Flagstone Patio Protocol – What Makes One Better Than Another?

Berg Patio Pattern

Not all flagstone patios are created equal.

Unlike roof installation, flooring, or even poured cement (all easily quantifiable and pretty much uniform and predictably priced), a stone patio will vary greatly from one builder to the next.  One installer may be in the business of cranking them out at high volume, piecing it together in the quickest way possible and only fulfilling the most basic requirements.  Meanwhile, another installer may treat a patio like a work of art (which it is) and take the time to develop an esthetic quality in the work they do.

If one is choosing to invest in a stone structure, there should be an understanding that because stone masonry is 1) very labor-intensive, 2) eternally enduring when built well, and 3) almost as difficult to demolish as it is to build,  it follows that it is in everyone’s best interest to invest in quality work rather than going for the cheap and quick option.  In other words, if it’s going to be there forever, it had better look good and have structural integrity.

A good random-pattern flagstone pavement should have the following things going for it:

  • consistently spaced joints (whether they are 1/8″ wide or 2″ wide, the width should stay the same and the stones should not touch)
  • no “running bonds”, ie. no continuous lines formed by the joints (ideally none, but at least no more than two feet or so)
  • no “4-way stops” (all intersections of joint lines should be in groups of three)
  • tops of stones should be as even as possible through the use of carefully placed guide strings and levels
  • there should be a pleasant combination of large and small pieces that are not too close to others of a given size
  • if mixing colors, there should be a consistency in the way the colors are distributed (not all grouped together)

Of course, these are just guidelines.  Some of them are bound to be broken due to the fact that natural rough stone like this is inherently unruly and often guides the process, unlike manufactured materials like lumber, roofing tiles, flooring, etc which are much more predictable.  A good mason knows how to work with the stone to create the best final outcome.

by Mark Shepherd   www.ShepherdStoneworks.com

(206) 618-0558

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