Building garden patios, pathways requires some thought | Column

When it comes to designing a garden patio or pathway, the choices are nearly limitless, from using spiraling paver stones to swirling flagstone giraffe patterns, it’s really up to whatever fits your style.

But there are specific rules one must heed when attempting a garden pathway: don’t skimp on the prep work. The last thing you want is a weed infested, lumpy and improperly graded pathway that winds up sending drainage water up against the foundation of your home. So you have to make sure you prepare the area well.

To that end, we’ve asked some pros about popular choices in stones, easy steps in laying down a pathway and how to save yourself from hours of frustration.

The first step in starting your garden path or home walkway is figuring out what stones you want to use. If you want a more informal or down-home look, then flagstones are the way to go. They can be the more economical route, too. In their raw, angular form, no two flagstones are alike, and that can be a real plus in creating something uniquely yours.

If you want a more formal look, then paver stones are the choice, according to Derek Lewis, co-owner of Arlington-based West Pacific Landscapes. Pavers are ideal for patios where entertaining and sitting goes on. They typically offer a more level, uniform look. But putting in pavers is more labor intensive.

“In the last four years it’s been about 50/50,” Lewis said of clients getting either flagstones or pavers for their projects. “If it’s a place where you’re going to entertain, sit and chat with friends, then pavers are the way to go. But it all depends on the homeowner.”

There are dozens of places to get stones, one nearby place with a massive inventory is American Stone at Smokey Point. American Stone uses products from 27 quarries from around the country, much of it from Idaho. The company uses 156 kinds of Idaho sandstone and quartzite with feel-good names such as, Storm Mountain, Autumn Gold or Sage Green. There’s even a New York Bluestone, which casts greys, greens and some purples.

“I like the Autumn Gold,” said Justin Losee, a sales representative at American Stone. “It has the most color, most rustic feel and blends with everything well.”

Losee said many of his customers buy the quartzite varieties because of their durability, porousness crucial to drainage — a major issue in the Northwest. Sandstone on the other hand tends to absorb more water and attract algae and moss, which is fine, Losee said, if that’s what the customer wants.

Once you get your stones, you need to get gravel and either sand or ¼-inch minus ground gravel, weed barrier and a plate compactor. Now that you have your equipment, dig the bed area you want for the path, about four inches deep throughout — and have it run deeper as the path moves further away from the home’s foundation. That way water will drain away from the home. Then lay the gravel, then the weed barrier, then sand or the ¼ inch minus ground gravel above that. Tamp it down with the plate compactor. Lastly, place the stones to your liking, filling in the grout joints with decomposed granite, sand or a mixture of sand and topsoil. It’s best to use the mixture when putting in small plants like thyme in the joints, Lewis said.

“Then you need to mist it to help it settle,” Lewis said. Spray the entire area with water so that the sand and stones and gravel can settle. Spray again after a few hours.

“When you do a flagstone patio, it’s only good as the base underneath,” Losee said. “People sometimes skimp on that prep work and that’s the most important part.”

That said, putting in a beautiful garden path leading to a nice patio of pavers could be the start of a new reputation for you as ultra gardener and lavish entertainer.

Common path-making


Drainage. Some people don’t know how important proper drainage is, in the watery state of Washington. Make sure you build a nice gravel foundation for your pathway that gets deeper as it zigzags away from the home.

Amount of supplies. People often don’t buy enough stones for their project. Lossee has seen that a lot where a path gets only partly completed before the customer has to head back to the stone supplier.

Calculating for waste. Keep in mind how much you need before you start project. Have the dimensions of your project in hand when buying supplies. Losee said he often spends time with customers talking about managing waste and buying more.

American Stone Inc.


14904 Smokey Pt. Blvd.


West Pacific Landscape

Derek Lewis



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