Flagstone patios are a stunning addition to any home. Their organic puzzle piece appearance adds interest, visual texture, and a great place to relax with family and friends. Basically maintenance free, they can even boost your property value. The cost of having a patio installed by a professional can be high but if you are willing to put in the time and energy you can easily do this project yourself at a much lower cost.
Laying flagstone in sand is not difficult but the stone can be heavy so you will want to use some protective materials such as gloves, goggles, and possibly a back-brace. Flagstone comes in a variety of sizes. The smaller stone will be easier to handle but the larger, heavier stone will be more stable and stay in place easier. Flagstone is a natural stone so there will be variance in thickness throughout each piece. By following the helpful tips and hints below you can create your own gorgeous flagstone patio.
First: Getting an even surface is key. This is probably the most common problem when putting in a flagstone patio. Unevenness can be caused by a variety of things such as variance in thicknesses of stones, an uneven base, and settling but with good planning and prep these common issues can pretty much be avoided.
Outline your patio:
- Measure before you do anything. To get started, mark the point where the patios’ surface will reach on the wall where it joins the house. Use a tape measure to determine the desired grade of the patio, than mark it on the wall with a pencil.
- Continue making small guideline marks down the length of the wall, using a level to keep the grade consistent.
- Mark the perimeter of the patio and path using landscaper’s spray paint or stakes and string.
Dig out the foundation:
- The most labor-intensive step is digging the footing for the patio. Begin by using a square-nose shovel to outline the patio perimeter.
- Loosen the soil within and scoop it out, tossing it either in buckets or a wheelbarrow so it can be easily relocated. You may want to level the ground with a tamper, this can also be done at later step.
Create the framing for your layout:
- Use lengths of a bender board to create the framing for the layout, flexing them so that they follow the marked curves.
- To hold the framing in place, simply insert stakes into the ground at regular intervals along the outline then nail the bender boards securely to the stakes.
Install the irrigation:
- If you live in an area with a lot of rain fall like here in Vermont, you should consider installing a drainage system before you lay down the flagstone. Otherwise settling over time may result in an evenly installed patio becoming uneven.
- It’s important also to lay in-ground access sleeves or pipes prior to installing a patio; otherwise, any electrical or water lines that need to be added later may require digging up the patio.
Spread the crushed stone:
- To fill in the framing and create a solid base for the flagstone that will be laid in place next, use a filler mix of sand and crushed stone. We suggest a ¾” clean stone. This type of mix will create a compact, supportive base for the flagstone and will also facilitate drainage.
- Make piles of gravel in the pit at roughly the spots you expect they’ll spread evenly. Using the back side of a garden rake, start spreading an even layer throughout the pit. Pack the gravel down using a tamper.
Spread the sand:
- Like the 3/4″ stone, you can create piles of sand for even distribution.
- Using the back of the garden rake spread the sand evenly over the gravel. You’ll be adding more sand in later steps, so don’t worry about adding too much on this first layer.
- Building up the sand layer in certain spots is also a good way to raise any pieces that feel too low or un-level.
Set the flagstones
- Begin laying the flagstone next to the house, working outward to fill in the area. It’s a good idea to get help for this phase because of the labor-intensive work involved. Perhaps a flagstone laying party or just a good buddy that you can return the favor to later.
- Position the flagstone pieces so that the best-fitting edges are next to one another, eliminating large gaps; larger pieces are laid in “heavy-traffic” areas, then surrounded with smaller pieces. It’s best to go for narrow, uniform spacing between the stones.
- As you assemble the flagstone puzzle, step back frequently to take a look at how the overall picture is emerging.
- Try to avoid sharp changes in grade from one stone to the next.
- Study each piece carefully so that the “best” sides are laid face-up. After positioning each piece, press it down firmly by hand to help it stay in place (a rubber mallet also works well for this purpose).
- Extra-small pieces are used to fill in some of the larger gaps.
- Finally, spray the entire area thoroughly with water to help settle the stones in place.
Fill in the gaps
- Pour more sand over the stones and sweep it into the gaps between them. Stone dust or Rock Fines can also work for this step. This adds stability to your patio.
- Once the sand is between the stones, use a garden hose to lightly wet the whole patio, rinsing off the stones and settling the sand in place.
Livingston Farm has a variety of irregular stone to choose from when selecting the look you would like for your flagstone patio as well as all the material you’ll need for the prep-work and fill. Check them out here:
Creating your own patio is a great D.I.Y. project. It may feel overwhelming at first but follow these simple steps and you’re sure to create a patio area you can be proud of and even better boast that you did it yourself.