Natural stone patio
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Creating a patio for your family with natural stones is a moderately simple project. The hardest part is excavating the ground before you lay the stones and keeping the stones level as you lay them so that your surface is as flat as possible. Natural stones such as flagstones are different depths and sizes, and the challenge with creating a level patio lies with adjusting the excavation as you go.
Measure the design of your patio and lay it out with stakes and string. Take your measurements to your local landscape supply or stone dealer, and they will advise you as to how much gravel, sand and flagstone you will need.
Excavate the ground within the patio layout. Remove any grass, rocks, debris and at least 6 inches of dirt. Most flagstones are 3/4 inch thick, but you will also need room for 4 to 5 inches of gravel and 1/2 inch of sand. Make the excavated ground as level as possible so that your patio will be level. If your patio is adjacent to your home, create a gradual slope away from the house by excavating 1/4 inch deeper every 3 feet as you move away from the house.
Add a 5-inch layer of crushed gravel to the excavated surface. Rake the gravel to level it out, and then use a plate compactor to press the gravel snugly together. You can rent a compactor from your local home improvement store. Add a 1/2 inch layer of sand and rack it smooth.
Lay the natural stone in any pattern you prefer, starting in one corner of your patio. Leave 1/2-inch space between the stone as a mortar line. You may need to cut some stones for them to fit your pattern. Use a masonry blade with diamond chips on a circular saw for cutting natural stone. You may also need to add or remove sand beneath the stones as you go to maintain a level patio.
Finish laying the stone pattern for your patio. Sweep stone dust or sand into the crevices between the stones. Simulate a soft rain over the patio with your garden hose. Do not spray the water directly into the crevices, as this will remove the sand.