Construction & Contractors/Bluestone Patio

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QUESTION: Torin,
I need to have my very old/deteriorating patio replaced.  Here are some dimensions/specs re the work I want to have done:
1.  Patio area is 23 ft. x 18 ft.
2.  There is a drop-off on one side of the patio that would require some type of wall - 23 ft. long x 26 inches high
3.  A walkway from the patio to the driveway is approx. 22 ft. long x 2 ft wide.
4.  There are 2 doors that access the patio - each door needs to have a single step built outside each door.

I have an initial estimate from a contractor of $11-12,000 to do the following:
1.  Bluestone patio/walkway
2.  Stacked rock wall backed by concrete and provision for drainage.
3.  2 single steps for the 2 doors (bluestone on top)with natural stone on riser area.
4.  Patio would not be mortared.  Would use "concrete sand" in joints.
5.  Would have to build up sand, etc. base of patio to make level.  Old patio (probably a DIY project) has sunk on wall side - probably due to sand, etc. washing out thru old stacked rock wall.

My questions:
1.  I live in Connecticut.  Do you consider the estimate to be in a reasonable range?
2.  I like the appearance of bluestone.  I tend to favor the darker blue/grey colors.  What is your opinion of bluestone as a choice for the patio?
3.  Are there any issues in the proposed work that you could comment on?

Thank you in advance for any expertise you can add to this project.  If I have not been clear, would pictures help?

Bill

ANSWER: Hi Bill,
I am assuming that your estimate includes all labor and materials, if so, this is a reasonable price for the scope of work you describe.
Bluestone is a very beautiful and popular material, the only issue we see regularly is rust marks coming out of the stone when exposed to moisture. Bluestone has iron oxide embedded in the stone and when there is not adequate drainage and if the stone is not properly sealed (quality impregnator) it can rust.

Regarding the method of setting the stone, this is often dictated by local practice. The method you describe is used in many places but I wonder if it has the long life you desire? It is my preference to set all stone in a mortar bed over a concrete slab, but I would check with your local material supply company (where professional masons buy) to get a professional opinion.

Of course, it is wise to get many references from the mason you are considering hiring. Go look at previous jobs and try to interview past clients to see how happy they are. Due to freeze-thaw issues, the prescribed method does help with preventing heaving and expansion/contraction issues, but the site MUST be prepared properly to provide adequate drainage away from the patio and walkways. Of course the concrete method would be much more expensive, but if done properly will last for decades. How long are you planning on being in the home? Will the home be passed on to family members in the future, etc. These issues can effect your decision as well.

Do as much research in your local area to get the best opinion, and trust the judgement of local experts. I am sorry that I cannot provide more assistance.

Best regards,

Torin Dixon

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Torin,
Can't thank you enough for your timely response and excellent overview.  I would appreciate your comments re the following questions:

1.  You mention sealing the stone.  Is this done by the contractor, or does the stone supplier usually do this?  Does the sealing impact the appearance of the stone (e.g. make it glossy looking, etc.)?

2.  We have ruled out installing over a concrete slab due primarily to the additional expense.  Could you comment on what you consider to be proper site preparation?

Once again, thank you for your expertise.

Bill in Connecticut

ANSWER: Bill,
Re: Sealing Stone, I have used HMK StoneCare Products for more than 30 years and it is absolutely the best! I would suggest HMK S34 Silicone Impregnator and it is invisible (goes on wet but dries clear) and does not alter the look. Two coats minimum, re-seal annually. Full disclosure: We have become the nations largest online distributor but I have used these products and believe they are the best Professional Grade products on the market.
http://stonecareonline.org

Sealing can be done by mason, or you can do it yourself. I would use a 1/4" nap paint roller and use a metal paint tray to pour impregnator (S34) and apply 2 even coats before grouted. Once grouted you could apply another coat over grout and stone using a low pressure garden sprayer.

Re: Site Prep, natural undisturbed soil with proper natural drainage (sandy soil is best) if clay, patio area MUST have a natural crown to allow proper drainage away from all sides. Then 4-6 of dampened cushion base (3/4" rock or pea gravel mixed with dampened sand) Very well compacted. Then set Bluestone on top.
I would always use scrap plywood while installing to kneel on while setting stone. My weight plus stacks of stone will further compact cushion base to give you a solid setting bed.

Best wishes,

Torin

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Could you give me some idea of the coverage of the sealer for the first application?  Patio and walkway would be approx. 450 sq. ft.  What size of the sealer would I need to order??

How do I order (i.e. via web site you provided)?

Thx so much for all of the information.  Amazing how much I did not know about the subject.

Bill

Answer
Bill,
You will get about 125 square feet per liter of coverage on the first coat, and about 150 square feet on the second coat.
If you order the 5-liter size you get one liter for free. This should give you the two base coats.
Yes, you may order online or call our 800-380-6881 phone number and Diane will be happy to assist you.

Have a nice weekend.

Torin

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Torin Dixon

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Questions concerning Natural Stone Fabrication and Installation including: Marble, Granite, Limestone, Slate, Soapstone, Bluestone, and Travertine in Slabs and Tiles. Expert in natural stone cleaning, sealing, protection and restoration. Distributor of HMK Stone Care Products; Sealers, Cleaning Products, Stone Maintenance. Expert in stone and tile flooring, sealing and maintenance issues. Stain removal from stone. Importer and Distributor of slab stone for residential and commercial applications. Stone carving Stone restoration

Experience

I have worked in the Dimensional Stone Industry since 1977.
California Contractors License 1989
Former owner of Prestige Marble & Tile (So. Calif.)
Current owner of Elegance in Stone (Missoula, MT)
Current Owner of Montana Stone Gallery,LLC Missoula, MT
Owner of Stoncareonline.org Distributor of natural stone maintenance products

Organizations
Missoula Building Industry Association
Montana Building Industry Association
Flathead Building Association
National Association of Home Builders
Member of the Marble Institute of America
Former member of the National Tile Contractors Association

Publications
Slippery Rock Gazette-Stone Industry Publication

Education/Credentials
Journeyman Marble Mason, Bricklayers and Allied Craftsman Union #2
California Contractors License 1989-1997
Montana Contractors Registration #70932IC
Importer of natural stone slabs. Owner-Director of Montana Stone Gallery a regional Importing and Distribution company located in Missoula, MT

Past/Present Clients
Thousands of commercial and residential installations of stone slabs and tile in bathrooms, kitchens, showers, flooring, fireplaces over a 34 year professional career.

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