Flagstone Walks

Add country charm to your landscape with a flagstone walk.

Intro

When you're planning a flagstone path, remember that curved paths look best. Lay out any straight sections first with staked mason's lines. Then use a hose to lay out the curved sections, one at a time. To keep the sides evenly spaced, lay several 2xs cut to the length of the path width between the lengths of hose. Then mark the curve with chalk or sand, pull up the hose, and slice the sod.

Building a flagstone structure is always hard work. Even experimenting with the pattern means lifting the stones and rearranging them, perhaps several times. Take breaks, even when you don't think you need one.

Checklist

Time
20 to 25 hours to lay out and set a 4x25-foot walk

Tools
Layout and excavating tools, concrete tools for a mortared structure, wheelbarrow, tape measure, mason's line, cordless drill, circular saw, concrete mixer, mason's hoe, screed, broom, rubber mallet

Skills
Designing layout, lifting and setting stones, mortaring slab for stonework

Prep
Prepare site

Materials
Stones, bedding sand, mason's sand, gravel, landscape fabric

Setting Flagstone in Sand: Step 1

Lay out straight path runs with staked lines. Mark curves with a garden hose (shut off the nozzle and turn on the water). Cut 2x stock to the width of the walk and lay it between the hose sections to keep the width consistent. Mark the hose with sand or chalk and remove it.

Setting Flagstone in Sand: Step 2

Slice the sod along the marked lines and remove it. Remove any large rocks and tamp sand into depressions deeper than the excavation depth. Spread sand in layers, rake it level, and tamp each layer with a power tamper. Install edging.

Setting Flagstone in Sand: Step 3

Set the stones outside the walk site in the pattern of your choice. Usually it's best to start with large stones for the perimeter, then fill in the gaps with smaller ones. Pick stones so the contours of adjacent stones are similar -- cut them to shape if necessary. Then set the stones on the sand in the same order. Check them for level, and reset units that are too high or low.

Setting Flagstone in Sand: Step 4

Shovel a thin layer of builder's sand onto the stones and sweep it into the joints with a broom. Don't fill the joints completely in the first sweeping. Wet the first layer, add more sand, and sweep again. Alternatively, you can use soil as a filler and put plants in the gaps. For a planted path, though, it might be easier to build a stepping-stone walk.

Setting Mortared Flagstone: Step 1

Prepare the site and set out the stones in a trial run. To cut a stone to shape, mark the cut line on the stone and cut it.

Setting Mortared Flagstone: Step 2

Spread mortar about 3/4 to 1 inch thick to accommodate the uneven surfaces of flagstone. Comb it with a 1/2-inch notched trowel, if desired, making sure the notches don't reach the concrete base. Use long, sweeping strokes to comb the mortar.

Setting Mortared Flagstone: Step 3

Pull the stones off the grass in order and push them into the mortar. Use a rubber mallet to bed the stones and use a straightedge to keep them approximately on the same level. Level any tipped stones -- those with one edge higher than the other.

Setting Mortared Flagstone: Step 4

When the walk is completed, let the mortar bed cure. Allow the mortar to set, usually one or two days. Mix a sanded cement grout with latex additive, and push the grout into the joints with a grout float. Scrape off the excess with the float held nearly perpendicular to the tiles. Clean the grout and smooth the lines with a damp sponge.


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