How to Build a Sandset Flagstone Patio Part 2 of 3

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Sandset flagstone patios blend nicely with natural landscapes. Although flagstone evokes a natural feel, the patio can appear rustic or formal. This patio has clean, well-tamped joints and straight, groomed edges along the perimeter that lends to a formal feel. Plantings in the joints or a rough, natural perimeter would give the same patio a more relaxed, rustic feel.

 

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Continue to Step 1

Overview

Flagstones make a great, long-lasting patio surface with a naturally rough texture and a perfectly imperfect look and finish. Randomly shaped stones are especially suited to patios with curved borders, but they can also be cut to form straight lines. Your patio will appear more at home in your landscape if the flagstones you choose are of the same stone species as other stones in the area. For example, if your gravel paths and walls are made from a local buff limestone, look for the same material in limestone flags.
Flagstones usually come in large slabs, sold as flagstone, or in smaller pieces (typically 16" or smaller), sold as steppers. You can make a patio out of either. Larger stones will make a solid patio with a more even surface, but the bigger ones can require three strong people to position, and large stones are hard to cut and fit tightly. If your soil drains well and is stable, flagstones can be laid on nothing more than a layer of sand. However, if you have unstable clay soil that becomes soft when wet, start with a 4"-thick foundation of compactable gravel under your sand.
There are a few different options for filling the spaces between flagstones. One popular treatment is to plant them with low-growing perennials suited to crevice culture. For best results, use sand-based soil between flagstones when planting. Also, stick to very small plants that can withstand foot traffic. If you prefer not to have a planted patio, simply fill the joints with sand or fine gravel—just be sure to add landscape fabric under your sand base to discourage weed growth.
The following project includes steps for building a classic flagstone patio. You’ll also find instructions for building low dry stone walls, the ultimate add-on to a stone patio surface. If you’re new to working with natural stone, see Cutting Stone for some basic cutting tips.
From: Complete Guide to Patios & Walkways, 978-1-58923-481-9

What You'll Need

Tools:

Mason’s string
Line level
Rope or hose
Excavation tools
Spud bar
Broom
Stakes
Marking paint
1" (outside diameter) pipe
Coarse sand
Straight 2 x 4
Flagstone
Spray bottle
Stone edging
Sand-based soil or joint sand
Lumber (2 x 2, 2 x 4)
Drill
Mason’s trowel
Stiff-bristle brush
Circular saw with masonry blade
Plugs or seeds for groundcover
Eye and ear protection
Work gloves
3⁄4" plywood
31⁄2" deck screws
Pointing chisel
Pitching chisel
Stone chisel
Hand maul
Dust mask
Chalk or a crayon
Square-nose spade
Crushed stone
Ashlar
Mortar
Capstones

Materials:

Mason’s string
Line level
Rope or hose
Excavation tools
Spud bar
Broom
Stakes
Marking paint
1" (outside diameter) pipe
Coarse sand
Straight 2 x 4
Flagstone
Spray bottle
Stone edging
Sand-based soil or joint sand
Lumber (2 x 2, 2 x 4)
Drill
Mason’s trowel
Stiff-bristle brush
Circular saw with masonry blade
Plugs or seeds for groundcover
Eye and ear protection
Work gloves
3⁄4" plywood
31⁄2" deck screws
Pointing chisel
Pitching chisel
Stone chisel
Hand maul
Dust mask
Chalk or a crayon
Square-nose spade
Crushed stone
Ashlar
Mortar
Capstones

 

Step 1

How to Build a Sandset Flagstone

Fill in around the larger stones with smaller pieces cut to fit the spaces, as needed, working from the outside in. After setting a band of stones a few courses wide, lay a 2 x 4 across the stones to make sure they’re level with one another. Add or remove sand below to adjust their height, and dampen the sand occasionally to make it easier to work with.


Step 2

How to Build a Sandset Flagstone

Fill the joints between stones with sand-based, weed-seed-free soil (see Choosing Soil & Plants for Your Patio). Sweep the soil across the patio surface to fill the cracks, and then water the soil so it settles. Repeat as needed until the soil reaches the desired level. Plant plugs or seeds for groundcover to grow up between the stones, if desired.


Step 3

Variation

To finish the patio with sand instead of soil and plants, spread sand over the patio and sweep across the stones with a push broom to fill the joints. Pack the sand with your fingers or a piece of wood. Spray the entire area with water to help compact the sand. Let the patio dry. Repeat filling and spraying until the joints are full and the stones are securely locked in place.


Step 4

Tip : Choosing Soil & Plants for Your Patio

Sand-based soil (also called “patio planting” soil) is the best material to use for planting between flagstones. This mixture of soil and sand sweeps easily into joints, and it resists tight compaction to promote healthy plant growth, as well as surface drainage. Regular soil can become too compacted for effective planting and drainage and soil from your yard will undoubtedly contain weeds. Sand-based soil is available in bulk or by the bag and is often custom-mixed at most large garden centers.
As for the best plants to use, listed below are a few species that tend to do well in a patio application. Ask a local supplier what works best for your climate.

• Alyssum
• Rock cress
• Thrift
• Miniature dianthus
• Candytuft
• Lobelia
• Forget-me-not
• Saxifrage
• Sedum
• Thymus
• Scotch moss
• Irish moss
• Woolly thyme
• Mock strawberry


Step 5

Tip : Choosing Soil & Plants for Your Patio

Patio “planting soil” (for planting between stones) is available in bulk or bags at most garden centers. It is good for filling cracks because the sand base makes it dry and smooth enough to sweep into cracks, yet the black compost will support plant growth. Because it is bagged, you can be assured it doesn’t come with weeds.


Step 6

Building a Dry Stone Patio Wall


Step 7

How to Build a Dry Stone Wall

Lay out the wall site, using stakes and mason’s string. Dig a 6"-deep trench that extends 6" beyond the wall on all sides. Add a 4" crushed stone subbase to the trench, creating a “V” shape by sloping the subbase so the center is about 2" deeper than the edges.


Step 8

How to Build a Dry Stone Wall

Select appropriate stones and lay the first course. Place pairs of stones side by side, flush with the edges of the trench and sloping toward the center. Use stones of similar height; position uneven sides face down. Fill any gaps between the shaping stones with small filler stones.


Step 9

How to Build a Dry Stone Wall

Lay the next course, staggering the joints. Use pairs of stones of varying lengths to offset the center joint. Alternate stone length, and keep the height even, stacking pairs of thin stones if necessary to maintain consistent height. Place filler stones in the gaps.


Step 10

How to Build a Dry Stone Wall

Every other course, place a tie stone every 3 ft. You may need to split the tie stones to length. Check the wall periodically for level.


 
 

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