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 Stone Patios

The Different Types of Stone Patios

An attractive and functional addition to any yard is a stone patio.  Stone patios can be made from a range of materials that all function similarly but have differing appearance and costs.  Read on to learn more about your options when it comes to your next stone patio.

Paver Patios:

A paver is really anything that can be used for paving patios, but, the term most often refers to manufactured concrete pavers.  Concrete Pavers are very strong and durable and come in a wide variety of colors and styles and finishes.  Pavers are usually cheaper than other paving stones and are also quick to install.  This makes them an economical choice when deciding on your patio material.

Pavers can be laid in a variety of patterns to achieve different looks, and come in varying finishes that will try to mimic a more rustic, natural look.  Pavers are very strong and will basically stay intact forever, but, their color can fade somewhat over time.

Paver Patio

Paver Patio

Brick Patios:

Bricks are similar to concrete pavers but they are made from natural clay.  They are also fairly quick to install but the material cost is higher.  Red brick provides a more antique, traditional look like you might see lining the sidewalks of Boston.  Red clay isn’t the hardest material – the bricks can perhaps crack or deteriorate over time, but, this takes quite a while and replacing bricks when needed is not difficult.

Brick Patio

Brick Patio

Brick Patio

Brick Patio

 

Bluestone Patios:

Bluestone is a natural stone that is quarried mostly in NY, PA, CT.  It gets it’s name from it’s blueish-gray hue.  Bluestone is readily available and commonly used for patios, walkways, and other flatwork.  Bluestone comes cut into various sized rectangles that can be installed randomly or with a regular pattern.  There are different grades of bluestone that vary in price and ease of installation quite a bit:

Natural Cleft Bluestone:

Natural cleft bluestone is quarried shallower in the earth.  The bluestone closer to the surface has less pressure from the weight of the world above it and thus has natural lines of de-lamination.   Because of this the stone can be split off or cleft at the approximate thickness, and then cut to shape.  This process leaves the stones at slightly varying thicknesses with some irregularities on the surfaces.  The lines of de-lamination in the stone allow other minerals to seep in giving Natural Cleft Bluestone a range of blues, grays, browns, and purples.  Natural Cleft Bluestone is the lower cost bluestone, however, the irregularities make it more tedious to install.

Natural Cleft Bluestone Patio

One of our Natural Cleft Bluestone Patios

 

natural cleft bluestone

natural cleft bluestone

 

Thermal Bluestone:

Deeper down in the earth there is more pressure and the bluestone is completely solid.  For this reason the stone can’t be split and must be sliced to the appropriate thickness with a saw.  The saw cut leaves a very smooth, unnatural surface so the stone is wet down and then treated with a super hot flame.  This process flakes off little bits of stone to return it to a rough, natural stone surface.  This ‘thermal’ treatment is what gives it’s name.  Thermal Bluestone is consistent in color and thickness and the surface is rough like sandpaper but completely flat.  Thermal Bluestone is more expensive than Natural Cleft Bluestone but is faster to install.

Thermal Bluestone Patio

Thermal Bluestone Patio

Thermal Bluestone Patio

Thermal Bluestone Patio

 

Irregular Bluestone or Flagstone:

Flagstone refers to any irregular, flat stones that are used for paving – in our area it is often made of bluestone.  Irregular bluestone is naturally cleft but then left in its broken shape.  Irregular Bluestone comes standing up on a pallet so is sometimes referred to as ‘Stand Up’ bluestone.  Irregular bluestone comes in big pieces that you must puzzle together or cut to fit.  There are many different finishes and tightness of joints that can be achieved depending on the desired effect and skill of the mason.

flagstone patio in Lincoln, MA

One of our Irregular Bluestone Patios

Irregular Bluestone Patio

One of our Irregular Bluestone Patios

 

Granite Pavers:

Granite pavers are similar to Thermal Bluestone.  They are cut, and then flamed, and come in variously sized rectangles.  Granite is more expensive than bluestone in this form and is less commonly available.

Granit Paver Patio

Granit Paver Patio

granite patio

Granite Paver Patio

 

Cobble Stones:

Cobble Stones are granite blocks that come in various sizes.  Cobble stones are not saw cut, but broken and chiseled so have rough faces and other irregularities.  Cobble stones are most often used for edging and accents but can be used for paving larger areas as well.

Cobble Stone Patio

Cobble Stone Patio

Cobble Stone Patio

Cobble Stone Patio

 

Fieldstone Patio:

Fieldstone patio stones will be naturally occurring stones that are flat enough to use for patios, steppers, etc.  These are thicker and heavier than other patio stones or flagstones.  It will not be possible to level or fit them perfectly and so they will produce a rougher more rustic stone patio.

Fieldstone Patio

Fieldstone Patio

Fieldstone Paito

Fieldstone Paito

 

Combination Stone Patios:

When designing a patio it can often be nice to mix two or more different materials.  This will add some character and leave more room for creativity and design.  Often this can be nice when matching other existing stone features on the property.  The possibilities are many but you can take a look at some examples below:

Mixed stone patio

Mixed stone patio

brick and bluestone

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In Conclusion:

There are various types of stone patios to choose from, and plenty of different ways to design them and make them unique.  Patios are long lasting and useful landscape features that you can really enjoy and make use of.  If you’re thinking about installing a stone patio at your home please contact us for a consultation.

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.