New/Old Flagstone Steps
September 17, 2013Posted by on
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.