Stone patios and paths have a rustic, natural look with the added advantage of being extremely durable. Many different types of stones are used for stone paving, and each type of stone produces its own unique look. Although larger stones such as flagstones take a slightly different approach than smaller stones such as cobblestones, the basic method of stone paving is the same.
The base for stone paving can be a sand bed, soil, or mortar on a concrete base. If you are laying flagstones, you will probably need to custom fit them, since they are generally irregular. The flagstones can be scored and cut to fit the area. Alternatives to flagstones are river rocks and fieldstones, which both have a pleasing rustic look.
Stones can be laid in sand for a stable patio or path. A permanent edging must be built, and a bed of sand packed and leveled. Place the stones in a tight pattern on the bed of sand, tapping each one into place with a rubber mallet and checking with a level. As the thickness of the stones may vary, you will have to compensate for this by either scooping out of filling in sand.
Wet mortar is another method of stone paving. This method is the most permanent and stable way to pave in stone. The stones should be set in a mortar bed which is itself on top of a three inch thick (7.6 cm) or thicker concrete slab. Arrange the stones in the layout that you want, cutting them as necessary to minimize the amount of space in the joints.
Working with one small section at a time, remove a few stones, spread enough mortar to fit one or two stones, and create some furrows in the mortar with a trowel. Set the stones back into place, tapping them with a rubber mallet. If any mortar gets on the top surface of the stones, clean it off right away.
To pave with cobblestones — or less frequently, pebbles — the procedure is fairly similar. However, cobblestones can sometimes be set directly in soil as well as wet concrete or mortar. The major difference when stone paving with smaller stones is that you will need to pour the slab of mortar or concrete and place the stones into the wet mortar or concrete. Press the stones in firmly and use a board to make sure that they are all level.
Written by Bronwyn Harris