Laying flagstone and pavers is heavy work, but can be simplified with planning and preparation. Using simple tools, Barbara and I laid a wrap-around flagstone and paver porch floor.
We started by identifying the sequence of steps required to get the correct drainage off the porch and have the elevations the same on all four sides of the house. It wouldn’t do to lay flagstone all the way around the house and have the join be out of kilter.
The Pad or base for the patio pavers is simply an extension of the house pad. Because we wanted to minimize the use of heavy equipment because of the widespread compaction of the topsoil and the number of native plants damaged in the process of leveling and building up a large area, we were careful to lay out a footprint for our house plus the patio in a minimum of space.
We intended to build a berm for any surface flooding on the uphill side of the house, so planned the pad to be complete and the stem wall built with 12” elevation from ground to bales on the uphill side.
We planned for a curb a minimum of 3” above grade near the berm. The building area was brought to level with room for AB and flagstone by using the soil and rock taken from the septic tank and filling in to desired level. As we intended to put 4” of AB and 3” of adobe floor inside and flagstone on the patio, this gave us a benchmark for our fill.
Using a great old surveyors level, we established a benchmark line on the stemwall all around the building. After the benchmark, we leveled a 2 x 4 form for a terminal curb under the eaves of the porch roof, setting the drop on the top of the curb to 2”. We find that this gives us good drainage for rainwater without feeling like the floor is out of level when walking.
With the forms in place, we dug a curb footing trench with our mattock and laid in 3/8” rebar which was tied to preset rebar in the block footings of our porch posts. This has prevented separation and drifting of the curb.
Laying Flagstone and Pavers
To seat the flagstone securely, we purchase bagged 60 grit sand and troweled it to provide a level surface.
Because we were using some “bargain” flagstone, the size of each piece was fairly small and often irregular in depth, ranging from about an inch three inches.
The bottoms were often quite irregular, with flakes broken off. Consequently, a solid fit with a level upper surface often took a fair amount of wiggling and sliding.
Heavy work. My old back was happy to have a good elastic belt and my knees appreciated good pads. No matter what your age or condition, this is a time to be good to your body. Work smart.
Grouting and Curb
With both the flagstone in the front and traffic side and the pavers in the back of the house laid and level, we were ready for grouting and curb.
We had decided against grout lines for the pavers, so two sides of the house only required curbing.
Our flagstone, however, had substantial grout lines which necessitated grout with some aggregate to prevent cracking. This leaves a grout surface that was pebbly, a look we were good with.
We found rectangular trowels good for leveling and a variety of smaller trowels good for fine tuning the sand bed. These same tools were used in grouting
Our little electric mixer was great for grout and curb concrete. We used a mix of one part Portland cement to five parts sand with 3/8” minus aggregate for all the curbs and grouting. Heavy sponges and small buckets of water helped us clean as we grouted. It is much easier to wash off fresh grout than it is to grind it when set. Keep your wash water fresh or you will leave a residue that will cloud the finish on the flagstone.
Unless you have a great deal more stamina than we had, you will take some time to do this job. Leave a tapered joint, a bit of a sloping ramp of grout, when you stop for the day. It will help reduce any tendency to crack between one day’s work and the next.
We’ve been done with laying flagstone and pavers for a few years now and the patio is stable, attractive, and secure.
We hope that any flagstone or paver project you include in your DIY home works as well!
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