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Creating standout hardscapes with natural stone
By Mark Wall, CEO, Natural Paving USA, Inc.

Few would contest the beauty natural stone brings to the landscape. But, many contractors might be surprised to learn that working with natural stone pavers is comparable to working with concrete pavers. It doesn’t require a specialist stonemason or different techniques to install it.

For many, natural stone is an unparalleled building material. Natural stone is unique in that it becomes an evolving element within a project, aging over time and becoming a ‘living’ part of a property’s aesthetic.

Each piece of natural stone has a unique blend of color and tones. No 2 pieces ever appear the same. This allows for the creation of a completely unique garden, driveway or landscape with an added premium touch that makes a property truly stand out. By offering natural stone, you can achieve tailored looks for your clients that will be the envy of all the neighbors.

Contractor Ian Smith of Block Paving Specialist, said, “Working with natural stone has been great for my business. I have saved time and money using pre-cut calibrated stone. What’s more, I have also won new projects off the back of other natural stone projects I have installed. Once homeowners see the amazing hardscapes their neighbors have achieved, they want the same,” he continued.

Another great benefit of natural stone is that it retains its look over time. It’s durable and frost-resistant. There’s no need for ongoing maintenance aside from an occasional simple cleaning.

Natural stone is also the most sustainable of building materials. There is a vast resource of natural stone on earth. Its regeneration is a continuous process with an enduring lifecycle. Stone is recyclable and can be used as reclaimed paving or used for aggregates.

Simple installation
Installing natural stone products is easier than you might think. For extra convenience and time saving efficiencies, look for calibrated stone that comes in pre-cut project packs in squares and rectangles. This keeps cutting to a minimum and saves valuable time.

Quality suppliers like Natural Paving will also include easy-to-follow patterns and laying guides as part of the package. Craig Morrell, Quarry Manager, Mone Bros., commented, “We find that people like to buy a full package and this certainly makes the installation process even easier.”

The installation technique chosen for a project should be determined based on each individual job site and region. The 3 most popular installation methods are sand set, mortar set and concrete overlay.

Installing natural stone pavers isn’t much different than installing concrete pavers.

Sand set:
1) Prepare work area by removing any topsoil and compacting the sub base.
2) Once you have properly graded and compacted the area, add compaction material in 1” lifts until you reach 4” to 5”. It is good practice to add a weed barrier after this step.
3) Level and compact base material once more before adding 1/2” of paver sand.
4) Begin installing the calibrated stone in the desired pattern.
5) Install edge restraints just as you would for concrete pavers.
6) Finally, fill the joints. We recommend something like a Pavetuf Jointing Compound, which is a simple to use brush-in sand and works well with natural stone. (Please ensure you follow the simple instructions on the Pavetuf tub.)

Mortar set:
1) Prepare the subsoil by properly grading and compacting your sub base.
2) Once you achieve proper compaction, add a base material such as crusher run in 1” lifts, until you reach 4” to 5”.
3) Now it is time to mix a batch of mortar and begin laying the natural stone paving. It is helpful to work in 10 sf to 15 sf increments when using mortar. Spread 2” of mortar in the area where you are starting the laying process.
4) Begin laying the pattern giving each stone a few taps with a rubber mallet. Check with a level or string line and move on to the next. With all laying methods it is important to maintain a joint size of 1/4” to 1/2”.
5) When the pattern is complete wait 24 hours before jointing just as you would for a sand set installation. (See number 6 above.)

Concrete overlay:
Overlays can provide a solution for homes with an existing faded concrete patio in need of repair or demolishing. Well-calibrated thinly cut natural stone such as Natural Paving’s Classicstone flagstones (1” thick) make it possible to overlay an existing surface without the hassle of removing the existing material. The installation method for overlays is straightforward:
1) Simply remove any dirt and debris from an existing patio.
2) Add a thin coat of mortar to adhere the stone.
3) After the mortar has dried apply your jointing material just as you would for a sand set installation. (See number 6 above.)

Finding quality stone
It’s important to note that not all natural stone is created equal with the qualities you look for in a paver. That’s why it is important to choose a good quality natural stone manufacturer like Natural Paving USA whose stone has been ASTM tested in the US and has far surpassed all minimum ASTM requirements for a paver material.

It’s an added plus for stone to meet strict European Conformity (CE) standards, as in the case of the stone from Natural Paving USA. CE testing covers areas similar to ASTM including water absorbency, flexural strength and frost resistance to quantify the various properties of each stone and how the stone is likely to behave and react under different circumstances.

Use ethical stone suppliers
Some natural stone is imported from quarries which have been linked with corruption and child labor. That is why it is important to look for a stone supplier that promotes ethical trading.

Look for a supplier that is a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) like Natural Paving USA, that is leading the way in demonstrating to the industry how natural stone mining can be conducted successfully and ethically. The company invests a significant amount of time and resources to ensure that all workers at home and abroad enjoy the best possible living and working conditions.

Offering beauty, longevity, sustainability and high performance, natural stone is an obvious choice for discerning homeowners. Since natural stone also does not require new installation skills and saves time and resources, natural stone is an obvious choice for contractors too.

With its roots in the UK and Europe, Natural Paving USA, Inc. has brought its extensive range of natural stone hardscapes to the American market. For more information about the benefits of natural stone, installation methods and Natural Paving USA, please visit NaturalPavingUSA.com.