Why We Love Flagstone (And You Should Too!)
Flagstone - A Stone To Last The Ages
We are huge fans of flagstone, and not just for paths and patios (though we love using flagstone there as well!). Flagstone also works well for creating seating areas, walls, and stone features. Since we are such admirers of this stone, and use it frequently in our Marin County and Bay Area projects, it seemed like a great idea to share with you the amazing advantages of flagstone.
So, You Want To Know The Benefits of Flagstone?
The Amazing Impervious Stone
Flagstone has a very low absorption rate, which is great for one primary reason - it is very unlikely to crack! While here in the Bay we have pretty mild weather (got to love that Mediterranean climate), we do get our fair share of freeze/thaw cycles. During one of these cycles, a stone that absorbs water will expand when the water freezes, and the pressure will cause cracks in the stone. Not only is that unattractive, but can also mean that you may need to replace pieces of the stone more frequently. Choosing flagstone can help you avoid this headache.
Flagstone has natural undulations and a slightly rough surface, so it does not become slippery while wet. Walkways with solid footing during raining seasons are a wonderful thing, but around pool areas flagstone really has a chance to shine. Not only do you get the benefit of a surface that doesn't get slippery, but it is more eye-catching than your standard poured concrete! Designers often create beach entry pools (like the one below) with flagstone for just that reason.
Beautiful, No Matter How You Cut It (Or Don't!)
You may be thinking that flagstone has a lot of good points, but that it doesn't work for you because you prefer a contemporary or modern design. No fear! You can still have all the benefits of flagstone, you just want cut flagstone for your landscape. The designs in the two images below are flagstone, but with a modern twist. On the left is a contemporary design with soft edges by Joanne Kostecky Garden Design, and on the right is a lovely modern look with a linear design by Architectural Environments.
Another way to add to the beauty and color of flagstone is with what you choose to fill with. Most flagstone that you see, including all of those above, are filled with a type of sand, grout, or something similar. If you want to add a green splash, why not consider moss? The image below, while not flagstone, can give you a feel for how it would look. If you are looking for something a little more, there are other options like the creeping variety of thyme, minus. In addition to its bright green color, it has tiny pink blooms during parts of the year.
We talked about how flagstone is a great choice for areas with freeze/thaw cycles, so you already know it is a hardy stone. But did you know a well installed flagstone patio or walkway typically lasts thirty to fifty years? Strong, slip resistant, beautiful, versatile in design, and an incredibly long life span. No wonder so many landscape contractors and architects choose flagstone for their designs.
Flagstone is Wonderful, But It Isn't Magic - Are there Disadvantages?
Yes, it's true, flagstone isn't a magic stone that just appears in our yard in a beautiful design. There are two elements you may want to keep in mind when choosing to use flagstone for your project.
Self-Installation, Is It Possible?
While you can install flagstone yourself, it is tricky. While a lighter stone (and therefore maneuverable), it is also a more delicate stone prior to placement and takes a careful touch. The placement of flagstone takes some care as well. As a natural stone, each piece has a unique shape and placing the stones is like completing a jigsaw puzzle - it takes a keen eye. Another factor of being a natural stone is that the pieces come in varying thicknesses. If you want a smooth walkway, then you must prepare the soil/sand/etc. properly. The image below may help you see the effort necessary to create a smooth walkway. This is why many will choose to hire a landscape construction firm - plus that way you can ensure it is done properly. That said, you can still find self-installed flagstone paths that look beautiful!
The Cost of Flagstone
Flagstone is not the cheapest option available when you are looking just at the price tag. We find that the stone, before installation, usually costs our clients between $10-$30 per square foot (depending on the type and color of stone desired). But when you calculate in the longevity of the stone - thirty to fifty years! - flagstone often ends up giving more bang for the buck in the long term. Cheaper options, such as stamped concrete, which can approximate the look of flagstone, often comes up in conversations and is worth considering. The detractor from the concrete option is that it typically does not last as long (more prone to freeze/thaw cycles). Also, while it does mimic natural flagstone it doesn't look exactly the same, as you can see from the images below. (Concrete Photo by SupremeCrete) However, there are definitely projects that would benefit from stamped concrete and other stones, so enjoy looking at all your options.
We hope that this information was useful for you! Definitely feel free to ask any questions that you may have about flagstone or other options. We would also love to hear from you if you have used flagstone in your designs!