM
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Update--- they did the first pour and pressure washed the top of the concrete off today, exposing the rocks, and it looks WONDERFUL! Just like that third photo except MUCH lighter, which is what I wanted. And when the concrete cures completely it will be lighter still. I absolutely love the look! Will post photos tomorrow when more is finished.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 10:27PM
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Fori is not pleased

Looking forward to the photos--and they did this on top of your old concrete! That is appealing. Getting rid of the old stuff is almost half the cost of installation around here. And the noise....

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 11:08PM
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Yes, that was a factor in our decision, too. One rock guy wanted to pull up all the concrete at a prohibitive cost. He said we would not get good results laying flagstone over the existing patio because of all the construction joints. Another rock guy said the opposite, and since all the suitable stone we saw was too dark anyway, I just decided against stone. We would have had to remove the concrete for brick pavers, too, so that was out---- besides creating a veritable sea of brick back there. I just cannot believe how much I like this river rock!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 5:54AM
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the top of your 3 photos looks like our pool decking...
i don't think i would like to have photo #2 as decking... don't think i would like walking on it or placing furniture or pots on it, etc. #3 is cool--i've never seen the 2 mixed before--probably is easier to walk on and place things on than #2--am anxious to see you pictures!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 7:29AM
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The third photo is pretty messy--- there is a rock walkway from a side gate to the riverwalk path as a way to get to the tennis court from the side.

And this is a good close up:

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 11:56AM
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Fori is not pleased

Really very nice! I love how it intersects the stone path.

It looks like a good installation and the colors are perfect. I'm used to the lighter blends (being in a midcentury neighborhood) and this is somehow more up-to-date without being trendy.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 12:22PM
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In my last home, on the advice of a landscape architect, we used pami pebbles for our aggregate walkway/patio and had the concrete mix tinted a medium brown-reddish color. It was a beautiful combination, especially in contrast with plant materials and a flagstone and brick accent wall. Got many compliments over the years. I didn't find it hard to walk on with bare feet because the pami pebbles are so smooth.

We had our backyard patio installed a few years later by a different company and was talked out of using the same materials. Never liked the patio as much as the front yard - in looks or bare-foot comfort.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 12:45PM
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Fori, thank you! Thats exactly what I think too :)
Another linda, we considered the colored concrete but i actually like the grey best for our color scheme.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 2:05PM
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I was wondering why you didn't want pavers...but I think I got my answer above. You needed something to go ON TOP of the existing concrete?

I had a paver patio and two walkways intalled in a blend of tan, chocolate and slate pavers a few years ago. Did have to have the concrete removed for one short walkway, while the other path and the patio were previously grass.

It's lookin' good. Hope you enjoy!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 3:31PM
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Yes s gardener, the cost of pulling up over 1000 sq feet of concrete was ridiculous, and it has never even cracked, so it is in super good shape. But the brick pavers against two stories of brick just seemed like it would be too much of a good thing :). I really wanted a different material. Cannot wait to get it finished !

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 3:39PM
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