The bluestone that makes up millions of American patios often comes in neatly sawn rectangles. But for a rustic landscape, nothing looks more natural than "snapped" or "broken" bluestone, terms used to denote an irregular edge on the slabs. This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers recently built a patio out of this hearty stone in his backyard. As he shows on the following pages, laying a long-lasting patio like his is as much about the base underneath it as the layout above. With a little digging endurance and the patience to piece together a rock puzzle, you too can create a gathering space that appears to come from another time.

Stone: 1½-inch-thick broken bluestone, about $240 per ton; Gault

Moss: Fern moss, about $120 for a 25-square-foot box, Moss Acres
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    Tools List

    • angle grinder
    • brick hammer
      brick hammer
    • mason's chisel and maul
      mason's chisel and maul
    • square spade
    • pointed shovel
    • bubble level
      line level
    • tamper
      hand tamper or compactor (rents for about $85 a day)
    • metal garden rake
      garden rake
    • mallet
      rubber mallet
    • four-foot level
      4-foot level
    • push broom
      push broom
    • hand trowel
      garden spade

    Shopping List

    1. 1½-inch Broken Bluestone Sold in stone yards by the ton; 1½ tons cover about 100 square feet with wide joints. Choose an assortment of small and large stones of varying shapes. If possible, lay the stones out at the yard so that you know you have what you need.

    2. Stakes and Mason's line to lay out the pitch of the patio and keep the stones level.3. Paver Base A mixture of ¾-inch gravel and stone dust. One yard covers 108 square feet 3 inches deep.

    4. Leveling Sand One yard covers 324 square feet 1 inch deep.

    5. Moss Sold by the square foot. Buy enough to cover one-fifth of the area of the patio.