Consider hardscape wisely when landscaping

Part of creating a beautiful outdoor space or landscape relies upon the selection of a proper hardscape material suitable for walking upon that can punctuate and define the outdoor living spaces.
As a designer and installer, a good contractor or architect must always be considerate of the client’s budget as well as to create a look that compliments the existing home. Many times, too many different elements are incorporated in the hardscape creating a “busy look,” taking away from the calmness of the patio or living space.
The materials themselves can often define their usage in a design. Natural flagstone or tile can come in many packages. Sedimentary stone, usually lake bottom cut into slices and gauged into tiles, is often very colorful and beautiful to look at. Unfortunately this kind of material, such as slate, is not very hard and will not hold up to the constant effects of moisture or water.
This type of stone is much better suited for the indoor flooring of a home than an outside patio. Another problem with dark stone or colorful stone is the tendency for these materials to become very hot in the midday summer sun. Roasting bare feet running around the outside of the pool suffer from dark materials and like most things that get hot and then cool, the subsequent expansion and contraction play havoc with the grout lines and joints between the materials leaving cracks and missing grout after a very short time period.
A good trick to employ when joining different hardscape materials together is to leave the ensuing grout joint open between the different materials and fill it with a fine playground sand leaving about a quarter inch unfilled at the top of the joint. This area is then filled with an elastomeric rubber-like material that will flow and flatten out upon install and become a durable elastic grout joint within a few hours. I like to let it set for a while and then drop more sand on top of the elastomeric joint before it hardens completely to create a natural looking sandy grey grout. It also helps the new joint dry a little faster.
Some igneous rock commonly used for pool tile is so dense and hard that water cannot permeate it making water deposits and minerals easier to remove. A few of my favorites to use are in the family of quartzites, Autumn Gold, Sunset Gold and other variations on a name. I also enjoy Three Rivers Rock, renowned not only for its beauty but its unparalleled hardness and weight.
Unfortunately, along with the incredible durability that accompanies the density of these stones comes a great difficulty in cutting and sizing this material for use in the hardscape. Diamond rotary blades are expensive and you can literally burn them up very quickly while trying to cut flagstone in this capacity. A good trick is to use these same materials because of their hardness but also to select thinner tiles or pieces so that the saw blade being used won’t burn out so quickly.
Another way to create a natural looking pathway at low expense is to buy a pallet of medium density flagstone such as Arizona Chocolate or Rosa and select pieces that can be laid directly down as a stepping stone. If the stone is too large, it can be scored or cut on one side and then broken with a chisel to fit leaving a natural break along the edge.
I usually like to compact the soils in the pathway area with a slight grade change to accommodate the water run-off during inclement periods.
We then take a bag of ready mix concrete and after mixing it up relatively dry, we create a base 1 to 2 inches thick for the flagstone to lie upon.
This creates a very cool floating flagstone look because it is higher above the existing grade than it would be naturally and has now become very stable and twice as heavy. This also prevents flagstone from breaking and sinking into the soils were water can pool on it. Water can ruin the functionality and the beauty of a flagstone path without a base.

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