Guide to Building a Flagstone Patio

A flagstone patio is a very nice addition to a landscape design. Not only does it look very elegant just like brick or cement patios, they also have that natural look that gives it its appeal. And unlike wood patios or decks, longevity is not a problem because you eliminate common problems such as rotting, damages, weathering and staining.

To build your very own flagstone patios, you need some basic materials and tools that you can certainly buy from your local landscaping or home improvement stores. Materials you’ll need include gravel (preferably crushed granite), course sand (for paving), flagstone, 2×4 boards, metal or plastic edging, landscaping cloth, biodegradable ground marking spray paint and landscape edging of stone or plastic. Some of the tools you can use are wheelbarrow, flat spade, round shovel, metal rake, level, leveler, tamper, water hose, chisel, mallet, gloves, safety goggles, steel toe boots and a broom. You might also need at least one assistant to help you with the heavy tasks.

After preparing the tools and materials you need, just follow these basic steps in constructing your very own flagstone patio:

  1. First, measure your patio area and shop for the flagstone. Make sure you have enough flagstone to pave the area completely. You might also want some extra for backup. You should have also calculated how much sand and gravel you need to fill in for at least twice the depth of your pavers; meaning if you are using two inch stones, you need to dig 6 inches and layer at least two inches of gravel and two inches of sand.Before starting any work, you also have to choose the shape, depth and style of your pavers and patio. There are many flagstone pavers colors to choose from, as well as cuts including precut tiles, rough edged or smooth edged. Precut tiles usually the way to go because they lay evenly together and fit snugly. But some people like the rustic look of uncut ones. However using uncut tiles, require a sense of creativity and preferably some technique in fitting them together similar to a jig saw puzzle. Precut, rough edged flagstone is also nice as they usually fit together better and still have that natural look to them.
  2. After all the measurements and other planning is done, it is now time to start digging. Be careful when doing this step as you want to be precise with your measurments. Use markers if needed. A flat spade should be used to cut into the ground.  Dig only up to yout required depth all around the edge. Then using a round spade, remove the soil inside the area you marked. You might want to put all the soil on a tarp or any other designated spot. Continue digging out the foundation until the whole area is excavated. If you are planning on building a raised patio, you will still need to excavate the ground to a point where it is level.
  3. If you are planning to lay the patio up against a building, make sure that the surface slopes away from the building to avoid water coming towards the building. Also, always make sure that everything is on level ground. It is important that the solid beneath the patio is as level as possible and tamped down well. Irregularities or air pockets will spell trouble in thr future.
  4. Now you can place the landscaping fabric on the ground. Be sure you have enough to overlap the edges. You shouls have also already dug down from the edging material.
  5. When using wood or other edging material, be sure that the top edges of the wood are level with the bottom edges of the stone. Adjust level by digging further. Alternately use the wood as the final edging making sure it is level with the ground all around. The 2×4’s will be used for screeding later on. If you are using edging or landscaping stone, you may not need the 2×4’s or edging material.
  6. After everything is leveled. put some gravel evenly on the surface of the landscape fabric. Use the 2×4 as a screeding device to make sure everything is in place. With the help of an assistant, always make sure that everything remains leveled. Tamp down if necessary and fill in any air pockets or holes. Using the crushed granite, rock or course sand, you’ll only need about 1 and ½ times as deep as your flagstone rock. If you are also using course sand as a layer, you can wet down the granite and leave it to set over night for at least 12 hours. This will set it and it will be like working on cement. If you are not using sand, then skip this step.
  7. After you have laid the foundation with gravel, sand, or a combination of the two, and checked that it is level all around, it is now time to start laying the pavers. It is up to you if you start on one side, around the edge, or in the middle. Generally if you are using large stones, precut stones, or want to make sure you have a finished edge it is best to start in the middle of a patio, or at one end of your walkway. If you want a natural edge, then it really does not matter where you start, just chisel the edges back enough so that they are all over your base layers and not up into the dirt where they will heave more.
  8. When laying the stones, level everything by either adding sand or gravel under them or removing where necessary. If there are air pockets underneath or the stones rock or wobble, they will wear poorly and crack. Make sure all stones are firm. If you lay your stones closer together less water will seep through and they will need less maintenance in the long run. Just be sure to leave enough room so that water can seep through or pooling will occur.
  9. When you reach the edges, it’s now time to cut some stones. Use safety goggles when cutting the stones to fit. When cutting, you may want to be very gentle and making a groove on where you want to cut. This will give you a guide on where to cut. When the groove is deep enough, lay the stone down so the edge to be broken is hanging over an edge and gently tap that edge with the mallet. It should snap off easily.
  10. After you have laid your stone, it is time for mortar. If you have left your stones far enough apart from the crushed granite, or you are electing to use the granular granite sand, or any type of course sand, be sure to sweep it into the cracks and fill them up completely. You may have to water it into the cracks and refill them a second time.
  11. Be sure to keep some sand or gravel on hand to fill in from time to time. If you live in rainy wetlands or areas that freeze and thaw frequently, heaving will occur. Heaving is easier to deal with if you have used course sand or crushed granite as opposed to regular mortar or cement. If you have decided to go with the cement and mortar concept, just be sure to use products that are designed to use with rock patios.

Now that you are finished with this project, it is now time to enjoy the beauty of your new flagstone patio. This can actually last for 20 years or more when laid down properly. If properly maintained, flagstone can actually outlast cement, asphalt and even brick.

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