Backyard inspo: How to pave your own flagstone walkway

The road to impressing your friends is paved with flagstones you laid yourself. Seriously. Nevermind good intentions, this is all about good innovation. Sort of.

Summer is beckoning us to her bosom with lazy drawn-out afternoons in the sun. And since we’re all going to be spending a lot more time looking at our humble abodes, we might as well have a crack at jazzing it up a bit, right?

Flagstone walkways are the sort of walkways that can transport you to anywhere in the world, depending on how you lay them out. Want to add a little bit of Italy to your house? Choose the terracotta shade of stone. Is Paris more your vibe? Look for darker stones.

Fun fact: flagstone isn’t a type of rock – it’s simply a flat slab of stone that is used for paving. Every day is a school day.

Now, if laying down stones and digging trenches doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, you just carry on doing your thing. But hear us out: it’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds and there are few things as rewarding as some manual labour which you can admire and remind everyone you built yourself. And it’ll burn a shed-load of calories, so you are winning on all fronts here.

It’s also a useful way to upcycle furniture parts, especially old fabric.

So, if you’re down for paving your own flagstone walkway one lovely summer afternoon, here’s how to do it.

Paving the way: What you’ll need

garden diy paving stone what you'll need

These are the bare essentials you’ll need to get your pave your own walkway. This is a no-cement walkway, so you don’t need much.

  • Paving stones (obviously)
  • Shovel/garden spade
  • Gravel or sand filler
  • Gin (optional)

Unless you’ve been around the block and laid your own walkway before (why are you reading this?), it’s a good idea to start with pre-cut stones. If you’re looking for a challenge, you can go all out and chisel the rocks yourself. Use a masonry drill bit to mark holes in the stones for cutting. Then use a hammer and chisel to break off the unwanted bits. But for goodness sake, just be careful, will ya? Definitely do not do this after the optional gin consumption. And we take no responsibility for something you read on the internet going awry.

Walk the line

But not after the gin. We’re going to take it that you know where this walkway is going to go. If not, this is the part where you decide.

Using a shovel, roughly mark out the area and the intended shape of your walkway. You can also stick some markers into the soil as a guide. You can also use broken pieces of brick to steady the shape.

Once you are satisfied with the shape, it's time to get digging. Excavate (oooh, fancy) about 10cm or so (depending on the thickness of your stones). Level the surface as best you can. but don't obsess over it. 

Add edging around the...erm... yeah the edges of the excavated walkway to help secure the shape a bit better. This is not a do-or-die step, but it’s worth doing, especially for larger walkways through a garden where there is a risk of roots getting tangled up in your path.

Next, cover the surface you levelled so nicely earlier with some fabric. This is a great way to upcycle some old linen, curtains, throw pillows or heck, strip an old chair before you reupholster it. This will mitigate some of the risk of weeds creeping through the cracks. It’s not absolutely essential to lay down the fabric. If you’d rather edge closer to the optional gin, you can skip this step.

With the fabric in place, cover it with a thin layer of sand or soil (the stuff you excavated is fine). And we mean thin – you’re not trying to add everything you took out back in. That would either defeat the purpose of that entire step or make us very sadistic people – and we’re certainly not the latter. We’re conscious homies, yo.

Once this fabric-meets-sand marriage resembles something magnificently dull or the worst sandpit ever, it’s time to lay the stones. This is the fun bit. Get ready for some heavy lifting.

Like most things in life, there are two sides to a stone's story. Often, one side of the slab will be utterly drab. Spend some time assessing to see which looks more appealing. And don't worry if the slabs aren't all the same size. In fact, some people encourage diversity. Leave two inches or less between the slabs, but do wiggle them into the sand below nice and snug.

Once you’ve paved the way, it’s time to fill the gaps. There are a few options here. You could simply add soil or sand between the paving stones of your homemade walkway. You could also use tiny bits of gravel. Decorative landscape rocks are another popular option.

diy walkway garden path

If the walkway in question will have small humans running across it, watch out for jagged stone edges sticking out. While the decorative rocks are a good option if you have larger stones, small humans have small legs  - meaning their stride puts them at a higher risk of jabbing their foot into something sharp.

Now all that’s left to do is to sit back and admire your handiwork. And pour that optional gin.. if you haven’t already.

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