Patio, Steps, and Firepit – Needham, MA

Here in Needham, MA we are removing an old deck and installing a new stone patio, steps, firepit, and walkways. The patio will be made from Natural Cleft Bluestone, the stairs from granite, the firepit from reclaimed granite curbing, and the walkways from bluestone flagging.

The granite stairs will wrap around the corner of the house so one can exit in any direction. The bluestone patio is natural cleft bluestone laid in varied size running bond, or rows of the same size. The running bond pattern gives a more contemporary look than the more traditional random pattern. The corners of the patio will be stepped in to allow for planting areas, and irregular bluestone flagging will be used for a stepping stone walkway.

before
before

Installation

First we remove the deck and excavate the area for base preparation. Compacted crushed stone goes in the base, and the stones are dry laid on top in a thin layer of fine gravel. Dry laid patios are far more common these days as they are faster and easier to install, they drain freely, and hold up longer in the variable New England climate.

We install the granite steps to wrap around the corner of the house. The top landing is made from bluestone to match the patio below. Against the house we add new pressure treated sheathing, and then flash the sheathing with ice + water shield, and then aluminum sheet metal. This ensures no rot will occur where stone meets the house.

Stair Installation
Stair Installation
Granite Stair Installation
Granite Stair Installation

Next we install the bluestone patio. These are natural cleft bluestones which have a rougher cleft surface and vary in color. We lay them in neat rows and switch sizes each row. In the joints we spread a polymer sand which is a fine sand that hardens up. It is not a cement product, it is meant to remain somewhat flexible and permeable and works well with dry-laid patios.

Bluestone Patio Installation
Bluestone Patio Installation
Bluestone Patio Installation
Bluestone Patio Installation

Next we go to the supply yard and pick out some reclaimed granite curbing to use for the firepit. The reclaimed granite comes out of old of old roads and bridges etc in the area and is sold to supply yards. We pick out several pieces that are consistent enough in size, and then cut them down to make the square firepit. The granite is a hefty 8″ thick, by 16″ tall and makes for a solid firepit. We take care to plan the layout so that the cut ends are hidden and the existing rough ends are visible. In this case we have 4 equal lengths available so we lay them out in a ‘pinwheel’ fashion rather than two long and two short.

Firepit Fabrication
Firepit Fabrication
Reclaimed Granite Firepit
Reclaimed Granite Firepit

We lay the rest of the patio and then add the stepping stone walkways leading to the patio and through an adjacent garden. The flagstones are large, irregular pieces of bluestone. They match in appearance but make for a more informal pathway.

Flagstone Steppers
Flagstone Steppers

We spread new loam in the area and our portion of work is done. Landscapers will come in next to plant amongst the patio and walkways to soften and integrate the whole area with the yard and gardens.

Finished Patio
Finished Patio

Backyard Retaining Walls

At this home in Concord, MA we are renovating the back yard by flattening the grade with fieldstone retaining walls. The plan is to wrap the area with the walls to raise the grade to level, and in the corner extend the walls up further to create a sitting wall. In a somewhat unique fashion the walls will be capped with granite curbing to give it a clean finish and sturdy top to step or sit on.

before
before
before
before
before

Building the Walls

To prep the walls we dig out a trench and lay compacted crushed stone as a base. We then bring local fieldstone from our private supplier and stack the wall. The wall is dry-laid without any mortar. Crushed stone and rip-rap goes behind the face stones, and behind that there is a layer of fabric to separate the stone from the dirt behind. This creates a natural looking, well drained, and long lasting wall.

Building the Wall

Once the wall is up to height we cap it with granite curbing. This granite is 4″ thick x 18″ wide x 4′ long. The wide, heavy stones make for a sturdy, flat top, and give the wall a unique appearance. In the far corner we build the wall up above grade another ~2′ to create a closed in area and sitting wall.

In the end the customer now has flat useable area with attractive stone walls to sit and enjoy their view of the river.

Outdoor Fireplace – Sudbury, MA

At this home in Sudbury, MA we are hired to build an outdoor fireplace and cooking area along with a set of granite stairs. For the fireplace we use a pre-cast option to save on costs, and custom build the surrounding counters and storage compartments. The fireplace will be veneered with a stacked stone style veneer in the full color blend. And the counters/hearth/caps/stairs will be made from Blue Mist Granite, which is a dark grey/blue type of granite.

Prep

To begin we install concrete foundations for the fireplace and stairs. We pour an 8″ thick pad to ensure the structure has a stable base and will not move or settle over time.

The fireplace is a pre-cast product which comes already formed and bricked on the inside. At times this can be a good option to speed up the process and save costs, but does limit design options. We set the pre-cast fireplace on the base and start blocking up the surrounding counters and compartments. On either side we build a 2′ deep counter space with 1′ raised shelf at the back. There is also a wood storage compartment to the right, and a set of drawers to the left. Lastly we build in a space for a regular grill so the owners can wheel their existing grill into place instead of building a whole new built-in grill.

pre-cast fireplace
pre-cast fireplace
Fireplace Blockwork
Fireplace Blockwork
Fireplace Blockwork
Fireplace Blockwork

Veneer Installation

We finish the blockwork and then start installing the veneer. We use a thin sawn veneer in the stacked stone style full color blend. This is a natural stone product that is sawn down to about 1″ thick. We lay the stones level, and follow the same rules that would apply to full natural stones to mimic an authentic look.

Outdoor Fireplace Veneer
Outdoor Fireplace Veneer
Outdoor Fireplace Veneer
Outdoor Fireplace Veneer
Outdoor Fireplace Veneer
Outdoor Fireplace Veneer

Capping + Completion

The veneer work is complete and we start to install the granite caps. We use 2″ thick blue mist granite to make the hearth, counters, and fireplace caps. 7″ thick blue mist granite is also used for a set of wrap around stairs to enter the house.

Fireplace Caps
Fireplace Caps
Fireplace Caps
Fireplace Caps
Fireplace Caps
Fireplace Caps
Wrap Around Stairs
Wrap Around Stairs