New/Old Flagstone Steps

Flagstone Steps -  Before After

One side of our house is kind of a mess.  There are steps leading from the side garage door down to the back yard that are made out of rail road timbers with pea gravel in between the timbers.  The pea gravel sits below the level of the timbers making for very uneven steps.  It also makes for a very nice place for weeds to make their home.  Nothing irritates me more than pea gravel…well… maybe lava rock irritates me more… but not much more.

Flagstone Steps - Before 1

My lovely pea gravel steps. These weeds seem to return within 1 day of weeding

Flagstone Steps - Before 2

These “steps” are just waiting for someone to fall and break their neck

Our back patio has an area off to the side where the previous owner thought it would look good to place a few flagstones and put a bunch of pea gravel in between.  The flagstone was spaced pretty far apart and it really serves no purpose other than to make the area very uneven and cluttered.  Here was my chance to solve two problems at once.  I pulled up all the flagstone and replaced it with the pea gravel from the steps.  Actually, I think I just consolidated 2 problems into 1 problem (I still want to get rid of all the pea gravel).

Flagstone Steps - Cleared Out

All the pea gravel is gone! I thought about taking out the timbers as well, but am glad I kept them

After getting everything cleared out, I made a run to Home Depot to buy some bags of paver sand.  Because the areas I am filling with sand are so small, I decided not to buy a tamper and went with a spare brick for compacting the sand.  Ideally, you want to have a good 2 to 4 inches of compacted sand for the flagstone to rest on.  There is a lot of trial and error when trying to get the right level because flagstone is never the same depth.  Add a little sand here, take out a little sand there.  I found it easier to get my stone cut and ready before attempting to get the sand in place.  Basically I was doing one flagstone step at a time instead of setting the sand for all the steps at once.

Flagstone Steps - Paver Sand Tamping

Compacting the sand to make a nice solid base

Flagstone Steps - Paver Sand

Flagstone is ready to go in

I tried to have the flagstone setting about 1/4 – 1/2 inch above where I wanted it when I first set them in the sand.  Then I took a rubber mallet and beat the CENTER of each stone until it was at the right level.  If you hit the stone on the side or corners, you will end up creating spots where the stone is not firmly resting on sand… which makes the stone wobble when you walk on it.

I have not cut a lot of flagstone in my day, so I went to YouTube for a quick refresher.  This guy does a pretty good job of explaining how to do it… plus he LOOKS like a mason!

Originally, I was cutting the stone on a platform I had set up with my saw horses but found that setting the stones on a harder surface made it a lot easier.  I should also mention that I used an angle grinder with a diamond blade for some of the smaller cuts.

Flagstone Steps - Cutting 1

I marked my cut line by simply dragging my hammer across the stone

Flagstone Steps - Cutting 2

After several hundred light smacks with the hammer, the stone eventually broke right down the line

All in all… this project only took about 8 hours to complete including an extra trip to Home Depot to get more sand.  Here are some pictures of the finished project.  It definitely looks better than the pea gravel steps.

Flagstone Steps - After Top View

Flagstone Steps - After Side View

Flagstone Steps - After Bottom View

6 responses to “New/Old Flagstone Steps

  1. Mom September 18, 2013 at 10:16 am

    That is a terrific stairway down the side of the garage. Wow, and your blog explains the ‘steps’ well. Congratulations on a job well done!

  2. TOHNER JACKSON September 21, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Beautiful job nice curve and decent.

  3. John May 24, 2016 at 1:41 am

    Great looking steps! Are the timbers pinned down at all? I was thinking of driving rebar down through timbers to help hold in place.



    • diydad May 24, 2016 at 9:48 am

      Thanks! They are holding up well. The timbers are pinned down with rebar, but I am not sure how deep because they were there when we bought the house. I have put other timbers in around the house and generally sink them about a foot deep.

      • john evoy May 24, 2016 at 8:27 pm

        Hey again. How long is your run of the treads (flagstones)?

      • diydad May 24, 2016 at 9:39 pm

        Those steps curve and have variable tread lengths and run about 20 feet down the hill. You kinda have to work with your landscape unless you want to haul a lot of dirt. Most of my steps are about 16 inches (including the timber), but there is a “landing” in the middle that is about 48 inches. Again… It depends on your landscape. If you are starting from nothing, you will be carving out streps.

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