I can hardly believe it, but for all intents and purposes, we are finished with our patio with plenty of time to spare before our Memorial Day deadline!
Over the weekend we still had plenty left to do. The first day was spent leveling every single stone. First we tried to mark the pitch with string guides according to a suggestion I read in This Old House magazine, but that wasn’t working for us. We felt that the best gauge was to use a 2×4 that could reach from the sidewalk (the north side of our patio nearest the house) to the aluminum edging at the south side of our patio. The aluminum edging was set 1-1/4 inches below the level of the sidewalk. This gave us our pitch of 1/8-inch for every foot of patio width (10 feet) to allow for drainage away from the house.
By spanning the 2×4 (and making sure that the 2×4 wasn’t bowed) from the sidewalk to the edging, it would help us set the individual stones at the right pitch. Of course we also used a level to make sure the stone was level from east to west.
Even so, once you thought the stone was level and moved on to the next one, you’d check it again and it would seem to be off. So you go back and adjust, but you also have to remember that natural stone is not perfectly level either, and there are occasional dips and ridges. Needless to say, we picked up a lot of stone that day. It probably took us about 7 hours to level all the stone.
The next day we still needed to fill in all the little holes with random pieces. While Pete chiseled stone to fit a few of the holes, I found spots for a good majority of the smaller pieces. Overall the stones fit together very nicely with very few places having gaps of a maximum 2 inches. Most of our gaps were an inch or less. I thought this part of the project would take far longer, but we were finished filling the holes in no time.
Now we were ready for the polymeric jointing sand. We used Gator Dust, made by Alliance Designer Products. Gator Dust is specially formulated for natural stone and is made with stone dust rather than sand. It will secure stone with joints of up to 4 inches.
Before we filled the joints Pete used a ShopVac and sucked up the extra limestone screening from the gaps. According to the instructions, the limestone (or whatever material you use) should only be used for the base of the stone and the Gator Dust should entirely fill the gaps between stones.
Next, we poured the Gator Dust into the gaps and brushed it all in. We pounded a rubber mallet on the stone to help the Gator Dust settle into the cracks and remove any air pockets. As you can see in the photo, the Gator Dust leaves a very fine layer of dust over the stone. We found that this doesn’t affect the stone in the end. However you must be very careful to brush any larger pieces of Gator Dust from the top of the stone otherwise the binder will cause it to adhere to the stone which will be very difficult to remove.
The salesperson at Lurvey’s, where we bought the Gator Dust, suggested using a leaf blower at its lowest speed to gently remove any remaining bits from the stone, but we were afraid it would blow too much out of the cracks. I found that a broom was just as effective.
Finally, we were ready to activate the binder in the Gator Dust using a gentle spray from the hose. You must wet it down thoroughly so that the water can seep all the way down. They recommend wetting it until it takes 45 seconds for the water to disappear. I was nervous about getting it too wet, but Pete tested it and found that the dust was still dry below the surface, so be sure to wet it enough so that it can work its way down.
It’s difficult to tell how much Gator Dust you’ll need. According to the package, one bag will cover approximately 20-30 square feet, depending on the depth of your stone and the size of the cracks. Our patio is approximately 10×14 feet and we only ended up using about 2-1/2 bags, so it’s less than what the package stated.
Because you’re supposed to wait at least 24 hours before walking on the patio, you’ll have to until we can get everything set up before I show the final pictures. I can’t wait!
Update: You can find more information on Gator Dust here.