Install a stone path for all your gardening needs

Stone is rich in colour and texture. Each piece is unique. And it's timeless: A path installed yesterday may look as if it's been there for generations. Stone may be heavy, but it's surprisingly easy to install.

Install a stone path for all your gardening needs

In most cases, you simply set each piece on a layer of sand and level it. In high-use areas, fit each piece more tightly to lessen the chance of tripping.

Design factors

Best use: Stone is highly decorative and good for light to moderately heavy traffic. It's best for foot traffic, but not so good for bikes, wheelbarrows and lawn mowers. The rough, uneven surface is also difficult to shovel in winter.

Versatility: Stone is ideal for minimal disturbance of gardens and lawns. It's great for around trees because you don't have to disturb the roots. It's also a good material for an indecisive gardener — it's easy to shift the entire path for a new rosebush!

Longevity/maintenance: The stones will last forever. You may have to lift and reset them if they dip or stick up too high.

Drainage: Let steppingstones follow the lay of the land. Water will run off into the joints. For tightly fitted stone, pitch the path about 2.5 centimetres per metre (one inch per three feet) to the side.

Slopes: Build stone steps to match the path. Buy riser stones and large tread stones from the stone supplier.

Material selection

Limestone, granite, sandstone and slate are the most common types, all available in various colours, sizes and shapes. Set them apart as steppingstones or fit them tightly for a more solid pathway.

Select material that's at least 2.5 centimetres (one inch) thick to avoid cracking. Here are the basic categories:

Steppers are small, about 38 centimetres (15 inches) across or less. They are light and easy to handle, but laying them is slow because you have to fit and level each one. Steppers are prone to wobbling and have to be reset more often than larger stones.

Flagstones are large irregular pieces, 60 to 120 centimetres (about 25 to 50 inches). They're slightly more expensive than steppers, but they're versatile. You can always break a big piece to make smaller ones for tighter fits. Their size and weight help keep them stable, and they're less likely to shift and need resetting.

Cut stone is the most expensive but easiest to fit tightly. It looks especially good when set between borders. However, cut stone will probably require more cutting to achieve the more exact fits.Order your stone from a landscape or masonry supplier. The supplier will tell you how much coverage (square metres or square feet) to expect per ton.

Key construction details

Setting stone is a lot like putting together a big, heavy jigsaw puzzle in your yard. You first skim and flatten the proposed pathway, then dump in and smooth out about five centimetres (two inches) of sand as a setting bed.

  • Patience is essential when it comes to fitting.
  • Spread out the stones and pick and choose the ones that give you a pleasing pattern.
  • The stones will weigh 27 to 60 kilograms (60 to 135 pounds)!
  • Use a dolly to move the big pieces into place.
  • Finish by packing all the joints tightly with sand, soil or mulch (packed in).
  • Plant a ground cover in the joints for an attractive appearance and to help hold the soil in place.
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