What Should I Know About Installing Flagstone?

N. Phipps

Installing flagstone is an excellent way to enhance the landscape. This is usually accomplished by installing flagstone walks or patios. Flagstone slabs are cut into irregular flag-like shapes, hence the name. Flagstones are extremely versatile, and found in various thicknesses, from about 1 ½ to 2 inches (3.81 to 5.08 cm), and colors. Different types of stone are also used in making flagstones, including bluestone, sandstone, and limestone.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

Flagstone can be fit into many landscape designs, including formal landscaping home construction as well as informal designs. This versatility makes installing flagstone a great alternative to natural stone or concrete. Different types of flagstone absorb water differently too. This is an important consideration when choosing flagstone.

The method used for installing flagstone is another consideration. Flagstone installation can be accomplished by laying pavers on bare ground, within pea gravel or sand beds, and with mortar. Drainage is an important factor as well. When installing flagstone, there should always be a slight slope with the grade to ensure adequate drainage and prevent puddling. The length and width of the walkway or patio is also important.

Regardless of the method used, it’s always a good idea to plan the flagstone design on paper beforehand. This will make it easier to note drainage patterns, available space, and more. It might also help to lay out the design with a hose to get a visual sense of the plan. The first step is to mark off the area with stakes and string. The use of forms may be helpful as well, especially for those using mortar.

Laying flagstone on bare ground or within a base material, such as pea gravel or sand, is the easiest and cheapest method for installing flagstone walks and patios. For bare ground installation, simply remove sections of sod to accommodate the chosen flagstone pavers. However, another couple of inches in addition to the depth of the flagstone should be removed for installing flagstone base material. Once this is done, clear away any debris and rake the area smooth.

The excavated area should then be filled in with about half of the chosen base material. Next, arrange the flagstones, beginning with the largest. Keeping them as level as possible, spacing should remain within a comfortable stepping distance or about ½ - 1 inch (1.27 to 2.54 cm) apart. Some flagstone pavers may require additional shaping or sizing with a chisel as well.

Gaps between pavers should be filled in with the remaining pea gravel or sand, applying it directly to the area and sweeping into cracks. Once finished, water it down to allow for settling and let it dry. Fill in any empty joints and repeat as needed. Low-growing plants can be added between the joints as well. Installing flagstone with mortar is more difficult and expensive. However, it’s also more permanent. Instead of using base material, flagstone pavers are tapped into cement.

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