Your Comprehensive Guide to Building a New Stone Walkway

Your Comprehensive Guide to Building a New Stone Walkway in your Garden

If you are looking for a way to add curb appeal and functionality to your property, a stone walkway is the perfect solution. Depending on the style of walkway you build, you can add a more cozy, welcoming feel to your home, or you can take the fancier route to add a sense of sophistication. Either way, the pathway will provide you with a way to get from point A to point B without having to step on, and consequently ruin, your green grass.

When it comes to building your own stone walkway, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Whether you are building a pathway to connect the backyard to the front, you want it to bring coziness to your garden, or you want to create an enticing way to welcome your guests, the choice is yours.

This guide will help you select which type of stone pathway you should build, remind you of the important factors to consider before getting started, tell you what tools and materials you will need, and instruct you how to build the pathway.

Before You Begin: Things to Consider

As excited as you are to start building a stone walkway, it is paramount that you approach the planning stage methodically. With so many outdoor stone options available, you will want to make sure you select the one that is the most compatible with your climate and your desired aesthetic and function.

Climate

Every stone reacts differently when the temperature gets too cold, and you want to keep this in mind when choosing the stone for your walkway. If it gets cold at your home, you will want to make sure to select a denser stone, such as quartzite, bluestone, or granite, because they will stay solid in below freezing temperatures. On the contrary, softer stones, such as sandstone and limestone, are better saved for warmer climates because they can crack if it gets too cold.

Style

Perhaps the most important consideration when building your own pathway is to choose a stone type and pathway design that complement your home’s architecture. If your home is contemporary, you will want modular stones that have distinct shapes. If your home is more country, the irregularity of many stone options is ideal.

You will also want to pay attention to the color of the stone to make sure your pathway flows with your home and has a professional appearance. Here is an example of some of the most popular patio stones and the styles they are perfect for:

  • Slate – Slate is colorful by nature. Containing hues of red, black, blue, and green, slate works well with more contemporary homes, and it can also look amazing with craftsman styles.
  • Granite – Granite is available in a diverse array of colors, including white, black, grey, and red. It’s smooth surface and luxurious connotation make it an excellent option for more upscale residences.
  • Travertine – One of the most versatile stone choices is travertine. It comes in neutral tones, is slip-resistant and alluring, and it looks amazing with almost any architectural style.

Function

Now that you have thought about your climate and style needs, it’s time to think about what function you want your pathway to serve. Are you simply creating a pathway that is more for looks, like one that is going through a garden? If so, a randomly spaced pathway with large spaces between stones is best.

However, if you are using the pathway as a main path for foot traffic, such as at your front entry, you will want to create a more compact, level pathway with uniform stones. You will also want to choose a stone that has enough texture so people don’t slip when it rains.

Getting Started: Take Proper Measurements and Go Shopping

Once you have figured out the best stone for your pathway, it is time to gather your materials. First, you need to take accurate measurements of the pathway so you can be sure to get enough. All you need to do is provide your stone supplier with the width and length of the path, and they will determine the square footage and make sure you have the amount of stones you require. (Side note: If you want the path to be wide enough for two people to walk next to each other, aim for at least a 48-inch width, otherwise, a 30 to 36-inch width will suffice.)

Besides the main stone, you will also need to have the materials ready to create a base of sand or gravel beneath the stones. This is referred to as a crusher run, and it allows you to level the stones and help prevent issues from freezing temperatures. The setup for your crusher run varies based on the thickness of the stone you select, which we will discuss below.

But first, the materials and tools you will want to have ready before you get started include:

  • Your stone of choice
  • Water
  • Crusher run gravel
  • Cobblestones
  • Pre-mix cement mortar
  • 3/4-inch gravel
  • Mixing bucket
  • Shovel
  • Rubber mallet
  • Mason’s chipping hammer
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Hand tamper
  • Protective eyewear
  • Trowel
  • Garden hose
  • Rake

Step 1: Lay Out a Preliminary Design

Before you put the shovel to the earth, you will want to lay out your stones to make sure you have the spacing accurate. If you are making a solid stone pathway, you can skip this test, but if you are opting for the more casual stone pathway with spacing between the stones, you will want to see it laid out before it is permanent.

With the stones laid out, test the pathway by walking on it to see if the spacing fits with your natural stride, and make sure there is a mix of colors and shapes evenly dispersed throughout the pathway. You will also want to make sure your spacing between each stone is equal, and you never have more than four inches between any two stones.

