Bluestone Patio + Walkway – Concord, MA

Bluestone Patio + Walkways

At this recently built home in Concord, MA the owners are looking to add a bluestone patio and bluestone walkway.

After discussing options we decide on thermal bluestone for the patio and bluestone stepping stones for the walkways.  The stepping stone walkways save on material costs and labor and also compliment the modern style of the house.

Before

Before

Bluestone Patio + Walkway Prep

First the grades are set, the base is dug out, the subsoil compacted, and then filled with a crushed stone base.  Proper base prep is important for a long lasting patio.  When digging the base we want to remove all organic earth and/or clay until solid well drained subsoil is reached.  In most areas this won’t be more than 8-12″ deep.

Bluestone Patio Prep

Bluestone Patio Prep

Bluestone Patio Prep

Bluestone Patio Prep

Bluestone Patio + Walkway Installation

After the base is prepped we lay a thin layer of bedding material to level and set the stones.  Here we use 3/8″ crushed stone or “chip stone”.  It is a fine gravel that spreads easily, provides a solid base, and good drainage.

The bluestone pattern is planned out ahead of time.  The idea is to create a random pattern without any running joints or four corners.  The walkway stones are spaced to create an easy stride.

The patio joints will be filled with the same chip stone to create a fully permeable system.  More and more popular these days, a fully permeable patio eliminates potential drainage issues and puddling.  It also means the patio does not have to sloped as much to shed water which can be visually noticeable against level lines on a house.  The walkway joints will be filled with loam and seeded with grass.

Bluestone Patio Installation

Bluestone Patio Installation

Bluestone Walkway Installation

Bluestone Walkway Installation

Bluestone Patio + Walkway Completion

Ones the stones are set we sweep in the joint material and the patio is ready to enjoy.

Bluestone Walkway - Concord, MA

Bluestone Walkway – Concord, MA

Bluestone Patio - Concord, MA

Bluestone Patio - Concord, MA

Bluestone Patio – Concord, MA

Bluestone Patio - Concord, MA

Bluestone Patio – Concord, MA

 

 

 

 

Types of Bluestone Patios

Types of Bluestone Patios

A question that often comes up when discussing bluestone patios are the different varieties of bluestone pavers. To the untrained eye they may all look the same, but, there are actually a number of differences that effect the cost, appearance, and installation methods.

Natural Cleft Bluestone:

Natural cleft bluestone describes bluestone that has been split into layers during the quarrying process. Bluestone is a sedimentary stone, meaning that is comes from sediment that has been fused together over time from the enormous weight and pressure from above.  Natural cleft bluestone is formed closer to the surface of the earth than other bluestone.  Without as much pressure on the stone, lines of de-lamination or horizontal cracks form which make it easy to split into layers.  These layers are then cut into rectangles to make the bluestone pavers you see today.

As it is naturally split, the bluestone pavers have some irregularities.  The surface of the stone will have more bumps and texture, and each stone will have somewhat varyied thickness.  Natural cleft bluestone also tends to have a range of colors from blue, gray, purple, and rusty orange.

Although the quarrying process takes less machining and makes natural cleft bluestone less expensive than other bluestone, the varied thickness and irregular surface makes it more labor intensive to install.

natural cleft bluestone

natural cleft bluestone

Natural Cleft Bluestone

Natural Cleft Bluestone

 

Thermal Bluestone:

Thermal bluestone is formed deeper within in the earth.  With more weight and pressure above, the stone is solid and must be broken off in chunks and then saw cut into layers.  The saw cut leaves a very smooth, unnatural surface which then must be re-textured.  This is the ‘thermaling’ process which gives its name.  The stone is wet down and then heated with a super hot flame until the surface flakes off, exposing the natural roughness of the stone.

Thermal bluestone is more expensive to produce, but, the stone is almost perfectly uniform in thickness. This makes the installation and leveling process less labor intensive.

Thermal bluestone then comes in three different color varieties, full color, regular, and true blue.

Full Color Thermal Bluestone:

Full color thermal bluestone is less common and slightly less available.  It is thermal cut stone but still has a ranger of blues, grays, and purples.  The colors will not be as pronounced as Natural Cleft Bluestone, but more so than other thermal bluestones.

Regular Thermal Bluestone:

Regular Thermal Bluestone is most common.  It will come in a mild range of blues and grays.

Thermal Bluestone Patio

Thermal Bluestone Patio

“True Blue” Thermal Bluestone

“True Blue” Bluestone has been hand picked and sorted so that all of the stones are identical in color.

Thermal Bluestone Patio

True Blue Thermal Bluestone Patio

Irregular Bluestone

Irregular bluestone, also called “stand-up bluestone” or “flagstone” is naturally cleft bluestone that has not been cut into rectangles.  Irregular bluestone is sold by the ton instead of by the square foot and is generally cheaper in cost, but, much more labor intensive to install.

Irregular bluestones will vary greatly in shape, size, and thickness.  Depending on the desired look, they need to be cut and shaped to fit together, and leveled one by one.

