A. Flagstone Patio Site

Flagstone Patio Site is all about practical and efficient planning for your project. If I wrote down everything that cost experienced landscapers money because of lack of planning, it would make for a pretty thick book.

We won't be able to cover them all, but we will look at some of the more common things to consider that will help you avoid errors before it's too late.

Have a pen and paper ready to take notes. This way you will be able to write down any tips that may help you with your project.

Professional plans are usually drawn to scale by a landscape architect or designer.

Putting your patio ideas down on paper with basic sketches or bubble diagrams will work just fine for the do-it-yourselfer. This will save you a substantial amount of money.

If you are still looking for ideas for your project don't forget to visit our picture gallery on Patio Landscaping Ideas.

The first thing we always cover is making sure you are following the rules. Check to see if you need any permits or permission to build your patio. More and more communities are requiring permits for any construction work. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Here are some other things to consider before you start your patio landscaping construction.

1. Designing your patio.

I'm sure at this point in time you already have a design in mind, or maybe you are just replacing an existing patio? If you don't, then there are a few basic design principles that we use in the industry that I will share with you for some guidance with your patio designs.

Color - Color may be somewhat of a personal preference, but I have always found that darker colors tend to go with the surroundings more than lighter colors.

Mixed colors are even better and have a lot more character than solid ones. Hopefully, your local stone yard will have a good selection for you. If they don't have something on hand that you like, ask them if they can order anything in for you.

Lines - When we talk about lines in and around your patio, we are referring to formal and informal designing. Informal designs, are more often flowing curves and may look better while working with natural stones, while straighter lines (formal designs), are more suited for working with manufactured products.

I build all my natural stone patios without cutting any stones to keep it as informal as I can, to give it more character. If you live in the city, it gives more of a country feel to your yard.

Working with flagstone without cutting the stones is a little more of an art, but it will also save you money on renting a stone cutter, or expensive blades.

Having the right size is important when we talk about practical designing. You will have to design you patio for what you will be using it for. You may need a larger area if you are entertaining. Accommodating canopies, outdoor tents, bbq's, patio furniture are other things you have to think about with size.

Transition zones are features that connect your patio landscaping project to anything else around it. Lawn, sidewalks, gardens etc. can all be connected to your project. Have a plan on how you are going to connect them, and check out our Module on Edging and Decorative Rock.

I use buffers frequently to transition my patio to a lawn. A good buffer would be a decorative rock bed with shrubs, plants, or a garden. Trees are great too, but make sure the root systems will not grow into the patio area down the road.

Using landscape edging will contain the rock from migrating into the grass. You can also control the flow of traffic leaving your patio area by placing stepping stones where you want your traffic to enter your yard through your transition zones.

Your patio is going to be flat (except a slight grade for draining water), so have a plan for the direction of drainage. Anything you do will affect the flow of water from downspouts, melting snow, and rain. When planning for drainage, you have to keep your eye on the bigger picture.

Whatever you do around your project try to repeat patterns, colors, and shapes when you are planting to give it a nice rhythm. This rhythm will give your design a unity and flow that will make it look right.

Lighting is important in and around your patio. Most patios are used for evening entertaining and should have patio lights. If you have to bury any power lines, make sure you plan for this in the excavation stages.

Maintenance is all about being practical.

For example: If you are building your patio close to any buildings, don't leave awkward strips of grass or tight corners not wide enough for a lawn mower. Remember that everything you design will have to be mowed, swept, cleaned, etc.

If you are using it in the winter time remember that the surface can get slippery. Don't use salt on the surface and use a plastic shovel. You WILL catch the edges and you don't want to damage them.

When you are playing with ideas on shape and size use an inverted marking paint (available at most hardware stores), to paint out your ideas. You can also use a garden hose, or a piece of rope.

Pre-plan for any future development in your yard. If you are thinking of adding a pool and this patio is going to be the only way in? Do the pool first (just kidding), but seriously, I have seen people make errors that have cost them thousands of dollars because they didn't pre-plan renovations to the yard.

