can I lay flagstone directly in soil?

ljama98(Zone 6 NY)April 18, 2003

I want to build a small informal patio behind my house using some of the millions of free flagstone near my property. The soil seems very firm and packed down in that area. Can I lay the stones directly into the soil or do I really need to dig it all up and put down sand? I plan to leave spaces between the stones and fill them in with moss.

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moosedog(zone 6: Ohio)

I think you will be dissapointed witht he results. The stones will ttend to 'float' or move around in wet weather. You should use a bed of sand to lay them on. 3 or 4 inches should work

    Bookmark   April 19, 2003 at 11:37AM
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deusse(Z7 Brooklyn)

i have had much success with the results, although the pavers have been trod countless times...the dirt around them is very packed, and also there is grass or groundcover in between each stone to hold everything in place. nothing really slips when wet, however, i did dig around every single paver and set it into the soil...i didn't just put it down on the ground. i made a hole the right size for every stone and put it in, packed the dirt, watered it, repacked it, etc, until it was right. good luck with yours!
:)
heidi

    Bookmark   April 20, 2003 at 11:04PM
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ken_mce(zone 4, NY)

I dig the stone into the soil a little and leave a hollow under the middle so it can't rock. Never have used sand.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2003 at 11:16PM
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lazy_gardens

Laying them directly onto hard packed dirt works well. Spread a layer of soft dirt or sand to level the bottoms, fill the cracks with good dirt and plant creeping plants in them.

You might have a problem with frost heaving ... just redo anything that gets too uneven.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2003 at 8:38AM
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JillP

I made a stone path this way maybe 6 years ago. It was great, but now I can see that it needs taken up and reset. I am wondering if it would have needed this if I would have done it right in sand, etc. It isn't too bad, just not as nice as it use to be.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2003 at 1:31PM
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sunshine1151(zone 7 VR BC)

Hi everyone, I am interested in making
a pathway......possibly using flagstone. The pathway would be about 12 feet long and 2-3 feet wide. Could you please give me some tips on laying the flagstone. The area I would like to cover is a shaded area of my garden from an arbor to the back yard. It has recently been shaded since last year due to a new fence being put up. I need to put something there due to the grass being worn away and and its basically shade. The ground soil I have is quite compact......a lot of clay. Any tips, suggestions, or pics would be great.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2003 at 11:28PM
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gardengirl2(california)

If I put sand under the flagstones or pavers, won't that interfere with the roots of the groundcovers? I thought plants don't like to grow in sand?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2003 at 7:23PM
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lazy_gardens

gardengirl -
If plants didn't like to grow in sand, I would have NONE.

The groundcover roots zip right through the sand to the dirt below.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2003 at 8:50AM
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Ruth_MI(z5MI)

A number of years ago, I made a flagstone path in my backyard, laying it directly on the dirt. (There's no easy way to get anything into my backyard, so bringing in lots of sand wasn't practical.) I loosened the dirt around each piece and worked it into position.

I wasn't looking for a "perfect" look, and I've been very happy with the results, despite the path meandering over some areas that get extremely wet in spring, some clay areas, etc.

I'll try to post a picture in a few weeks.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2003 at 9:59AM
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shadeeladee(z5 KS)

I'm wishing that I had used something (sand over gravel perhaps) under my flagstone path...During the past 4 years it has been gradually sinking, so that part of it (in a wet area) is somewhat lower. However the thought of relaying it makes me put up with it like it is!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2003 at 4:26PM
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MayBATL(Atlanta, GA)

I would like to know if I need to put sand under the flagstone before I do it with concrete and sand topping mix. I have to do it this way because it is next to my house where we get seepage in the basemement. I have made a trench and lined it with concrete also for the water to drain downhilll on to the front yard. My helper set two pieces of stone directly on top of the dirt and did not use any sand. Please... I need help. Thanks.
May

    Bookmark   June 3, 2004 at 10:05PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

It might be a little trouble putting in the sand but it sure makes the job go faster. It also minimizes frost upheaval because of the good drainage. Plants grow right through the sand and get more water than normal because of it running off the slate into the cracks. Less weeds with sand and what few you get are easier to pull.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2004 at 1:41AM
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mich_in_zonal_denial

Does anyone know why sand is used in the first place ?

It serves a couple of different purposes .

Primarily it is used to assist the mason in setting the stone level.
It is a setting bed.

In soils that are expansive the sand acts a mitagation layer , acting as a slight buffer in the shifting of the soil.
It is much easier to reset a heaved stone if there is a setting bed of sand assisting the mason. Also it is more likely that the stone would not have displaced itself as far in the first place if it had the setting bed of sand.

