How to Lay Flagstone On Dirt (In a Few Easy Steps)


how to lay flagstone on dirt

Flagstone is a common flat stone, usually cut into square or rectangular shapes to be used in landscaping. The material is incredibly adaptable and often used for patios, walkways, flooring, fences, small retaining walls and even some roofing. The flagstone is split into layers to create the stones for landscaping.

For decades, this natural stone has been one of the most popular choices for paving because of the numerous amounts of benefits it has when compared to other materials. The use of this sedimentary rock for paving purposes dates all the way back to the 1900s.

Because flagstone is relatively heavy and since it’s acid resistant, it can be laid directly on dirt surfaces. This is accomplished by simply smoothing out the soil, placing the stones, leveling them out, filling in the gaps, and piecing them all together.

Due to the narrow-packed joints, flagstone is one of the best materials to use for building a patio. This allows water to soak into the joints instead of running off. Also, the thin, flat characteristics of the stone, caused by the splitting of the rock layers, makes the material very simple to work with.

The shades of browns, reds, grays, and blues in the rock can help define and transform your outdoor space. Flagstone offers a very organic, rustic look due to its jagged edges and earthy colors. Additionally, it creates a sturdy and organically slip-resistant surface that’ll last you years.

In this article, we’ll go into detail about exactly how you can create a stunning and unique backyard by simply installing flagstone.

Plan Your Patio or Walkway

Like any large-scale landscaping project, it’s important to first establish a plan. Flagstones can be used to construct either a formal or informal patio or walkway. A formal, organized look can be achieved by using varying sizes of rectangle stones in a repeating pattern.

Whereas a more informal, organic appearance emphasizes the natural shape of the rock by organizing irregular stones in a random pattern (crazy paving). Aside from the general layout, additional aesthetic and technical plans need to be considered. First, keep in mind the grading of your project.

For efficient drainage, you must build at a slight angle otherwise you’ll end up with puddling issues. In order to have proper drainage, plan the angle so that it’s about 1/8″ of drop per foot. Make note of the drainage of your existing landscape on your property and proceed based on that.

The size and thickness of your stone also need to be taken into consideration. The larger the stones, the easier it will be to puzzle all of the pieces together. However, the bigger flagstone pieces are thicker, heavier and much more expensive.

In regards to thickness, thinner stones will crack and fracture when weight is applied. Alternatively, thicker also means heavier and more expensive. Spend some time finding the proper stone that works for you and your particular project.

Prepping the Dirt

Begin by measuring the width and length of the area that you’ve chosen to lay your flagstone pieces. Then, mark the edges using a marking spray paint.

Calculate the square footage of the project area by multiplying the length by the width. This number will indicate the proper amount of stones that you will need for your project. Consult a landscape material supplier to order and deliver the correct square footage of flagstone that this project requires.

In order to prepare the soil in the area you’ve chosen, you’ll want to dig about 3 to 6 inches down using your shovel. Simply start turning the dirt but do not set it aside. Once you’ve completed digging the area and turning the dirt, break up any clumps and rake the area smooth using a stone rake.

Laying the Initial Flagstone

Laying the flagstone is often tedious because the stones will typically not be the exact same shapes or thickness. Properly leveling them to each other, flattening them to your chosen grade, and puzzling them together will require patience. Take your time on this step or you can always consider hiring a contractor.

First, lay one of the stones down in the area that you have prepared. Manually shift the flagstone back and forth, side to side, working it into the dirt. Using a level, make sure that the stone is flat.

Keep in mind the slight pitch, or grade, that you chose for drainage when evaluating if the stone is level. Taking the end of a hammer, or using your hands, pack soil around the edges of the flagstone. You will then want to stand on top of the stone to ensure that it won’t shift or wobble.

Piecing it All Together

Lay additional pieces of flagstone next to the first one that you set in the dirt. Adjust them into a position that allows for gaps that are at least two finger widths wide. Throughout this whole process you can use your hammer or a saw to break off the corners and allow the pieces to fit better.

Continue checking each flagstone piece with your level and packing the dirt around the edges. Repeat this entire process until you’ve fitted all of the flagstone pieces in your preferred area. Once you’re done, clean off any excess dirt on the stones using a hose and wait for them to dry before stepping on them again.

Keep These Tips in Mind

Here are a few general tips and tricks to keep in mind in order to properly and efficiently install your flagstone:

  • Place the larger stones on the outside perimeter with the smaller pieces in the center. This will allow the large stones to lock the small ones in place as they will shift over time.
  • Cutting the stone is very time consuming and messy. Try to tetris the pieces together so that you only have to make very few cuts.
  • Use bigger gaps in the stone to cut down on time. The more consistent and tighter that you are with the gaps will take you much longer and require far more cuts.
  • To cut the flagstone, use any sort of device with a diamond blade. Although you can simply use a hammer to knock off the edges, a blade is more effective and gives you more control.
  • Getting the stones to sit properly can be difficult. Try using some DG, or decomposed granite, to help level them out.
  • If you want to avoid weeds or any other greenery growing in the gaps, use more DG to keep these at bay.

Wrapping It Up

Flagstone is the perfect choice to achieve a remarkable, effective outdoor space. The use of this natural stone in your landscaping creates a rustic, organic feel. It’s also low maintenance, versatile and relatively simple to install.

The stone is undoubtedly a natural beauty that has been performing well for decades. The size, shape, color and pattern options are endless. Also, because the stone is fairly heavy it can be placed directly onto dirt. After prepping the area, the stones can then be laid, leveled and pieced together almost effortlessly.

Check out some of our other articles, including “How to Stop Water Runoff from a Neighbor’s Yard,” and learn about additional ways to help improve your outdoor spaces.

Isaac Atia

I am a home improvement enthusiast who enjoys sharing my tips and latest projects with other homeowners. When not working on the house, I enjoy playing soccer, hiking, traveling, and retail therapy!

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