• A natural-looking broken-stone patio provides a gathering place in an organic landscape. In this how-to video, This Old House Senior Technical Editor Mark Powers demonstrates building one.

    Steps:

    1. Outline the patio area with a rope or garden hose.
    2. Arrange stones inside the outline. Start with larger pieces, and fit smaller stones in between.
    3. Leave wide joints, between 1½ and 2½ inches.
    4. To cut stone, flip stone over and mark your cut. Use a grinder to score the mark, then break the stone along the score with a brick hammer.
    5. Number the stones with chalk.
    6. Take a photo of your pattern with a digital camera to use as a map for installation.
    7. Slope your patio away from the house. Lay out grade lines to create a slope of 1/8 inch per foot. Drive stakes at the high and low corners of the patio. Slide a string level on mason's line between stakes. Multiply the distance in feet between the stakes by 1/8 inch.
    8. Run a parallel line on the other side.
    9. Dig inside the outline past the top soil to the lighter soil beneath, at least 6 inches down.
    10. Lay down three inches of paver base (crushed stone and stone dust). Tamp it solid with a hand tamper or rented compactor.
    11. Fill the excavated area in three-inch layers, tamping each, until the base is 2½ inches from ground level.
    12. Pour an inch of leveling sand over the base. Use a garden rake to get it smooth and even.
    13. Lay bluestone slabs in the sand layer. Start with the larger stones, using your numbered pattern.
    14. Set each stone with a rubber mallet. Watch for high and low spots that might become a trip hazard.
    15. As you lay each stone, check how even the patio is with a level. Fill in or remove sand to adjust the height of any stone.
    16. Spray the patio with water to lock the stones in.
    17. Remove some sand from the joints between slabs and replace it with soil.
    18. Plant moss in the joints.
    • Difficulty: Moderate
      Some heavy lifting and excavation is required to prepare the site.
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      Tools List

      • angle grinder
        grinder
      • brick hammer
        brick hammer
      • mason's chisel and maul
        mason's chisel and maul
      • square spade
        spade
      • pointed shovel
        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
      • trenching spade
        garden spade

      Shopping List

      1. 1½-inch broken bluestoneSold 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.