It can also minimally facilitate drainage, but if you have a more than a moderate amount of water causing erosion then you will be best served by installing a proper sub base of compacted drain rock.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2004 at 12:32PM
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Kirbys_Mama(z5 Northern IL)

I have done paths and sitting areas in our yard. The first was in sand. The following have been directly on the dirt. I filled in with grass seed, mosses and creeping thyme, depending on the amount of sun. I wasn't concerned amount how level things were because I expected some sinking. It didn't happen. We are all clay here any good soil we have was trucked in. Eighteen dump truck loads.

Here is a link that might be useful: My gardens and paths.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2004 at 2:37PM
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bambooo(6 CT USA)

Bedding the stones in sharp sand or rock dust is easy.
The reason for using it is pretty simple.
As the organic material in the soil are consumed there will be some subsidence and the stones will sink a bit.
No organic material in sand.
Beat to death compacted soil is likely to have very little organic material and might work just fine. Still it's easier to move a sand bed around than compacted soil.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2004 at 4:06PM
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ljama98(Zone 6 NY)

I started this post over a year ago so figured I'd give you an update since it became active again. I did lay the flagstones directly in the soil. I spent ALL of last summer doing this. I used the largest, heaviest stones I could handle. I was bruised and scratched up for months as I did this entire thing alone. (My husband didn't have any interest at all and I think he thought I was nuts.) The only problem I had was getting the stones close together, so I have pretty large spaces between each of them. Anyway, since I wanted to plant ground cover in the cracks I actually left the stones about a half inch higher than the ground so the plants wouldn't grow over or higher than the stone. I spent the whole winter worrying that they were going to be all heaved up since it was a very cold one. It looked great this spring. If I could figure out how to post pictures, I would.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2004 at 12:15AM
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valereee(6a SW Ohio)

ljama, how is the path this year? I am considering just setting some creek rocks into the ground. We have HEAVY clay, so I'm hoping it's stiff enough to prevent any major heaving.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2005 at 6:24PM
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katefisher(Z7_NorthernCA)

I have to say, this thread really captured my interest. Were you able to post pictures? I would love to see your results.

Kate

    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 11:35PM
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andrea_san_diego(z10 So Cal)

ljama,

Do you have any words of wisdom on how to move the stones from frontyard to backyard? I plan on doing the whole project myself but am concerned about how to get them from here-to-there. Maybe I should just go and heft a few to see what's managable.

Andrea

    Bookmark   June 19, 2005 at 12:31AM
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JillP

Moving rocks. Amazing how I remembered simple physics from high school, many years ago. Think leverage and rollers. I move mine by rolling them over and over. If they are really heavy, I lay in my back with my knees to my chest and push with my feet. This is very amusing to see and results in lots of grass stains. I gathered up a bunch of old broom and mop handles that I had saved to use as tomato stakes and rolled the rock on them. A spud bar is a wonderful tool, that and another smaller rock and you can leverage the rock along. Sometimes I up-end them on the tall end and "walk" them from corner to corner to where I want them. I have an old Little Red Wagon. I would block the wheels, put a plank against the side and roll the rock into the wagon and then pull it around. If they are small enough to lift, I put them in a wheel barrow. If all else fails, I call the dh to come move the thing. I find this very strenuous, sweaty, swearing and dirty work and love every minute of it. One time I had really good sized rocks that it was just not feasible for me to move, I rented a baby bobcat and let the dh have fun with it. He was more than glad to help me when he had something fun to work with.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 9:13AM
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azgardener08

We need advice!

We're about to lay about 1000 sq feet of flagstone and are debating the base requirements and what to use to fill in the spaces between stones. We're going for a natural look, no mortar between stones.

We're in the Phoenix area and receive only a couple of light freezes per year. The ground is extremely hard.

We'd like an largish joints between the flagstones. Will 1/2" granite work to fill the gaps? What is the proper base preparation in this situation?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 12:58PM
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morango(5a)

ljama98 - you are fortunate to have so much free flagstone. It sells for $15 to $25 per 100 lbs. around here.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 4:37PM
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rb3cats

I have put in a small 10 x 10 patio . I used gravel ,then sand. i hand tamped the sand and placed the flagstone on top ,then swept the sand between the stones .After a week of settling and wet weather the stones are tilting up and causing a tripping hazard .The work was done last weekend . I'm looking for any help/suggestions .The sand I swept had portland cement in it which was supposed to lock the stones but did not .

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 1:07PM
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lazy_gardens

rb3cats ... you apparently didn't tamp it enough.

The sand and portland cement mix between the stones does NOTHING to prevent stones from moving. All it does it keep the sand in place in the gaps.

Dig up the ones that have settled unevenly, re-level them and put more sand around them.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 1:02PM
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