Updated: Nov 1, 2020
Flagstone is a fine-textured rock, such as a sandstone or shale, that is split up into slabs and has many uses in landscape: step stone paths, walkways and patios, overlays for already paved areas including steps and stairs, the façade of short benches or retaining walls, built-in-BBQs and fire pits—even waterfall tiers. Flagstone can jazz up your landscape in many ways. Adding flagstone to your landscape provides you with a natural look—however you choose to define the areas of your garden. It’s a great material to use with many attractive and useful applications. While flagstone sometimes gets a bad rap as a pricey, it's a fantastic way to decorate the specialty items and cover the patio in your landscape. It’s also beautiful and in short, well worth the cost!
There are many ways to install flagstone.
Some are more cost effective if your budget is a factor.
Flagstone has become a general term for rock that comes in slabs, so it can vary from sandstone to quartzite and comes in different thicknesses from ½ an inch to 4 inches. The harder the rock (like slate, quartzite), the denser the stone and therefore more difficult to work with. The thinner slabs are typically used for overlays where you have a concrete base and use mortar to install it. A slightly thicker slab can be used over base rock and decomposed granite where instead of using mortar between the joints, a product called polymeric sand is used to bind the pieces. The polymeric sand is swept into the flagstone joints, then lightly hosed down before it solidifies. Once it’s dried and hardened, the sand stays in place; it can’t be moved by insects, doesn’t wash out and won’t allow weeds to grow. From there, so long as a more patio grade thickness is used, flagstone can be installed in sand or dirt so ground cover flats can be grown in between them for a decorative look. Mosses, turfs or even herbs like mint and thyme can be planted throughout the stones offering a softer look.
Just as flagstone slabs are available in several different rock materials, they’re also available in many different colors to accommodate whatever look you need. The natural shape the slabs come in, can be further manipulated when broken with a rock hammer or cut with a skill saw using a diamond blade. The colors are typically characteristic of the region they originate from. The color palette for Arizona flagstone, for example, varies from a dark rose to a chocolate to a light tan. Because the stone is natural, the hues are unique with a slight variation so that no two areas are exactly the same. Depending on the stone you choose, the variation can be a challenge to identify, but it’s there!
Some select distinctive varieties to create a casual mosaic pattern!
Build seating by placing flagstone on the face of small cinder block walls with mortar and horizontal chunks or bull-nose brick along the top for a smooth capstone seat. The same method can be used to build a circular fire pit. To overlay steps, simply stack chinks of broken flagstone in front of the steps using mortar once again, and use larger pieces to cantilever over the stacked chinking and you have a flagstone staircase. Connect the various destination areas of your garden with attractive flagstone step stones spaced from each other but close enough to make your walk comfortable using their one of a kind shape.
Flagstone has many uses, and while it costs more, it really classes up the yard!