How to Lay a Stone Patio
This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook shows how to work with this durable material
With all the beauty of a well-manicured lawn but without the maintenance, a stone patio makes an elegant addition to any home. A variety of flat stones will do—smooth squares of slate or rough flags of limestone—as long as they can withstand foot traffic and the local climate. For most of his patios, This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook favors 1 ½- to 2-inch-thick bluestone, a tough sandstone quarried in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
"Setting stone is similar to laying bathroom tile," Roger says. You prepare a base, level each piece, and fill in the joints. But while tile can be set with one hand, laying a 100-pound stone slab takes brawn and is best handled by two people. "You only want to move them once," Roger says, "so take your time to set each stone straight with uniform 3/8-inch gaps between them."
Laying Stone Patio OVERVIEW
Sketch out the project on graph paper first to minimize cuts, stagger the joints, and estimate how much amterial you'll need. Bluestone comes in rectangles and squares—from 1- to 4-foot-square peices., in 6-inch increments. One ton of stone dust, for a 1-inch setting bed, will cover about 200 square feet. A ton of pack laid at 3-inches will cover 75 sqaure feet.
Align delivered stone near the side where you will finish the patio so you don't have to retrieve materials over just laid stones.
Rent a skid-steer loader to clear away debris and dig the patio base.
Locate and mark any in-ground gas, electric, water or phone lines by spray-painting the ground.
If you live where the ground freezes or drains poorly, dig down at least 12 inches to save your new patio from being heaved by frost. Those living in mild climates where the soil is sandy and drains well should excavate down to 6 inches.