Irregular Bluestone Patio

 

Stone Walls, Patios, and Steps – Somerville, MA

Stone Walls, Stone Patio, and Stone Step Installation + Design:

This home in Somerville, MA was recently renovated inside, and the homeowners were now ready to create a new yard and entrance with stone walls, stone patios, and stone steps.  The existing front walkway, steps, and walls were made of concrete and rather unattractive, and there was need to retain the side of the driveway.

Existing Walkway, Steps, Wall - Somerville, MA

Existing Walkway, Steps, Wall – Somerville, MA

The backyard is mostly a blank canvas.  A previous construction project had used this area for staging material, and had spread dirt and gravel at the end.

IMG_0309

Existing Backyard – Somerville, MA

 

Landscape Design – Somerville, MA

With little experience with this sort of project, the homeowners sought our help to design their new space.  The front was fairly straightforward in layout, however, there were many details to consider with the pitch of the bluestone walkway, pitch of the stone walls, height of the stone walls, and height and location of the stone steps.

The backyard was a clean slate but again had grade issues to consider.  The whole yard sloped down towards the house, and there was an excess of material left over from previous construction. Given the conditions we proposed an idea to make use of the excess material instead of paying to haul it all away.  We did his by proposing a raised stone patio area to the left that is hemmed in by low stone walls, and natural ground to the right.  The patio runs flat and meets the natural grade towards the top of the yard.  A long stone wall runs along the back of the yard as a planter, and two wooden planters will sit on the patio in the sunny section for edibles.  The owners also requested a Bocce court pit which was included in the original design:

landscape design plan

landscape design plan

After determining the layout and grades we decide on materials.  We present some different options and the homeowners decide to use a thin stack style wall call Colonial Wallstone, solid granite steps, and thermal bluestone for the walkway + patio.

Installing Stone Walls, Granite Steps, and Bluestone Patio:

After excavating and disposing of the concrete we can start building our walls.  Colonial Wallstone is a thin flat type of stone that comes from the bluestone quarries.  It is the same material as bluestone, but the broken irregular pieces rather than the large flat paving stones.

stone wall installation - somerville, MA

stone wall installation – somerville, MA

 

stone wall installation - somerville, MA

stone wall installation – somerville, MA

The wallstone is stacked at the front and then back filled with gravel.  The mortar is kept hidden so that the joints appear natural, and various pores are left in the joints so that water can still drain through.  This avoids the need for unsightly weep holes or drain pipes.

The bluestone walkway is dry laid in a bed of stone dust.  These hefty stones will stay in place with gravity, and dry laying them is a less expensive and arguably longer lasting method:

bluestone walkway installation - Somerville, MA

bluestone walkway installation – Somerville, MA

The walls will also be capped with the bluestone pavers.  Since it is the same material as the wall stone it will blend in nicely while providing a consistent, flat cap.  In the manufacturing process the bluestone pavers are cut to shape and so the edges have an unnatural sawn edge.  Usually you don’t see the edges as the stones are set in the ground, but, since we are using them to cap the wall we must ‘rock face’ the edges so that they look natural.  This is done with a special stoneworking chisel that basically chips off pieces of stone to give it that natural appearance:

rock facing bluestone - somerville, ma

rock facing bluestone – somerville, ma

Here are the completed front stone walls, bluestone walkway, and granite steps:

IMG_1259 IMG_1260 IMG_1261 IMG_1262

Raised Bluestone Patio and Stone Walls:

Next we move on to the back yard.  Similar to the front we face the front of the walls and then backfill with gravel.  The difference here is that the wall will stand taller than the patio, so once the wall comes above patio level we face the wall on both sides.

raised patio and walls - somerville, ma

raised patio and walls – somerville, ma

raised patio and walls - somerville, ma

raised patio and walls – somerville, ma

raised patio and walls - somerville, ma

raised patio and walls – somerville, ma

According to the plan the stone walls enclose the patio but end about halfway up the slope where the patio level will meet the natural grade.  This will provide an easy transition from patio to ground, and no need for extra steps or walls.  Here you can see how the grades come together:

raised patio and walls - somerville, ma

raised patio and walls – somerville, ma

Next the rear retaining wall goes in.  This will retain the uphill yard and serve as a planting bed:

stone retaining wall - somerville, ma

stone retaining wall – somerville, ma

stone retaining wall - somerville, ma

stone retaining wall – somerville, ma

 

stone retaining wall - somerville, ma

stone retaining wall – somerville, ma

Next the bluestone patio goes in, the walls are capped, and we spread wood chips on the ground to keep mud/weeds down for the winter.  A base for the wooden planters has been set along the fence edge and a carpenter will come to complete that portion.

completed stone walls and patio - somerville, ma

completed stone walls and patio – somerville, ma

completed stone walls and patio - somerville, ma

completed stone walls and patio – somerville, ma

completed stone walls and patio - somerville, ma

completed stone walls and patio – somerville, ma

We will return in the spring to check on things and take finished photos.  There are plans to grow climbing plants beneath the bordering garage in attempt to cover the concrete block with greenery, and grow herbs in the wooden planters on the patio.  In the end the yard should be hemmed in by greenery to produce a nice cozy and private environment a midst a densely settled neighborhood.

In this stone wall, stone patio, and granite steps project, by considering the existing grades and material we’ve created a simple but compelling landscape design that will serve the homeowners well.