Many people cost themselves time and money from failing to sequence their work properly. Plan out the order of each task to be completed so it doesn't affect another task in a negative way. You don't want to do the same job more than once.

I know there are more things to consider for patio design, but my goal here is to have you thinking in advance about your individual site and situations. This is the mindset that experienced landscapers have that allow them to be efficient.

This should save you time and grief down the road.

If you prefer to play with patio designs on your computer, there is some great and affordable software on the market.

2. Excavation.

Your patio is going to need a sub-base (gravel or sand base), so this means removing all the dirt first.

We want to cover dumping/disposal fees to help you accurately estimate all your costs.

This is a larger cost than most people are aware of.

Most cities charge a fee for this, and they may even want you to separate the sod from the clean fill (dirt). In my city, it is $85 per ton for dumping sod, and $3 per ton for clean fill.

Call the city, or the landfill site to find out about your local rules and fees. Another way to deal with clean fill is to keep your eyes on local bargain hunter sites. Sometimes you may find someone looking for clean fill and you may even get lucky enough to have them come get it.

With my excavation work I have someone do it for me. They will come in and dig it out and take away the dirt, for the same price as equipment rental costs would be for a day.

If you do rent the equipment to dig, you will still have to deal with the pile of dirt you just made. Some jobs are just better left for others and this is one of them. They usually have it all done in a few hours.

Plan excavation work according to the weather. Heavy equipment can cause a mess in wet weather.

3. Be aware of all the forces of nature around your site.

This means that you should know the drainage of your yard from rains and building downspouts. If this is not an issue for you, great. If it is, we will deal with this later in the construction stages. Also, be aware of any trees and root systems, present and future growth.

4. Be aware of any man made objects that may impact you design.

Underground gas lines, power lines, cable, water, phone, sewer, septic systems, buried drain tile can all cause you grief. These things may require you to alter your design if you can't work around them.

ALWAYS call before you dig. Most cities have a special number to call for this. They will mark the utilities with flags and/or landscape marking paint for you at no charge.

If you have in-ground irrigation make sure you call your service company to map out where your lines are so you don't damage them. They may also want to make changes to the system and zones to benefit you. If you are planting in and around you project, they may want to install some more irrigation to feed your new plants.

5. Material and equipment planning.

Planning for materials and equipment can save you lots of time too. I have on many occasions moved things more than once costing me time and money. You will be working with sand, gravel, dirt, and stones that all take up space in your yard.

It's important to have a plan (maybe even on paper), where you are going to keep these piles. If you are going to use the lawn, put down some heavy duty tarps. Keep in mind, anything on the grass for a number of weeks may kill your grass.

If you are having products delivered make sure you are there when the truck comes, otherwise they may just dump it where you don't want it. Try to leave enough space to always allow a wheelbarrow track between any piles of materials.

Try to leave a large area for laying out your stones as well. Natural stone projects are like building a puzzle. You need to be able to dump out the pieces to see what you have to work with.

Make a plan for any equipment you have to bring in your yard. This includes where it will enter and how it can be maneuvered around in the yard.

If it is heavy equipment it will groove your lawn so be prepared to repair it as well. You may have to take fences apart, so make sure you have no valuables that may disappear from your open yard. If the equipment is tall, make sure you won't take down any power or phone lines.

Be considerate and let your neighbors know what you are doing. Especially if they have kids. You will be creating hazards that can effect more than just you. Piles of materials on the driveway can wash sediment into the street if it rains.

Seems like a lot of things we have covered and they may not all apply to you. After being in the business for years, I have seen all of the above cause grief, time and lost money.

Let's head to the tool shed and get the tools you'll need.


Table of Contents: Flagstone Patio

Introduction: Flagstone Patio

A. Flagstone Patio Site

B. Flagstone Patio Tools

C. Flagstone Patio Materials

D. Flagstone Patio Site Preparation

E. Flagstone Patio Base Preparation

F. Laying Flagstone Patio Stones

G. Flagstone Patio Edging and Jointing

H. Flagstone Patio Completion and Clean-up


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