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.

Phase III – Walkway + Gardens – Westford, MA

In the next phase of this project we rebuild and reshape the garden walls and lay a new walkway/patio.  The existing gardens were badly overgrown and the walls were falling apart.  The paver walkway was deteriorating and overgrown with moss.

Original Front Wall

Existing Front Wall

Existing Walkway

Existing Walkway

Existing Garden Wall

Existing Garden Wall

Existing Landing

Existing Landing

Then by dismantling the front stone wall it leaves us enough stone to rebuild that wall as well as rebuild/extend the garden wall.

Extending the Garden Wall

Extending the Garden Wall

Next we lay the walkway.  For this we use a unique type of flagging called Goshen Stone.  It is quarried locally in Goshen, MA and has a silvery, lustery appearance.

Goshen Walkway + Landing

Goshen Walkway + Landing

Along with the stonework we weed and prune the gardens and transplant desirable plants as needed.  The hillside is also planted with a variety of perennial ground covering plants and a few select shrubs.  Fresh topsoil is also spread over the whole yard and hyrdro-seeded.

Goshen Walk and Garden Wall

Goshen Walk and Garden Wall

Rebuilt Front Garden Wall

Rebuilt Front Garden Wall

Completed walk and garden

Completed walk and garden

Hyrdo Seeded and Hillside Planting

Hyrdo Seeded and Hillside Planting

View from the stream bed

View from the stream bed

In the spring we can return to see the grass and hillside grown in.  Finished photos to come.

Bluestone Walkway and Granite Steps – Boxborough, MA

At this home in Boxborough, MA an old bluestone walkway had come out of level and the stones were breaking apart.  Also the bluestone steps had come loose and were unstable.  The homeowner wanted to replace the walkway with new bluestone and use solid granite steps.

For this project we removed the existing bluestone and excavated below.   Whenever possible we will excavate by hand in order to preserve the surrounding landscape and minimize/eliminate extra costs for sod repair that can arise when machines come in.

Here we have excavated the area to depth of 8-10″ to allow for new base material.  The new walkway will go in the same footprint as the old.

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excavated stairway

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excavated walkway

Next we install the granite steps.  The steps are dry laid on a bed of crushed stone and a thin layer of stone dust to achieve level.   One step goes in, we back fill behind it to meet level, and the next step is stacked on stop.  The adjacent wall has to be partially dismantled to make room for the new steps.

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granite step installation

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granite step installation

All nine granite steps are set.  With the steps in we have a guide for the level of the walkway portions.  We’ve carefully planned the upper steps so that the finished height of the walkway doesn’t sit too high above or too low below the grade of the adjacent sloping lawn.

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granite step installation

Next we finish compacting the subgrade and filling the base with crushed stone to prep for the bluestone walkway installation.  The crushed stone provides a solid base that readily drains water.   A layer of stone dust is used to set the bluestones in and achieve the fine tuned level.

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bluestone walkway prep

The bluestone is installed, stone dust is swept in the joints, and some soil is added to the edge to regrow grass and meet the level of the stones.  The bluestone used is natural cleft, full color range.  It comes with it’s irregularities, but produces a handsome and slightly more rustic finish than the more finely treated varieties of bluestone.

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completed bluestone walkway and granite steps

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completed bluestone walkway

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completed granite steps