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Featuring Flagstones

Happy November from Desert Rose! In this month's blog, we are review all things flagstone. Flagstone comes in all sorts of different shapes, sizes, colors, and thicknesses. Delivered on pallets, it is sold and priced based on its weight in tons. Whenever Desert Rose picks up flagstone for a job, it is loaded into our trailer using a special forklift. Once we get it to the job site it is unloaded piece by piece by 2 to 3 members of our crew. Flagstone can be pricey, but it can also create a dramatic and beautiful change to your yard. Today we will go over the main types of flagstone that we use, then we will break down the process of installing a flagstone patio.

The most common types of flagstone used by Desert Rose are Colorado Red, Arizona Buff, Buckskin, and occasionally New Mexico flagstone. Each type of flagstone varies in finish, texture, color, thickness, and durability. The durability of the flagstone gives the stone its longevity, but it also can make it extremely hard to cut. The cuts are made using a grinder with a diamond-coated blade, with each blade costing about $30 each. Several can be used throughout a project depending on how many cuts and what type of flagstone is used - ultimately the more durable the flagstone, the more blades we go through.

The most durable of all the flagstones we work with is the Colorado Red. As the name implies it is a beautiful reddish-brown colored flagstone that has a slightly rough surface (which can help prevent slipping when walking on the wet flagstone). Arizona Buff and Buckskin are a good balance of durability and are easier to work with. Arizona Buff has a more tan/light beige color to it and a smoother surface than Colorado red. Buckskin has a light brown/golden tan color and has a smooth surface as well. New Mexico flagstone is a light tan/beige with gold/rust color to it - it is very pretty and very easy to work with. New Mexico flagstone does have the tendency though to weather quickly since it is very soft sandstone. 

All flagstone has a tendency to flake off, which is known as spalling. When it rains or snows, moisture gets in between the layers of sediment and begins to slowly weaken the layers. These weakened layers eventually separate due to the water freezing and thawing between during the winter months. The softer the flagstone (i.e. New Mexico flagstone) the more likely and more often this will happen. Even something as durable as Colorado Red has a tendency to spall since it is a natural occurrence that happens to all flagstone. A heavy-duty rock sealant can help prevent this but will need to be reapplied every several years. Unfortunately, this is not a service Desert Rose provides but can be done by any homeowner or handyman.

Once you have decided what flagstone you would like, it is time to think about cutting your flagstone. Whenever flagstone is cut it leaves behind fine dust that gets everywhere and dirties absolutely everything. Always make sure you use ear, eye, and respiratory protection when cutting flagstone. Whenever we make cuts to flagstone, we hand chisel the edges to remove the straight cut that is left behind from using the grinder.  This creates an elegant look to the flagstone and makes the patios and steps look just that more beautiful.

When it comes to building a flagstone patio the prep work makes or breaks the final product. There will always be some settling and shifting of the flagstone pieces as the patio ages, but if the ground is not prepped properly it will obvious within the first year. A badly prepped flagstone patio can also present tripping hazards since the flagstone can shift dramatically, creating lips between the pieces and creating unleveled surfaces. So how do you lay flagstone properly? You want to start with the ground leveled out and tamped. The next step is to bring in the base course and spread it several inches thick, level it out, and then wet it down lightly. You are going to want to tamp it down using a jumping jack tamper or a vibration tamper, passing over the area several times to make sure the base course is nice and compacted. Once that is done you want to bring in high-quality sand and spread it over the base course. Then level out the sand and start laying your flagstone. using a large rubber mallet, hit the flagstone all over to tamp the flagstone into the sand. Make sure the flagstone is level and continue this process until the patio is completed. Once all of the pieces are laid out and leveled, fill the spaces between the cracks with sand.

Building a flagstone patio is a significant amount of labor and can also be dangerous if you do not use proper lift techniques or don’t have enough help to move the heavy flagstone. If you want a beautiful flagstone patio without all the hard work, give Desert Rose a call. We have a very experienced crew who enjoys working with hardscape material and they can turn your dream flagstone patio into a reality!


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