Earlier this year, I had a stressful time dealing with a landscape gardener who made a real pig’s ear of installing an Indian stone patio. After seeing the mess he made, I found out the correct way to do it and had it all replaced by a competent company. So if you’re thinking of having Indian stone flagstones installed, or already have them but suspect they are wrong, this post may help.
Indian stone should always be laid on a full bed of mortar
This was the main problem with my patio. The original fitter used a ‘dot and dab’ technique which is unsuitable for Indian stone. The dot and dab technique is as it sounds – the fitter uses ‘spots’ of cement to bed the stones on top of a layer of hardcore. You can see it in the image below – this is from when my badly laid patio was lifted up. Underneath the stone, there is not a solid layer of cement, instead, there are spots.
There are several problems with the dot and dab method:
- There are gaps beneath the stone, where water can collect. Come the winter, the water freezes and starts to lift the stone and break the joins.
- Burrowing animals can get into the gaps and cause problems, especially ants.
- Indian stone is porous. So the moisture underneath the stone starts to seep into it, which causes salt and moisture to come out of the top of the stone. This causes unsightly rings.
The correct way is to lay the stones on a full bed of mortar, so there are no gaps. My original installer argued that a full bed is only needed if you are parking a car on the patio, but that is a load of old balls. I contacted the director of the British Stone Foundation and he assured me that any natural stone product should always be laid on a full bed of mortar.
When I hired a company to fix up the mess, they did it properly, as you can see here:
The joins should be around 10mm thick
The clown that installed my patio the first time around used joins that were very thick and rough-looking (see the image with the damp circles, above). It kind of looks like butter cream smeared on a cake made by a particularly heavy-handed baker. Needless to say, that’s not the way to do it, despite what my original installer claimed.
The correct way is to have the joins approximately 10mm wide. Professionals use a resin compound for the joins too, as it is designed to withstand weather. The image below shows how it should be done:
Indian stones have a top and bottom side
The first installer I used told me that the Indian stone slabs can be used on either side. Not knowing any better, I believed him. But when the problems started to arise and I got other companies around to take a look, they all sai the same thing – “your stones are upside down.”
Indian stone has a top side and a bottom side. The edges of the stone taper in at the bottom side, so that the side of the stone is slightly angled. This helps water to run off it on edges and also makes it easier for the joining compound to stick to the stone.
What can you do if you’ve had a shoddy job?
If, like me, you hired someone with questionable knowledge and practices when it comes to laying Indian stone, all is not lost. In the first instance, you should contact them and ask for a refund. You will probably get an answer along the lines of “I’ve been laying these for 20 years, I know what I’m doing.” At that point, you can go to trading standards and citizens advice. I was told to get quotes from other companies for the cost of putting it right and also some statements about what is wrong.
If it comes to it, you can go to court with that information. I put it to my installer and was fortunate that he agreed to a refund. When it came to getting it done again, I ended up a few hundred out of pocket still, because the cost of putting it right turned out to be a bit higher than expected. But it is better than having to pay the whole lot all over again.
If you haven’t hired anyone to lay your Indian stone yet, make sure they are going to use the full bed method. I’d also recommend taking photos of the work as it is in progress, so that you can see what is being done.
Craig Wright is an experienced technical writer based in Chesterfield, UK. He hates writing about himself in the third person, so I shall stop now.
Always interested in new content writing opportunities. Remote working preferred.