If you’re looking for a DIY project that’s sure to brighten up your landscape and provide function, installing a flagstone path or patio might be for you. Colorado Springs has a wide variety of flagstones that come from different quarries, and with so many different colors, textures, and styles of install, there is a flagstone that will fit anyone’s taste and personal style, and it can be the perfect addition to any landscape design project. Flagstone can look entirely natural, or quite formal and are a great material for pathways and outdoor patios.
We will often install our flagstone over a concrete slab and then mortar the joints for a truly beautiful product that will stand the test of time, but this method of install is best left for someone with masonry experience. However, there are other methods of installation that are a great place to start for a DIY landscaper. Read on to learn more about installing flagstone in your yard.
Step One: Mark and Measure Your Space
The first step is to figure out the area of the flagstone that you would like to install. One of the easiest ways to do this is with ground marking spray paint, which is available at any hardware store. By marking it out, you’ll be able to visualize it and make sure you like the shape and size of the area. Once you’re settled on the layout, you’ll be able to measure your square footage.
Step Two: Visit Your Local Stone Yard
Here in Colorado Springs, Both C&C and Pioneer are great places to start. Have a look at what they have in stock, and see what material you like. Keep in mind as you are looking at materials that larger slabs are going to be easier to work with. You don’t want to strain your back, but a larger piece of stone is going to be easier to set and stabilize than several small pieces. You’ll also want to make sure the flagstone you’re selecting is roughly and 1 ¼” -2” thick. The coverage of flagstone will vary with the material and your installation method, but generally most flagstone will cover 70-100 square feet.
Step Three: Prep your space
If you’re going to be creating a patio space, you’ll need to get the area cleared of whatever is there now. You’ll need to figure out the rough height you want your flagstone to sit at, and you also want to account for some slope for water runoff. A slope of ¼” per 1’, or 2%, allows for adequate drainage, and is still going to feel flat enough to enjoy as a patio. If you are creating a more causal area, you can be flexible with this, just make sure your patio slope is moving water where it’s supposed to, away from your home and into your landscape’s proper drainage path, and that the patio isn’t feeling too steep for its intended purpose. It is also advisable to dig down enough to get at least 3” of ¾” road base beneath the stone, as this will provide a stable base for your flagstone, and prevent settling and heaving. Start by compacting the first 2”-2 ½” of road base, and leave the remaining base height for setting your stone. You’ll also want to edge your patio space with a rolled top metal edging.
If you are installing a path, you can prep and prepare in the same manner as you would for a patio. If you are looking to install larger pieces as stepping stones, you can simply clear the area of whatever groundcover is in place and set them in the existing soil. With larger stones the risk of movement is less, and with the space between setting stones, any slight movement usually goes unnoticed.
Step Four: Set the Stone
It’s time to start laying the stone. If you are looking for tight and uniform joints, you’ll need a cold chisel and mallet to break your stone. You’ll probably have a few bad breaks, but most flagstone will break fairly well with a chisel. Start with a stone that is close to the size and shape you need, and start chiseling near the edge, working your way into the stone. Spread the remaining loose road base beneath the stone you are setting, and use the weight of the stone to pack the base and set the stone. You can use your chisel or hammer to pack under the edges. Just be sure you have road base under the center of the stone, otherwise, it will break at some point. Also, remember to wear protection for your eyes, ears, and exposed skin, as the chips of stone can fly!
Step Five: Fill Your Gaps
If you kept your joints tight, Gator Dust is a very nice product to use in flagstone joints. It is a polymeric sand product that looks like natural fine gravel, but becomes firm once set. Just be sure to follow the product instructions. You can also use the same ¾” road base we used for bedding to fill your joints, and it works fine in larger joints as well. All you need to do is fill up the joints, pack, and repeat until your joints are full and firm. If you set stepping stones, you just need to fill in around them with whatever material was there before.
All that’s left to do now is sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. While there is a good amount of work involved in building your own flagstone patio or path, it is an achievable project for someone just getting started with working on their landscape. If you have any questions, or would like additional information about flagstone, please feel free to get in touch with us.