The purpose of this post is to outline how Gardenhart Landscape & Design in Durango Colorado, cuts and fits flagstone, for use either in a patio situation or pathway application. There are probably other methods in use by different landscapers, but this is the technique I learned thirty years ago by a Master Stonemason. Of course, I have my own take on what looks proper and it will vary with the individual landscaper who places and cuts the stone.
We will start with the assumption that you have determined the location of the patio in your landscaping project and that any drainage issues have been resolved, you have also decided what material will contain the sand base; natural stone, treated timbers or some manufactured flexible edge product. You have also properly compacted a sand base to set the stone upon and allow you to level the individual pieces of stone.
Tools Needed to Build a Flagstone Patio or Walkway
A quick review of your tools might be helpful here, the most important one being an angle grinder with a diamond blade. Lots of you might have a grinder and you only need to get to the hardware store for a diamond blade. Before you go to the store, make sure you also have the following tools on hand: safety glasses, hearing protectors, dust mask,gloves, stone mason’s chisel, hammer, carpenters pencil with hard lead, tape measure and a level.
The first thing I do is to unload about half of my stone from the pallet and lay it out around the work site so that I can see each piece, but be sure not to put them in the patio area just yet. This helps me find pieces that will naturally fit in specific locations. Then, starting at the edges, I place the most obvious pieces first, curved pieces against the curved edge or square pieces along straight area or in corners. Always keep in mind how to fit them naturally together and how much cutting will be required to fit them together.
So now you have placed all the easy pieces of stone, the ones that fit for the most part and might require minimal cutting and you have used most of the pieces you unloaded from your pallet. Time to get the pencil and start marking where you will cut the pieces so that they fit well together. I make my gaps between individual stones about the width of my thumb or a little larger, try to be as consistent as possible. Mark with your pencil where you will cut , put your safety gear on and start cutting along the line you marked. Do not be in a hurry, let the blade work its way into the stone, if it sparks you might be trying to go too fast or pushing too hard. Do not worry if your blade does not cut completely through the stone, you will be able to break it. Now, you have cut several pieces and broken the waste off with your chisel and hammer you can slide the stone next to its neighbor and start to see what your patio is going to look like.
Repeat this process, unload more stone , find ones that seem to go with what you have already cut, place and mark them and then cut them to fit. Soon, you will come to the conclusion that they all do not fit without being cut on at least three sides and the fast progress is over. Try to minimize the cutting and waste, remember that you paid for stone by the pound and you do not want to go back for more.
Of course,we at Gardenhart Landscape & Design offer this information in the hopes that you decide that this process requires experience and skill and you will hire us to do your landscaping instead of doing it yourself. As with many things, there is always details that are hard to share but easy to see in the finished product. We have a you tube video that shows this process too!