As our patio project progresses, we’ve reached the part where we’re exercising both our bodies and our minds. Not only are these flagstones heavy as sin, we also have to spend considerable time figuring out how they will best fit together. Sometimes that means moving a piece in to find that it just won’t work, no matter how well you think it will in your mind. So then it has to be moved back out.
If it does fit well, then we have to make sure that it has the proper pitch away from the house for drainage (1/8-inch pitch for every foot of patio space) and is level from side to side. That sometimes involves picking up the stone to shovel in more limestone screening, or maybe scraping away too much screening from one side or another. That is the nature of natural stone: uneven thicknesses, imperfections, jagged edges. But we love the look and it will blend in nicely with our garden.
Before installing the stone, we rented a vibratory plate compactor from Home Depot to tamp down the limestone gravel base. It was fairly easy to use but difficult to control. On a straight shot it just needed to be guided gently along and it would do the rest, but turning it was difficult. Overall it didn’t take long to tamp down the gravel and soon we were ready to lay stone.
By Monday evening, we had placed about half the stone.
We still have approximately 15 decent-sized pieces, and we’ve already placed about as many. Those have filled more than half the patio but it still doesn’t seem like there will be enough to fill the entire area. Fingers crossed.
Once we finish laying the stone, there is still plenty to do. First we’ll clean the stone as much as possible and then, once the stone is completely dry we’ll sweep jointing sand into the cracks.
Jointing sand is also called polymeric sand and helps to interlock the stones. It’s usually made from a combination of quartz and crystalline silica. When moistened with water, the binder in the mix is activated and hardens the joints, but unlike mortar will allow for some movement. You can read all about it here.
I don’t think polymeric sand existed when we installed the flagstone patio at our previous house. We used limestone screening and it worked out fairly well, but weeds still managed to grow in the cracks and it didn’t really hold the smaller stones tightly. I think the polymeric sand will work much better.