Step 2: Set the Stones

Now is where the real fun begins. It is time to lay the stones into the ground. This process may seem tedious; however, is it vital that you approach it methodically so that your stone pathway will be safe and long-lasting.

Prepare the Ground

With the stones still on the grass, you will want to use a garden trowel to cut around each stone (or section of stones if you are creating a more solid pathway). You should dig about an inch or two deep so that you go through the grass and roots of the sod. Once the outline is complete, set the stone to the side and remove the chunk of sod so you have a hole in the shape of each stone. Put the sod aside for later use. What you do next depends on the type of stone you are using:

  • If you are using a thick stone (three or four inches deep), you will not need to use a crusher run. The stones themselves are sturdy enough that they will not move around, and you can make them level by adjusting the soil placement.
  • If you are using a thinner stone, you will need to create a crusher run. To do this, place about two inches of gravel into the open hole. Then, use a hand tamper to compact the gravel and make it level. You can opt for sand here instead, but it does move more overtime, so compacted gravel is preferred. Next, you will want to add one inch of loose gravel.

Even Out the Surface Stones

With the base area prepped and ready, it is time to put the stone on top of the gravel (or dirt if using a thicker stone). You may need to adjust the amount of loose gravel depending on the thickness of the stone. Then, you will want to use a rubber mallet to pound the stone down into the rocks below it. Keep pounding until the stone is flush with the sod around it. Make sure to use your level to double check that the stones are level and that they all sit at the same height to ensure your new stone pathway doesn’t become a tripping hazard. You will also want to stand on the stone and try to wobble it to make sure it is secure.

Alternative Installation Methods

While using a crusher run is the most common option for stone pathways, there is an alternative you may prefer. Instead of the gravel beneath the stones, you can use mortar or concrete. This would be the recommended choice if you do not want to have to worry about adjusting the placement of your stones over time, as the concrete is a permanent. Concrete is also more effective for the solid pathways that do not leave room for grass between stones.

Step 3: Shape the Stones

Once the stones are in place, you can either leave them as is for a more rustic finish, or you can carefully shape the stones to make them more geometric. To do this, you will need to get your mason’s chipping hammer and your protective eyewear. Then, flip the stone over and carefully create a cutline using the flat part of the chipping hammer. Repeat the cut line on the top surface of the stone. With a preliminary line on both sides, you should now be able to break the stone and chip away any parts you do not want.

Step 4 (optional): Create a Border Out of Cobblestone

Depending on the style of path you chose, you may want to create a cobblestone border for your walkway. If you created the path out of pavers, a border can help keep them in place. Additionally, a border defines the pathway, adds an aesthetic touch, and prevents mulch from overgrowing onto your stone walkway.

To create the cobblestone border, you will need ample stones that are the similar in size (4” x 4” stones work great). Then you should follow these steps:

  • Dig a trench along the edges of the walkway that is about six inches wide by six inches deep.
  • Make the pre-mix cement mortar according to its instructions—but only make a small amount at a time since it will only be malleable for about 30 minutes.
  • Pour the mortar into the trench so it is about three inches deep.
  • Place each cobblestone in the mortar so that an inch or two of it is above ground level.
  • Use the rubber mallet to ensure the cobblestones are secure.
  • Check the stones with a level as you go to make sure you have a clean border.
  • Put some additional mortar along the outside edges of the stones and below the path’s surface for a more solid finish.
New stone walkway

New stone walkway

Step 5: Perform the Finishing Touches

At this point, your stone pathway is looking almost finished, and you are likely thrilled with the newfound function in your yard. However, you still have a few steps left:

Fill in Gaps with Sod

Inspect your stone pathway and see if there are any gaps between the stones and/or surrounding grass that need to be filled in. Use the removed sod from step two to fill in these empty spaces so that the grass will grow back fully.

Test It Out

Before you declare your stone pathway complete, perform one last test and walk along the full length of the pathway. Does everything seem solid? Are the stones even with each other and with the ground? Are you happy with how the pathway looks? If not, now is the time to make changes before all of your supplies are put away.

Clean Up

Rake or pick up any remnants of the job, but make sure you don’t disrupt any of your stonework. You will also want to rinse off the stones with a garden hose to remove all the debris that your project caused. And then take the garden hose over the grass to help it resettle.

Congratulations on a job well done. It is okay to begin using your pathway right away, but allow a few days for the grass to grow back and fully complete its appearance. While laying your own stone pathway does take some careful calculation and some technical methods, every time you stroll over it, you will be glad you invested the time—time that will pay you back year after year in the form of a welcoming, functional stone walkway.

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