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How to Install a Rustic Stone Walkway

Ask This Old House mason Mark McCullough installs a front walkway for a homeowner using natural stone.

Steps for Installing a Stone Walkway

  1. Before doing any project that requires digging, always contact your utility locating service to identify the location of water lines, gas lines, etc.
  2. Use spray paint or some other type of marker to determine where the path will go to help make digging easier.
  3. Use a pickaxe to loosen the soil in between the lines of the new walkway. Then, use a shovel to dig out the path. Depending on the thickness of the stone, plan to dig down about 6-8”. For easy removal, dump the soil into a wheelbarrow.
  4. Use a compactor to get the base as solid as possible. These can be rented at most home centers. A hand tamper would also work, but multiple steps in this process will require compacting, so it’s worth it to rent the compactor. Use hearing protection while running the compactor.
  5. Once the walkway is packed down, add two inches or so of stone pack and compact that as well.
  6. Add a couple more inches of stone pack on top of that and compact it.
  7. Mix up the stone dust in the wheelbarrow with water.
  8. Scoop the stone dust mixture onto the walkway in small sections at a time. Smooth it out with a trowel.
  9. Place the stepping stones in a logical order on top of the stone dust. Wiggle the stones as low as possible to ensure the stone dust fills in the gaps underneath the stone as well. A rubber mallet and a level should be used to make sure the stones are placed evenly.
  10. Continue this process all the way across the walkway. If a stone feels like a close fit but isn’t quite right, try cutting it with the back end of a masonry hammer.
  11. Secure plastic edging around both sides of the walkway. It comes with stakes that can be hammered easily into the ground.

Resources

Because natural stone is a naturally-occurring substance, it will not always be possible to match other natural stone in a landscape. Mark suggests identifying the nearest stone and masonry yards first to see if they have what you’re looking for.

The natural stone stepper Mark used is called a “New York Paver”, which he got from Cavicchio Greenhouses.

The plastic edging is Vigoro No-Dig Landscape Edging Kit, and can be found at most home centers.

The compacter Mark used can be rented from most home centers. The other materials Mark used for this job, including the mallet and edging, can also be found at the home center.

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by MJM Masonry.


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