Natural stone is sought after for its durability, beauty and versatility in any landscape. Here are six backyard uses for natural stone:
Stone is a great choice for both informal paths and more formal walkways. There’s a great variety of designs for a stone walkway. The homeowner can use precisely cut flagstones or flagstones that are randomly cut with moss allowed to grow between them. The stone can also be cut into brick sized pavers that can line a walkway that’s been laid with gravel.
Freestanding Stone Walls
Stone walls not only delineate the property but can serve as boundaries between different areas of the property itself. They can be very rough and rustic looking and made of field rubble or they can be utterly formal. They can also be mortared or dry-laid. One interesting use of a freestanding stone wall is to turn it into its own planting bed. Simply put the right type of soil in the space between the two vertical sections of the wall instead of rubble. Put landscape fabric between the soil and the stones that make up the wall to hold the soil in place.
These walls, which hold back volumes of earth to create terraces and create raised garden beds, are admittedly challenging to build. But if they’re built properly, they’re very esthetically pleasing. Like regular walls, stone retaining walls can either be mortared or dry-laid. Though this isn’t so much a problem in dry-laid walls, mortared walls need to be built with weep holes to allow water to escape. Also, a retaining wall that’s over three or four feet tall should be built by a professional. In some places, local building codes mandate that a tall retaining wall be built by a professional.
Some property owners add steps to their landscape simply because they’re of esthetic value and not because there’s such a steep slope on the grounds that they’re necessary. The one thing to know about steps is that the relationship between the tread, which is what a person stands on and the rise, which is the distance from the top of one tread to the top of the next tread, needs to be consistent. If it’s not, people can stumble. With exterior steps, landscape specialists believe that the length of one tread combined with the length of two risers should be between 25 and 27 inches. Like walls, steps can set one area of the landscape off from another. Indeed, there’s no reason why stone steps can’t be set into a stone wall.
Stepping stones in a shallow pool can be a continuation of a walkway or their own feature in the landscape. The best stones to use for stepping stones are boulders and stacked, mortared fieldstone. They should be big enough and spaced close enough to make walking on them comfortable. Experts recommend that the length between the stones be between 12 and 15 inches.
Of course, stepping stones set in water need to be absolutely stable. Large stones with flat bottoms can be set right on the bottom of the pool if it’s shallow. If they still wobble, it will be necessary to embed them in a concrete support. If there’s a liner in the pool, the homeowner will need to be careful not to puncture it. The concrete support may have to be set under the liner to hold a very large stepping stone. For very deep water, a pier will need to be built for each stone. These will also need a footing of poured concrete.
If the homeowner plans ahead and has all the necessary tools and materials on hand, building a stone patio isn’t that hard. One good thing about a patio is that several contrasting types of stone can be used. Slate can be used for the pavement, granite with slate caps can be used for the walls and travertine can be used for the steps. A rough hewn boulder made of granite can even provide a place to sit.
There are so many things to do with natural stone in the backyard, and doing them is easier than a lot of people think.