How to Lay Patio Stones

Beth Asaff
Stone patio

A natural stone patio has a variation and appearance that can enhance any home's exterior. From widely colored slate tiles to tried-and-true bluestone pavers, install your new stone patio in about a weekend.

Types of Patio Stones

Not all stone tiles are created equally. Materials used for outdoor use will differ from those installed inside. Why? Pavers exposed to the elements need to be thicker, less prone to frost heaves and generally have to withstand the climate you live in.

While nearly any natural stone paver can be used in warmer climates, those who live in frost prone areas will need to take care with material selection. Materials that can be installed anywhere include:

  • Slate tiles
  • Bluestone tiles
  • Sandstone tiles
  • Quartzite pavers
  • Flagstone

Materials that should only be installed in warmer climates include:

  • Limestone pavers
  • Travertine pavers

No matter what material you choose, make sure that it is rated for outdoor use and that it comes in a size you can handle either on your own or with moderate help. Some bluestone pavers weigh more than 100 pounds apiece; if you are installing your stone patio yourself, opt for smaller pavers to help move the job along more easily.

Laying Patio Stones

It may be tempting to think of simply marking off the area you want your new pavers to lay and placing them down, but the fact of the matter is that your patio requires a few things.

  • A 1/8-inch per foot slope away from your home to help drain
  • A crushed stone bed to help prevent weeds and insects from coming up between the pavers
  • A 6 to 12-inch deep bed to level and support your new patio and keep your pavers in place.
Loose bluestone pavers

Materials and Supplies

  • Patio stones
  • Shovel
  • Plate compactor
  • A blend of 3/4-inch crushed stone and stone dust - enough to fill 6 to 12-inches deep in the base of the patio
  • Tile saw
  • Level
  • Measuring tape
  • 4 stakes
  • Rope or twine
  • Trowel
  • Broom
  • Hose

Excavating the Area

Excavating the area
  1. Mark off the area to be excavated by driving stakes into the corners of the plot. Tie rope or twine around the area to mark its edge.
  2. Dig down 6 to 12 inches in the area closest to the house. Use 12-inches for dirt yards and 6-inches for sand based yards.
  3. Measure the length of the area from the side closest to the house to the farthest edge of the patio. Add 1/8-inch of depth for every foot of patio to create a gentle slope away from the home to allow water to drain.
  4. Dig around the perimeter first, then excavate the center, checking your measurements frequently to ensure the correct slope.
  5. Fill the base with two to four 3-inch layers of crushed stone and dust. Compact each layer with the plate compactor until it is smooth.

Laying the Stone

Laying bluestone pavers
  1. Lay out a few stones on the grass nearby to determine the pattern you want and how the stones will piece together. Aim to have a joint between the tiles of 3/8 to 1/2-inch. Do not butt the tiles against one another.
  2. Trowel on a wet layer of crushed stone and dust approximately 1/2-inch thick. Smooth the layer out and lay a level on top to check to make sure the patio stays even.
  3. Twist and press the pavers into the wet stone dust and place one at a time.
  4. Place the level on the pavers every few feet and add more or less wet stone to the bed to keep the pavers level.
  5. Cut the pavers to fit the edges on a tile wet saw. Double check their measurements before each cut and place the cut edge out against the grass.

Finishing the Patio

  1. Allow the stones to sit overnight.
  2. Use a broom to brush a layer of crushed stone and dust over the stones. The loose dust and smaller particles of stone will fill the joints between the stones.
  3. Wet the patio down with a hose. When the dust between the pavers dries, it will be compact and hold the pavers in place.

Take Your Time

This project will take the better part of a weekend. Take your time and double check your measurements and level at each step. Practice laying the pavers in the pattern you want before you set them in the mud for the best results. In just a few days, you'll be enjoying your new stone patio.

How to Lay Patio Stones