How To Lay Bluestone Tiles Outdoors

Bluestone tile is a beautiful, natural choice from which to build an outdoor walkway or patio. Although bluestone comes with basic straight edges, you can make your walkway or patio more interesting by snapping or breaking the stone so the edges are not symmetrical. Once you determine how much bluestone you need, it’s time to get to work.

Spend some time laying out and breaking the bluestone the way you would like it to look when your patio or walkway is finished. Once you have all of the pieces placed, number them with chalk. Take a digital picture of the numbered pieces of bluestone while they are still in the correct places to refer to when you reassemble your patio puzzle. You are now ready to begin preparing your site.

How well you complete excavation and preparation of the site will determine the final quality and durability of your bluestone tile project, so take your time. If you are installing a patio, it is important that it slope away from the house so that runoff does not end up in your basement. Grade your site to slope about 1/8” per foot. Use a mason’s line to keep the proper slope so you know where and how deeply to dig. The depth of your site will vary depending on the type of soil, but as a rule you need to make sure you dig down at least six inches.

Next, dig out the top layer of dirt from within the outline of the patio. Dig far enough down so that the topsoil layer changes to lighter brown or tan of the soil below, usually 6-12”.

Set the stakes every two feet along the graded mason’s line. Make a mark on the stake where it meets the ground so you can easily replace it if it falls over. Put a notch in the stake to hold the cross strings you will be adding. Run cross strings to make a grid at the height of the mason’s line, checking the depth of the site and make adjustments as you go until the excavation site is level.

Put in 3” of  paver base, lightly sprinkle with water to keep the dust down, then hand-tamp to compact the base. Make sure you preserve the grade that you established earlier. Continue adding paver base, tamping down 3”  of base at a time, until you are 2-1/2” below the height that you want for your finished patio.

Next, add 1” of leveling sand over the base and smooth it over the entire base with a rake until the site is 1-1/2” below the height the finished patio will be. Again, make sure you follow the grade of the site.

It’s time to set the stones. Using your digital pictures as a guide, place the numbered stones onto the leveling sand according to the pattern. Work one row at a time, placing the larger pieces of bluestone first. Take note that each stone is level and flush with its neighbor in order to avoid a tripping hazard. To set the stone, strike with a rubber mallet. Do not walk on your project until all of the bluestone has been set.

Then, fill in the joints. Wet the entire project down with water to help hold the tiles in place. Use a garden shovel to remove excess sand between each stone and replace with a small amount of the dirt you excavated previously. Sweep your project with a push broom to remove any leftover sand, dirt and debris. Using moss (or another plant that will tolerate being walked on), dip a piece into a bucket of water and then press the moss into the joint between the bluestone. Continue until each joint is filled.


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