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Create a Flagstone Patio and Stone Bench

These simple steps help transform a boring brick patio into a casual and welcoming outdoor space.

Homeowners Warren Wong and Sean Flanagan have a backyard that includes a brick patio and dining table (figure A), but they want to create more usable space and seating, with a more casual feel.

Figure B

The First Meeting

Landscape designer Susie Dowd Markarian recommends removing some rose bushes and gravel to create more space and building a seating area with a flagstone wall seat and patio in the corner of the yard. These changes will make the space appear larger and more inviting. The flagstone area will have a 10- to 12-foot curved stone wall with cushions for extra seating, plus low-maintenance plants to dress up the area.

Figure B shows the plan. Contractor Fred Norgaard estimates that it will take a couple of days to complete the project. The materials cost about $1,200.

Figure C

Day One

The flagstone for the seating area is delivered, but the stone for the wall is delayed. So, Fred, his assistant Ralph Manly and landscape installer Fernando Ballarena start clearing and leveling the site. Susie uses rope to mark the area where the curved stone wall will go.

With his graphic design background, Sean directs the placement of the flagstone, fitting the slabs together like a huge jigsaw puzzle (figure C). The flattest, most attractive sides face up.

Figure D

To make some pieces fit better, the crew chisels off edges and corners of the stone as needed. They also lay out a simple flagstone path between the house and existing brick patio.

Susie chooses mostly grasses and foliage plants, rather than blooming plants, because they require less care. Some of the plants are dormant but will fill in well within a few months. The plants include flax (figure D), lavender along the fence and Irish moss for the flagstone path.

Figure E

Day Two

The stone wall bench in the corner of the yard will serve as a retaining wall for more plants and as a seating area. A trench is dug where the wall will go, then damp, compact sand is added to create a level bed for the stones. Fred lines the edges of the trench with rectangular stones, spreads a thick mortar on top of the first layer and stacks more stones on top. The mortar makes the stone wall more sturdy than a simple stacked stone wall.

After stacking more rows of stones to seating height and making sure that the top is level, Fred chooses flagstone slabs and chisels them to the right size and shape for the wall cap. The cap pieces are mortared in place (figure E).

Figure G

After the mortar dries, bright yellow cushions complete the wall seat, and colorful pots of plants are arranged around the seating area. A copper fountain in the corner behind the wall and Italian ceramic wall pockets of flowers add more color and style. A simple flagstone path leads from the house to the brick patio.

Paul presents a colorful Italian planter to Sean and Warren, who are delighted with their new seating area and landscaping.

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