Thursday, August 5, 2010

Building stone paths with a purpose

There's nothing more frustrating to me than walking along a perfectly lovely stone path that goes nowhere (we've all had those relationships, right?). Or worse, a path that makes you walk out of your way to get from point a to point b (I've definitely had those relationships). The first thing you ought to do before you go to the rock yard and muse over all those lovely paving stones is to decide where your "natural" walking paths are in your yard. And by this I mean simply, watch how you walk to the shed and then return to the back door and notice the worn areas in the grass or soil. You probably aren't looping around the birdbath, taking a detour towards the large cedar tree and then backing up into the hedge. Or maybe you are. My point is to build the path where you walk, not where you think you ought to walk.

Second, make the walk comfortable underfoot. If you build up too high and use clunky, jagged pavers it'll feel like you're hiking on the moon. Make it level and use the flattest stones you can find and use large enough pavers so that they don't wobble after you've sunk them.

Third, you may not want to go crazy using all kinds of materials in your path. When I first started building stone paths I thought it would be cool to use many different varieties and colors of stone. Now think about if you dressed this way. Keep it simple and elegant-one or two types of stone will do.

The photo up top is a path I built from very large, very heavy basalt pavers. You can use smaller ones especially for a path that isn't used every day. Before the moss filled in the cracks I poured pea gravel around them to even out the path and make it more walkable. The landscapers blow a lot around here and so the pavers are riding a little high now.

The photo below is a fun easy path I built from cheapo Home depot blocks. It's a heavily used walkway and I needed something flatter than basalt pavers. To break up the monotony and to create a curve I used a couple round pavers interspersed with the blocks. All I used for this path was sand, the existing clay soil, my hori hori, a rubber mallet, water and lots of patience.

Here's a good how to link:

Note: I don't use landscape fabric for any projects. I hate it and I think it's a waste of time. The weeds just grow on it or through it and after awhile it starts to show-I'd rather look at weeds.

Also, the Sunset books are a good source for basic landscaping procedures-


  1. Yes, uneven paving stones can be a real pain to walk on. I've grown to regret my paving choices over time. I didn't realize when I built the patio how often I would come home from work in heels, head straight outside with the dogs, and end up with scuffed shoes from sinking between the cracks of the paving stones. When I have the time/money to do it over again, I'll be using flat stones that fit together nice and snug. It seems the rule is, I always have to re-do my hardscaping at least once before getting it right.

  2. it takes a few tries! my first paths were redos for sure. A common mistake is placing them too far from each other so that instead of walking your playing hopscotch!