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Flagstone Over Bare Ground & Sand

Rustic Home > Laying Flagstone (part 2)

We recommend that you build a light, easily disassembled form for the flags, although you can get by with a chalkline. The forms give the project an "outline" in which to work and if you are laying the stones on sand or concrete, the forms help contain this material as it is being used. When the job is completed, the forms can be easily stripped. Or, you may want to leave the forms in position for decorative purposes. Straight 2x4s are plenty big enough; you could even use 1x4s if you will strip the forms later.

Working with stone is hot and heavy work. Be very careful lifting this material: it weighs a lot-even small pieces. Also, wear gloves and safety glasses when cutting the stone to size. Stone chips can fly fast and hard from hammers and chisels.

If you are laying flagstone over bare ground, here are the working procedures in sequence:

  1. Flagstone should be laid only on bare ground that isn't subjected to freezing and thawing. The soil should be well-drained. The flagstone you use for this installation should be at least 2 inches thick-thicker if possible. We recommend bare ground installation for walkways; we do not recommend it for patios/porches.
  2. Excavate the area to be paved slightly less than the thickness of the flags. Since thickness varies, determine the thickest stone and excavate to this thickness. The thinner flags can be "shimmied" to ft by compacting earth underneath them. This is easier than trying to dig out special areas for thicker stones.
  3. Lay out the stones in a 3x3-foot area at one time and try to match them to fit--like a jig saw puzzle. Mark each stone that doesn't fit to your liking for cutting.
  4. Remove just one stone at a time for cutting and shaping. Test it for ft as you go. When the fit is right, remove another stone and go through the same process; then move on to another 3x3-foot area.
  5. Joints between stones can be any width you want; a pleasing space is between 1/2- and 3/4-inch. The joint width, of course, will vary and this is okay. Just try to make the joints fairly uniform.
  6. As you complete one area, check for level with a carpenter's level. Even though the surface of the stones may be slightly "off level," the area should be in the level "range," and tipped slightly toward one edge for drainage purposes.
  7. As you complete one area and move to the next, stand back and look at the overall job to make sure you like the pattern. If not, make any adjustments at this time.
  8. Level the job as you progress with it. The flags should pitch Complete the job by filling the joints with soil. It is suggested that you plant a hardy grass in this soil or use a creeper type planting that will withstand a goodly amount of foot traffic. The growth can be controlled wit a lawnmower as you regularly cut the grass.

If you are laying flagstone over a sand base, here are the working procedures in sequence:

  1. Excavate as necessary. Depth must include the measurements of a 2-inch-thick sand base and the thickness of the flagstones that go over the base.
  2. We recommend forms to keep the sand con fined. Set these as you would a concrete form and make a notched dragboard to level the sand.
  3. Spread the sand evenly. Then, lightly sprinkle the surface of the sand with water. Use the fine spray setting on the hose nozzle. Let the sand absorb the water and then sprinkle the surface once again. This helps compact the sand even though you will "rough" it some what when laying the stones.
  4. Lay out the stones in a small area at one time and try to match them to fit--like a puzzle. Keep straight edges along the straight form edges. Mark each stone for fit, lift it out of the pattern, and cut it accordingly. If you're cutting off fairly large pieces of stone, save the pieces; you may need them for filler later.
  5. Reposition the stone in the sand, and, with a rubber or wooden hammer, tap the stone down into the sand so about 1/2-inch thickness is buried in the sand.
  6. After a small area of stone has been set, level it with a carpenter's level. It should be at "approximate" level and pitched slightly toward an edge for drainage. To level the stones, add sand to stones that are "low" or "tippy," and remove sand from those that are "high."
  7. After the setting is complete, spread sand evenly over the project and sweep the sand into the joints until the joints are full. Sprinkle the joints with fine spray from a garden hose. Let the sand dry. Sprinkle again and again until the joints are hard and compacted.

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