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Photo by Carolyn Bates

Landscape contractors with Distinctive Landscaping in Charlotte, Vermont, turned this muddy narrow side yard into an inviting passageway. Now it's ready for pathside plants. This path is paved with random 1 ½-inch-thick bluestone. The step-by-step procedure for preparing the base is basically the same for brick and cut stone. Lay out the path with string and stakes, and dig out soil deep enough for a base, leveling course and pavers—9 to 10 inches for this path. Add permanent edging for brick and other small pavers to keep them from spreading apart. Shovel gravel into the excavated area. Then proceed as follows.

STEP 1: Compact the gravel using a plate tamper after raking the surface smooth. The tamper will cost about $50 a day to rent. Use a hand tamper in hard to reach spots. See image 3.

STEP 2: Apply a leveling course by covering the gravel with 1 to 2 inches of fine builder's sand. Smooth the surface with a rake. Run a string between two stakes down the length of the path to show where the finished path surface will be. See image 4.

STEP 3: Lay the stones, fitting them close together like jigsaw puzzle pieces with ¼-inch gaps; the convex edge of one piece should fit into the concave section of the next. Twist each stone into the sand and tap it with a rubber mallet to set it. Then check that the stones are level with each other and the string. See image 5.

STEP 4: Sweep sand or rock dust into the joints between stones. Damp bluestone rock dust is used here to complement the pavers; you can also use dry filler. Set the sand or dust by moistening it with a fine spray of water. Add more filler and moisten it again to build it up if necessary. See image 6.

Photo by Carolyn Bates

Pathway Pointers

• A 30- to 36-inch path is wide enough for one person to walk comfortably, and 48 inches is good for two side by side; a 50- to 60-inch width is needed for a riding mower.

• For a primary path, use a nonslip surface material that can be set firmly and evenly. Cut stone slabs, bricks or large stones set close together work well.

• Set bricks or other pavers over a crushed-stone base to keep them level. Edging will prevent the bricks or pavers from spreading and shifting.