Building a Path of Natural Stone
Constructing Garden Pathways
Building a good looking garden pathway is a low-tech project. It requires few tools and just a moderate level of skill. The biggest challenge I find, is that of planning. In other words, if you are just creating your garden and you get your pathways wrong, you may have a clumsy setup once you are finished.
Get Some Graph Paper
You can often buy a large piece of 1/4 inch graph paper from an office supply or artist supply store. Use this to create a scale plan of your building lot or your garden area. Accurately measure major landmarks such as trees, garages, playsets, etc. and site them on the plan. The blank area that remains is now yours to play with.
Visit a local garden or zoo or some other place that has garden paths. Note how they have gentle curves. Look at the spacing of the paths and how close they come to objects. Take your time and begin drawing the path or pathways on your plan. Be sure you make them the correct width on the plan. A 2 foot wide path is great for one person, while a 42 to 48 inch wide path is what you need for two people walking side by side.
Get Your Materials
You will need to get your stone and the leveling base that goes beneath the stone. Get your tools at the same time. All you need will be different shovels, a wheelbarrow and possibly a rock hammer and chisel.
Decide On Your Look
Are you going to do a sidewalk type path that has solid paving or are you just going to do stepping stones? The stepping stone approach is definitely the easiest way to go. It also looks very natural. An avid gardener will often plant small plants in between the stones for a very woods-like appearance.
The Solid Path
The chore of digging is made infinitely easier with a round point shovel. This type of shovel is made to slice into dirt. The tip of the shovel looks a little like the spade design on a deck of cards.
How much dirt should you remove? Since the pathway will not have any other traffic than foot traffic, you just need to remove the thickness of the stone you are installing plus 2 inches. The two inch space will be filled with small crushed gravel or coarse sand. These materials are basically self-compacting and allow you to adjust the height of the stones with relative ease.
The self compacting quality of these materials should not be underestimated. If you simply put your stones on the earth, your walkway stones may develop a troublesome tilt after a few months.
The stone you decide to use is rarely consistent in thickness. For this reason you need to adjust the amount of sand and/or gravel fill on a stone-by-stone basis.
Some - well actually most - stones are a bear to trim. Simply striking them with a hammer is not the way to go. A cold chisel and a solid surface under the points of the stone you are striking will often yield satisfactory results. Flagstone installers have a snapper type tool that allows them to trim thinner stones quite accurately. The snapper is sort of like a big vise that bites down on the edges of the thin stones.
It is always better to trim off small amounts at a time. Don't try to crack off large chunks at once. If you do, you will end up with many small unusable pieces.
Trim stones by drawing the line you intend to cut. Tap along the line moving the chisel with each moderate strike of the hammer.