This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

December 27, 2013

Do-it-yourself flagstone

If you live in a climate where the ground never freezes, such as here in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you can install your own flagstone. I've had it here for over fifteen years, and it looks great. I've made a few mistakes, and learned a few things along the way, but overall it has been very successful. I'm doing some repairs this morning, so I thought I'd review some of things I did right, and some of the things I did wrong.

• Get the largest, and thickest pieces that you can. I didn't buy any of mine, it was all donated by friends, so I have no idea how expensive it is. I got a lot of big, thick pieces, so I just used what I had. The bigger, thicker ones did better than the smaller, thinner, ones.

• Don't put the flagstone directly on the ground, put it on sand. It may be tempting to just put a slab of flagstone right on the dirt, but that's a mistake. Underneath all of my flagstone is several inches of sand. This allows you to refine the setting. If your flagstone "teeter-totters", it not only is miserable to walk on, it will look terrible, break, and the grout is will break between blocks. Take the time to make sure it sits flat. I set the flagstone in and walk on it for days before I do any grouting. If there was even the slightest wiggle, I pull it up and moved the sand around.

• Where there are large gaps between slabs, put in smaller pieces, but just as thick. "Floating" a thin piece just for looks in the grout fails. I know, that's what I am replacing today. Once the smaller pieces are in, and the grout is poured, it's impossible to tell the thickness, but it makes a difference in how well those pieces perform. As you can see, I like to use a contrasting color.

• Grout only in cool weather. I pour the grout in dry and then use a small spray bottle. It's December 27th, so the weather is cool and the ground is wet so the grout will set from the top and bottom. In hot weather, the grout may look like it's set, but not be solid closer to the ground. These slabs are over an inch thick, and the grout needs to attach to the sides all the way down, or it will crack.

Do-it-yourself flagstone is like gardening. It takes a lot of patience. And it's a labor of love.
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