How to Install an Urban Bluestone Patio

Posted by in Home Improvement Tips, on October 30, 2015

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This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook helps a homeowner install a bluestone patio in an urban backyard.

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Tools List for Installing an Urban Bluestone Patio:
– Kneepads
– Shovel
– Wheelbarrow
– Hand tamper, to compact sand base
– Plate compactor, to tamp stone base
– Garden rake, to smooth the stone base
– Wood stakes and nylon string, to establish grade
– Metal ground stakes, to hold slabs in place
– Rotary hammer, to chip away concrete
– Brick trowel, to smooth the setting base
– Push broom, to sweep sand into the bluestone joints
– Small sledgehammer, to pound in wood stakes

Shopping List for How to Install an Urban Bluestone Patio:
– Bluestone slabs
– Graded base stone, a mixture of crushed stone and stone dust
– Caution tape, used to identify buried cable or pipe
– Portland cement and stone dust, mixed to create the setting base
– Polymeric sand, to fill the joints between the bluestone slabs

Steps for How to Install an Urban Bluestone Patio:
1. Call the utility company to confirm that there aren't any buried cables, wires, or pipes in the patio area.
2. Use a shovel to remove all the topsoil, exposing the undisturbed subsoil.
3. If you uncover a buried cable or pipe, encase it in sand, then lightly compact the sand with a hand tamper.
4. Spread 3 to 4 inches of graded base across the area. (Graded base, or pack material, contains 3/4-inch stone and stone dust.)
5. Rake the base smooth, then firmly compact it with a gas-powered plate compactor. Run the compactor in two directions, first across the length of the patio, then across its width.
6. Cover any buried cables or pipes with caution tape, then cover the tape with graded base.
7. Add another 3 to 4 inches of graded base and compact it again. Repeat until reaching the proper grade.
8. If a concrete footing protrudes into the patio area, chip away the concrete using the electric rotary hammer.
9. Install a series of wood stakes and nylon strings to establish the height of the patio. Pitch the string down about 1/4 inch per foot from the house, to ensure the patio will drain water away.
10. Make a setting base for the bluestone by mixing in a wheelbarrow 9 parts stone dust, 1 part Portland cement, and a little water. Mix the ingredients with a shovel.
11. Shovel some setting base onto the patio and smooth it with the brick trowel.
12. Set a bluestone slab into place and tap it down with a rubber mallet.
13. Add more setting base and set the next bluestone slab. Insert 1/2-inch-thick shims between the slabs.
14. Drive metal ground stakes into the ground against the sides and ends of the slabs to hold them in place.
15. After completing the first row of bluestone slabs, set the second row, making sure to stagger the joints between the slabs.
16. Once all the bluestone slabs have been tapped down, remove the metal ground stakes, and pour polymeric sand into the 1/2-inch-wide joints between the slabs.
17. Use a pushbroom to sweep the sand into each and every joint.
18. Sweep away all the excess sand, then use a garden hose to spray a light mist of water over the entire patio.
19. Wait five minutes, then spray the patio again.

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