Making a Dry-Laid Stone Walk
A dry-laid stone walk requires planning -and some muscle-to build. The walk is made of flat stones resting on a bed of sand and gravel. Dig a bed deep enough to accommodate 4 inches of gravel, 2 inches of sand, and the thickness of the stones. You'll invariably need to cut a few stones to make them fit. Aim for a gap of 1/2 inch between stones. After the stones are laid, sweep mason's sand between them to lock them in place. Lifting stones is tiring work and can be rough on the back. Use your legs as much as possible when lifting the stones.
LAY OUT THE PATH
Lay out the boundaries and slope of the walk using batterboards, stakes, and masons line. Cut the sod along the edge of the walk with an edger and slip a spade under the sod. Press the handle down near the ground and remove the sod by kicking the back of the spade. Dig deeper, removing enough soil to accommodate a 6-inch base plus the thickness of an average stone.
FILL THE BED WITH GRAVEL AND SAND
Measure down from the masons line to make sure the surface follows the intended slop of the walk. Fill the excavated area with 2 inches of gravel, then tamp with a power tamper. Add another 2 inches and tamp again until you have 4 inches of tamped gravel. Cover with landscape fabric. Spread 2 inches of bedding sand over the landscape fabric. If you need more than one piece of landscape fabric, overlap the sheets 12 to 18 inches.
MAKE A TRIAL LAYOUT
Lay out the stones for the walk on the ground next to the excavation-this leaves the sand-and-gravel bed undisturbed while you cut and fit stones. A gap of ½ inch between stones is ideal. When you need to cut a stone, mark the cut with a carpenters pencil, making the cut as straight as possible.
MAKE CUTS WITH A BRICK CHISEL
Put a brick chisel on the pencil line and strike it what a 3-pound sledgehammer. Score along the entire line this way. Then place the line directly above the edge of the piece of wood. Sever the piece with a single, solid blow. Place the stones in position on the sand-and-gravel bed. Embed each one in the sand by tapping it with a rubber mallet until it is flush with the adjacent ground.
CHECK FOR FLAT
Stone walks are never perfectly flat, but check for high and low spots by placing a straight 2x4 across the length and width of the walk. Set a high stone with a tap of the mallet or by removing sand from beneath it. Add sand under the low stones. Once youve laid all the stones, sweep masons sand into the joints with a stiff brush or broom. Since you cant use a power tamper on uneven surfaces such as natural stone, mist the surface with water. Continue adding sand and misting until the joints are filled to the level of the stones.
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Skill Level: Intermediate
Time: 4 hours
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- Landscape fabric
- Bedding sand
- Mason's sand