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.

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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:

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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.

Flagstone/Bluestone Patio – Lincoln, MA

Rebuilding a Flagstone Patio in Lincoln, MA

At this home in Lincoln, MA the existing flagstone patio was badly overgrown and out of level.  The original flagstone patio had apparently been laid directly on the soil with wide joints.  Being it a sunny area, weeds grew rampant and the patio had deteriorated considerably.

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Original Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

Flagstone Patio Lincoln, MA - Before

Original Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

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Original Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

 

To solve this problem the plan was to take up the existing flagstone, excavate the soil, lay weed block fabric, base material, and re-lay the patio with 1/2″ joints.

In order to achieve tight joints the stones must be cut and pieced together.  It is a labor intensive process but the results are attractive and potentially make it harder for weeds to take root.  To make up the difference in area that we lose with tighter joints and cutting waste, we purchased a couple additional pallet of Irregular Bluestone to match the existing patio flagstones.  The larger section of the patio is made up of the existing flagstones, the smaller portion of patio beneath the Japanese Maple is made up of the new flagstone that we would usually use.

Assembling the Flagstone Patio - Lincoln, MA

Assembling the Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

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Assembling the Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

 

The base material consists of ~4″ gravel and ~2″ of stone dust.  The gravel base is sturdy and drains well, the stone dust (fine crushed up stone) is workable and lets us level each stone.  Gravity holds everything in place while the patio remains flexible to minor movements in the ground.  This method is more cost effective than cementing the patio stones and there is no risk of visual cracks in the cement if things eventually shift.

The flagstone patio is complete in time to enjoy a lovely autumn in New England:

Flagstone Patio - Lincoln, MA

Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

Flagstone Patio - Lincoln ,MA

Flagstone Patio – Lincoln ,MA

Flagstone Patio - Lincoln, MA

Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

Flagstone Patio - Lincoln, MA

Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

Flagstone Patio - Lincoln, MA

Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

 

 

 

Bluestone Patio and Landscape Design – JP

At this home in Jamaica Plain, MA the existing concrete paver patio was unsightly and too small for the homeowner’s needs.  There existed a number of nice plantings, but, some were overgrown and others in not so great locations.

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Original Patio

After discussing material options, we proposed a design that maximized the patio area while leaving room for planting beds.  We proposed relocating the nicer of the shrubs and bringing in a small variety of perennials and ground cover for an attractive but low maintenance garden.

The design called for a slightly sunken bluestone patio in a random pattern with cobble stone edging.  Cobble stones were also used to retain the hillside beds.  The corners of the patio are jogged to leave room or the shrubs and the style is mirrored where it connects to the walkway.

Landscape Design Plan - Jamaica Plain, MA

After digging out the old patio and relocating the plantings, the new bluestone patio is dry laid in a bed of stone dust.

Dry Laid Bluestone

Dry Laid Bluestone

After the bluestone patio is installed, we amend the existing soil with compost and bring in a small array of new plantings.  The plantings are picked to be low maintenance perennial plants that create a plush, green, garden.  All larger trees + shrubs were existing.  Take a look at the before and after photos:

Before

Before

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after

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Before

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After

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before

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after

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Cobble Edging, Hostas + Vinca

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Completed Patio – Incorporated Drainage

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Completed Bluestone Patio Project