Hardscape Design Ideas

How to Create a Brick and Flagstone Terrace

Mixing flagstone and brick to build a beautiful, unique pathway and terrace.

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Figure J

Flagstone and brick are two of the most popular materials used in landscaping these days. If you're having trouble deciding between them, this project will end the debate. Host Ken Bastida shows how to mix flagstone and brick to build a beautiful, unique pathway and terrace. This technique is perfect for a patio, walkway or any area where you want to add a little character.

Figure A

Homeowner Aja Gianola-Bland has done a lot of work in her backyard, but her front yard needs more attention (figure A). The brick terrace in her steep front yard is old and falling apart, and she wants to replace it with something artsy and eclectic but can't decide between flagstone and brick.

Why not use both? Landscape designer Molly Henricks designs a curving brick path leading to the stairs that go to the front door, flanked by a flagstone terrace with a simple pebble border between them. She says that these materials work well together and can add personality and drama to a front entryway.

Molly estimates that a professional would charge $1,900 for labor and materials (excluding the cost of plants) to transform this front yard, but do-it-yourselfers can buy the materials for only $350. By recycling the old bricks, she saves an additional $80. She gives this project a 2 on a scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (difficult) and says it can be completed in one weekend, with the help of friend to carry the bricks and flagstone slabs.

Figure B

Step One: Preparing the Site

The crew begins by removing planters and a retaining wall to allow access to the brick. They dislodge each brick with a small shovel or chisel, taking care not to crack or chip them. Then they break up the soil underneath to remove any stones and rake the area smooth.

Roughly mark off the path (with a chisel or stick). The path in this project is 2 feet wide by 12 feet long. Use a tape measurer to define the width and spray paint the outline of the path.

Use flexible, plastic, snap-edge sections (about $14 for 8-foot pieces at home supply stores). Lay out the edging with the straight side facing inward. Hammer in 10-inch galvanized spikes to hold the edging in place (figure B).

Figure C

Step Two: Placing the Bricks

Contractor Joe Delgado reuses the existing terrace bricks because their rustic condition (figure C) ties in with the woodsy yard and gives the pathway more character than new bricks would. You can purchase authentic used bricks for about 72 cents each; new "rustic" bricks that are tumbled to look aged for 65 cents each; or common red bricks for 55 cents each.

Figure E

Instead of mortaring bricks in place, set them in sand, which is much easier and quicker. Start by filling in between the edging with road base (available for about $3.50/sack) and rake it level. Pack down the gravel with a vibratory plate compacter (figure D), available to rent for $50/day. Then add 2 inches of concrete sand ($3/bag) and pack it down by foot or by standing on a scrap piece of wood (figure E).

Figure G

Arrange the bricks on the path, working in small sections and checking the level as you go. Use a rubber mallet to tap them into place, up against each other. Brush some sand into the crevices between the bricks. Lay out a pattern, such as herringbone, basket weave, or random (as in this project).

Once all the bricks are laid, sweep some more sand over the path to fill in any remaining crevices (figure G).

Figure H

Step Three: Laying Out the Flagstone

Joe chose Arizona flagstone, rosa color, which cost $140 for 880 pounds for this project.

Before laying out the flagstone, pour and rake out a couple of inches of road base and then a thin layer of sand. Mark out a border along the path to indicate where the flagstone will stop — that space will be filled with pebbles later.

Working in small sections, place the larger pieces of flagstone and tap them in place with the rubber mallet so they won't wobble. Pack sand around the edges to secure the flagstones. Also use the mallet to break slabs into the sizes or shapes you need (figure H).

Figure I

Don't try to smooth out the edges — rough edges are what give flagstone its character. If you plan to add groundcover later, leave a couple of inches between stones. Figure I shows the flagstones in place.

Molly picked black Mexican pebbles for the border between the brick path and flagstone terrace. She uses three bags for this project at a cost of $10/bag. The dark coloring contrasts well between the reddish bricks and rosa flagstone. There are many varieties available — use whatever looks best in your design. Simply lay out a single layer of the pebble in the gap.

After the pebbles are in place, Molly plants groundcover in the gaps between flagstones. To complete the project, she places a bench and containers on the terrace to give it a welcoming feel.

Planting: A Garden Terrace

Molly says that because the terrace and pathway are part of the entryway to the house, they need more color to make them welcoming. She incorporates greenery between the flagstone and bricks to soften the edges, colorful containers of woodland plants on the terrace and flowering vines on the fence. Groundcover in the gaps between the flagstone make the terrace look like it has been part of the garden for a long time. Her landscape design includes:

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Ever Red'), Zones 6-8, features a classic, graceful form and colorful leaves year-round.
Bacopa 'White Lace' (Sutera hybrida), Zones 9-10, thrives in woodsy, partially shaded settings.
Baby tears (Soleirolia soleirolii), Zones 10-11, is planted between the flagstones.

The front entryway has much more personality thanks to the combination of materials on the terrace and path. The aged look of recycled brick ties in with the woodsy setting and provides a well-defined path to the front door. The black pebble border adds a dramatic punch. And containers overflowing with flowers and foliage make the entry colorful and inviting.

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