1. What kind of base do you use?
The most important component of a flagstone patio is the base it
is constructed on. Our flagstone patios are constructed on a 4-6"
thick machine compacted AB-3 base. A layer of sand is then used
for leveling purposes. This creates a firm but flexible base; we
don't recommend concrete because concrete will crack over time
and be very difficult to repair. Our competitors may scrimp on
base preparation because you will never see the difference when
complete. Imagine a hypothetical example; try to lay down
ceramic tile over your existing carpet (leaving the carpet in
place). If you were to walk over the tile, they will bump together
and shift up and down. This creates the same conditions if you
install flagstone over dirt, only sand, or thin uncompacted AB3;
the stones will move around when you walk on them. Now think
about what also happens in the winter when the ground freezes
and thaws; the ground heaves up when it freezes and relaxes
when it thaws without any foot traffic at all. This will make the
difference between the patio lasting few years vs. decades or
2. What kind of stone do you use?
Patios constructed by Low Maintenance Landscape use top
quality hardened sandstone. Major problems will occur years
down the road if you use a poor quality flagstone that is too soft,
porous, brittle or flaky. Using lower quality stone is a primary
method our competitors may use to cut corners. These lower
quality stones also contain micro-fractures or tiny invisible cracks.
These micro-fractures are porous (they fill with water). In the
winter as these cracks fill with water and freeze, they expand, and
flake off or turn to rubble. While stone is a natural product and
there is no way to entirely avoid this, we select stone that is the
most dense and hard. We do the ping test with a hammer (ask us
if you want details on how the ping test works). If it passes, we
accept the stone. This will make the difference between lasting
few years vs. centuries.
3. How thick is the stone you use?
Low Maintenance Landscape uses thick 2-3" stone; thick stone is
more massive and less likely to move over time. Thick stone also
doesn't wobble when stepping on it. Anything under 1.5" is too
thin unless installation occurs over a concrete foundation. By not
specifying a thickness, our competitors may scrimp by using thin
stone. Stone is sold to contractors by weight so there is motive to
use thin stone and get more square feet coverage per ton. Even
good quality stone is useless if it's too thin because it doesn't
have very much mass to it. Again, think of the thin ceramic tile
over carpet example if you were to step on it.
4. How big are the gaps in between the stone?
We carefully chisel your stone to fit tightly together like a puzzle;
the spacing averages 1/4". While this creates an elegant
well-crafted appearance, it also makes the patio more stable and
less likely to have a stone pop out. Our competition may seriously
low ball a bid by not specifying the stone spacing. It is much
easier to just throw the stones down, kick them around a little
where the land and fill the gaps with sand. This not only looks
cheap and sloppy but can be unsafe to walk on. Again think
about our example of walking across ceramic tile laid over carpet
(or even concrete). If they are 2-3" apart they will move up, down,
and slide from side to side as you walk over them.
5. How wide are the individual stones?
Patios constructed by Low Maintenance Landscape use very
large "slabs" of stone mixed with smaller pieces. This is critical for
both appearance and stability. Our patios look good because
they composed of many contrasting shapes and sizes. They are
stable because of the massive size of the stones. If you use stone
that is not very wide or massive, it looks boring and will tend to
shift around more easily. Our competitors usually don't use slabs
of stone because they cost a little more per ton and are more
difficult to move when installing. See our pictures to what "slabs"
6. How level will the patio be?
The final important indicator of quality is level and grade. Our
patios are installed nearly perfectly level or aligned following a
slight grade; the choice is yours based on your preference. Our
stones are perfectly chiseled and aligned with neighboring stones
to avoid any height or elevation differences. We don't want to
create miniature cliffs and canyons that you may trip on. We also
avoid sloping a patio more than 1% because of slipping hazards
when icy. This alone can ruin a patio; we have seen competitors
patios consisting of non-aligned stones that will result in
dangerous trip hazards.
As you can see, there are many things that go into the
construction of a high quality flagstone patio. Remember the 6
components and be sure to compare apples to apples if getting
bids; base preparation, quality of stone, thickness of stone,
spacing between stones, width or size of stone and levelness of
Some will skimp on one or more of these qualities and take short
cuts that you will never notice until parts of the patio break a year
after the warranty has expired. So remember the old rules when
dealing with contractors; you get what you pay for. Any bid
significantly lower than the others could indicate that the
contractor has a less than ideal reputation, is not including all the
work quoted by the other contractors, or is planning to surprise
you with additional charges once the work begins. Some
contractors will "job hop" meaning they will start the job to get the
deposit and they take months to finish the work if at all. Many
landscape companies also cheat by hiring illegal aliens. They are
usually paid below minimum wage and are not accountable for
their work. You, the homeowner can even get into trouble for this
so make should ask if they hire illegal aliens.
Our estimates may seem a bit high but we guarantee you will be
much happier with a trouble-free patio built with quality stone and
craftsmanship that will last many decades.