We recently built a contemporary farmhouse style home. There was no lawn sod or sprinkler system for extra water. Deer are rampant in the neighborhood, so the landscaping choices are limited. We have dry periods too. Lady Bird Johnson once said, “I like it when the land speaks its own language in its own regional accent.” We intended to follow her lead. The terrain was left as natural as possible – mostly oaks and native grasses.
When it came time to put in a front walk we were sure that concrete was not the material of choice. A long concrete ramp was not a good fit with our style of house. Concrete covers the ground in a very impervious way. Unless you want to have steps, concrete does not handle level changes. The ground rose and fell across the long distance between the road and front door. We needed a more organic walk that would blend with the native plants and grasses.
So, how could we create a more organic walk? We could buy the small pre-made concrete pads. Or, we could form and pour our own concrete pads in place. A path of decomposed granite was a possibility. Or, we could lay flat stones in sand or decomposed granite. Some type of stone walk seemed to be the best choice, but cost was a concern. Large flat stones are expensive and difficult to work with. I called around to get prices.
A local stone supplier mentioned that they had some limestone pieces cut in two by four feet rectangles. This sounded interesting, so we drove out to the quarry to see them. We found that these were the outer edges of large blocks of stone. They had been sliced off, much like the ends of a loaf of bread. The pieces were rough on one side, and smooth on the other. Afterwards, masons use the interior part of the stone block to make material for things like floors, fireplaces, and building exteriors. Limestone is quarried in the Austin Texas area and is very popular here. This is a beautiful stone that was formed from shell deposits. The colors range from white to yellow to tan.
These pieces were relatively inexpensive because they were scrap material. We ordered enough for a walk and patio. The cost was about $600, including delivery.
The rectangular dimensions made it easy to calculate the number of pieces needed.
I discussed the layout of the walk with a good landscape designer, who immediately rejected the plan. He said it would look like a line that was meant to be straight, but turned out crooked. His idea was to bring the walk down in a bold dynamic curve. Of course he was right. He also rejected the idea of digging the ground down a few inches to inset the stones. The stones will sink down a little with their own weight. So, we placed the stones directly on the ground with the rough side up.
It was all done in one day. A garden hose is the perfect tool to lay out the curved path for the stones. It took two strong men to lift and put the stones in place along the walk. They are quite heavy - about 200 lbs. each. A refrigerator dolly was used to move them from the pallet to their place in the walk.
The walkway was simply one stone laid sideways across. So, the width was about four feet. Of course, the stones varied a little in size, but that was part of the natural look. There was a generous landing at the road with four stones across and two deep.
When the stones were all in place, we added a little dirt between them and sprinkled on some buffalo grass seed. When the grass grew up around the stones they seemed a true and natural part of the ground. Rain can percolate down in between the stones. We are very pleased with our greener front walk that truly speaks the language of the region.
Roselind Hejl - Austin Texas Real Estate
Edited by roselind - Sun, 1 Feb 2009 22:19:58 UTC