How to Lay a Flagstone Path
Creating a flagstone path to or around your home is surprisingly uncomplicated and adds a touch of charm to your yard. Even if you doubt your artistic abilities, building this mosaic-style path is just about foolproof. No matter how the stones may fall, (or how you place them) the result is relaxed, rustic and unfailingly unique. Let us show you how simple it is to create a path more traveled.
To brush up on our geology, flagstone is just an umbrella term used in DIY circles to describe flat paving stones such as limestone, sandstone, and slate. It's for this reason that flagstone comes in a variety of colors, from earthy browns to teal-hued blues. Flagstone is ideal for patios and paths, but is not durable enough for a driveway. Maintaining flagstone includes scrubbing the stones with some soap and a sturdy brush a few times a year. A power washer will take off anything your muscles can't.
Are You Ready to Rock?
General hardware stores are unlikely to sell flagstone in mass quantities or have a great selection. Call around before venturing out. We found a couple of building material stores which carried all kinds of different rock and tiles. The stone will either come in large slabs, approximately 1" to 2" thick, 3'X4' and 200 lbs. You can also purchase it in smaller pieces, roughly the size of a tile and a half. Buying the flagstone in a large slab is usually the better option for this project, since the smaller pieces are normally already cut. Breaking them apart would leave you with a bunch of tiny fragments, though you may want to consider this to fill space once the project is laid out.
If you are lacking helpers, have the rock delivered to your home. Most stores will offer to have your materials delivered and the price is dependent on mileage. If you are buying more than one slab, make sure the delivery people don't stack the stone. A better idea is to have them placed side by side, so you can easily break them apart. At an average of 200 lbs each, make sure they are placed exactly where you want them!
Prices range from $6.00 to $10.00 a square foot, or a little more than $300 a ton. A ton may seem like, well, a ton of rock, but it will cover about 100-120 square feet. Most stores however, sell flagstone by weight. We were quoted $0.13 a pound for your general run of the mill flagstone. Some stores will offer a discount if you buy over a certain amount of rock, but it's not always guaranteed. However it's best to know how much surface you are going to cover and then buy a little more for insurance. Outlining the path with siding or baking flour first and then measuring will give you an accurate estimate of how much ground you are going to cover.
Use a stone chisel and a rubber mallet to break apart big pieces of stone. The harder you hit the stone the more unpredictable the results. Slow, methodical raps will result in straighter lines. Be careful to watch what's underneath you as you don't want the pieces tumbling down onto your foot. And remember to use goggles (Ear protection may be useful for those with sensitive hearing) and have fun! Don't worry, you absolutely cannot mess this up. A variety of shapes and sizes only adds character to your path.
JANE TIP: To facilitate drainage, ensure your path follows your property's grade. This is important as you never want to have water running TOWARD your home. Be sure the water shed is sloping away from your home's exterior.
Finding Your Path
After you outline your path, excavate the soil inside it to 4 inches. Rake it smooth and remove any debris underneath. You may want to line it with edging, so that you have a clear idea of what your path will look like. Moreover, this will make the path look neater in the end.
Laying the Groundwork
Option #1: Next, you can either line the ground with landscape plastic or fabric to prevent any weeds from inching upward. This is the best choice if you plan on placing pebbles or other small rocks between the flagstone pieces. Next, pour a 2-inch layer of sand over the plastic or fabric and rake it smooth. Lightly spray the sand with water and flatten the area with the hand tamper. Tampers are easy to use. Lift up the tamper and thrust it towards the ground to compact the dirt or sand. Power tampers can also be rented if the hand tamper is too heavy or daunting.
Option #2: If you want grass to grow between the stones, lay decomposed granite (DG) along the path instead of the plastic, layering it 2 inches thick. DG is cheap, easy to use and aids in drainage. It ranges about $20.00-$25.00 a cubic yard. Flatten the DG using a hand tamper several times.
Second to breaking the flagstone, this should be the best part of this whole project. Let your inner child come through as you create your puzzle-piece path! The good news is you can arrange and re-arrange but don't obsess. Do allow a ½ to 1-inch gap between stones if you plan on planting grass between them. If you are going the rock route, the stones can be slightly closer together. Wiggle the stones into place and- voila!-you are almost done!
JANE TIP: Once in the ground, give the stones a few taps with a rubber mallet to keep them in place. If they seem to sit too high or sink too far into the ground, add or remove sand as needed to make them even.
Filling the Gap
Option #1: Fill the gaps in your flagstone with your pebbles, sand or gravel of choice. Sprinkle with DG to help get the stones.
Option #2: Fill the gaps in your flagstone with patches of grass. A mixture of DG and compost can be used as filler for the spots the grass can't quite get to.
You're finished! Now, get out there and enjoy gloating over how much charm and character your new flagstone path brings to your yard!