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Newbie Flagstone Install ?'s

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by tyler_mott85, Apr 6, 2009.

  1. tyler_mott85

    tyler_mott85 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 582

    Hey all, I've had minor experience with hardscaping. Mostly two run retaining walls and small walks. Not a patio install necessarily.

    I got a call from a lady that was wanting a bid on a flagstone patio in her back yard. I told her I would look at it and see if it's anything I could handle. I get there today and of course its not what I was expecting. I was expecting a smaller patio with lots of grading. What I got was a large patio with very little grading at all. I think I'd rather have a large patio install than lots of grading but I still have questions.

    The land has positive grade everywhere except a few places. I will not have to bring in dirt to fix these just move some dirt around and help with a little extra paver base.

    Here is where the Newbie questions come in so please bare with me.

    My measurements bring the total patio into the 1300 sq ft range. She is wanting an irregular pattern. Which is probably what I want for my first big job, if I bid on it.

    Let me get this straight and help me if I stray off course in my thinking. First I need to do final touches to the grading.

    Set out my strings with correct gradings so I know how thick my base rock is? I know that ideally 4" base is nominal for this kind of stuff but could you get away with less in certain areas? I understand that would be cutting corners but I'm just asking because I'm a newbie. Not because I'm going to.

    After I get my base rock spread use a vibrating compactor to get it all set. If I want 4" base how much loose should i put down to get 4" when it's compacted? 5"? 6"?

    After the base rock I need to put down about 1" sand correct? Any sand or specific sand? I always remember watching HomeTime as a kid and they use copper pipe on top of the base rock and use 2x4's to scrape the sand to the proper thickness. Is that an adequate technique?

    Do I need to compact the sand or leave it loose?

    Set the stones in place.

    Do I need to compact the stones afterwards? I have big concerns about using the big vibrator to vibrate natural stone that has a rougher surface compared to pavers. Please help me with that issue.

    Then I was planning on Polymeric Sand for the joints and seams.

    If that is a sound reasonable plan let me know.

    Here is more newbie questions. I have no idea how long this will take! Well I have an idea, but of course I would like as much opinion as I can get. Here's the scenario in my head.

    All materials will be delivered on site but will need to be wheel-barrowed into the back yard where the patio is. Only 4 ft gates so a skidloader is out of the question. I thought about a dingo but I figured I'd just save the rental fee and use my young, strong back to move this stuff. Here's the time schedule I've come up with.

    Day 1: Final grading, placing edging for the borders of the patio, placing strings to pitch so I have something to measure off of the next day. Lay down Geo-Net.

    Day 2: Nothing but spreading Base Rock (what is the technical name that a quarry would use? I just know it as paver base) and tamping.

    Day 3: Base sand and begin laying rock.

    Day 4: Finish laying rock

    Day 5: Polymeric Sand and clean-up.

    Is this reasonable for this size of a project and one guy doing it? I have a buddy that is more than willing to help out a couple days so I was going to bid it at 56 man hours?

    Which leads me to another newbie hours. How many man hours should it take with wheel-barrows and stakes and strings and shovels?

    Double check me on my materials too:

    16 Cu yd's of base rock

    4 Cu yds of sand

    3 pallets of the stone? I believe they're about 500 sqft in a pallet? I could DEFINITELY be wrong on this one.

    And the one big question I have is how much Polymeric sand? Like a whole pallet?

    She said the rock she found would cost her about $1500 for three pallets. She got one bid from a company in town for $16,000 including the flagstone. She thought that was way way too high? What do you all charge per sq ft for installation on a situation like this? Proper grading but all hand wheeled.

    Thanks for any help or observations.

    *braces for impact*
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2009
  2. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,602

    if you're doin flagstone - the stone sets on a stone base, not a sand bed. but you can use poly sand between the joints.
  3. CALandscapes

    CALandscapes LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 946

    16 cu. yds. of stone is a lot for a guy to move with a shovel and wheelbarrow. By bidding in the Dingo rental you'll be saving the client money via less man-hours.

    Just a thought.
  4. Bru75

    Bru75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 582

    Put down the base in 2" lifts and compact each lift until you get to the desired grade. The base material has different names, here it is called 21-A or crusher run.
    Do not use a compactor on flagstone, use a rubber mallet.
    1300s.f. random flagstone is a lot to lay in two days for one guy. Assuming an eight hour day with no breaks that is 81.25 s.f. per hour. Remember that you will have to search through the stones and trim them as needed before laying.
    Coverage varies between stone types, check with the supplier. I believe a one ton pallet of 1" bluestone will cover only about 100 s.f.
    The polysand should have the average coverage per bag printed on it. Again, check with the supplier.
    Be really careful with this, the $16,000 guy might not be too far off, especailly with the limited access.
    Good luck with it.
  5. GreenLight

    GreenLight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 525

    You will definitely be nowhere near the 500 sq.ft per pallet range. In fact, if you use a 2 inch flagstone you could easily range anywhere from as little as 70 square feet to 110 square feet, depending on your supplier and the possibility that they might have two ton pallets.

    You are more than likely looking at ten+ pallets of stone. My suggestion, do you know any skilled labor in masonry? That's a big job and many times hispanic labor has good masonry skills and you will come out really happy paying two skilled guys $120 bucks each per day as opposed to trying to do it yourself. Just my opinion, good luck.
  6. denver 2

    denver 2 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 35

    I believe you are getting over your head on this one. You will have over 13 pallets of stone, and will only average around 100 sq. ft. per day laying stone.
    Flagstone does not lay quickly like a uniform material like pavers. Each stone will be different thickness and require setting two or three times with mallet work setting stone. It takes time fitting stones together to achieve tight joints so that polomeric sand can be effective. The quote she was given was a good price if they do good work. I would suggest you sub out to experienced stone masons or walk away.
  7. Fine Spray

    Fine Spray LawnSite Member
    from DFW
    Messages: 17

    These Guys are right. If you have no experience with a job of this scale, Walk away. Natural stone takes a heck of alot of skill! :wall
  8. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,602

    when we set dryset flagstone, we have one guy that lays the stone, and another guy comes behind him and levels, aligns, and makes sure all the joints are as consistant as possible. Yep, leveling and spacing takes time and patience!

  9. Hollowellreid

    Hollowellreid LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 306

    One of our crews of 3 will set, level, finish, clean up, etc a 500+ sq. foot bluestone patio in one day. This includes mostly all joints cut (0-.75" gaps).

    It is a LONG day. Most of the materials are delivered and setup beforehand.

    Laying any sort of natural stone is backbreaking labor. Do as much of it as you can with a machine. Even if you figure it's a bit more expensive, it's worth every penny from a morale standpoint.

    We usually figure about 25% plus will be scrap. No one wants the little, uneven pieces. It looks really poor.

    I would think the materials only for that job would be 5 or 6 grand alone.

    I would take out a post at the gate, open up the fence, go in and take care of business.

    I think 16K is about right, dependent on the clean up/finishing after the patio is put in. Maybe even low. In all reality, that is about what we would like to charge for pavers. I'd like to see closer to 18-$20 sq/ft for bluestone but there is some economy of scale with a patio that large.

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