Landscaping Tips – How to Install a Classic Stone Border

Step 1: Planning

The first step to installing a stone border is to PLAN. Choose a stone that matches the architecture (shape and color) of the home and identify the color of mortar that will look best (grey or beige).

Next, decide where the stone border will go. Think about future landscape expansions too, it is easier to add the space now then trying to redo the border later. Sprinkler systems are also an issue, design the border to stay clear of any sprinkler heads.

Tip: Most home improvement stores only carry a traditional grey mortar, but I will explain how to custom mix mortar to make a beige color in Step 4.

Calculations: Figure 1 ton of stone per 100 feet of border, and calculate one bag of mortar per 3 to 5 feet.

Step 2: Layout

Now that all the planning is out of the way and all the materials are on hand, it’s time from some fun! It’s time to lay the outline of the stone border. I recommend using a garden hose, or some other object that will allow for easy adjustments until the final layout is determined.

Once the final layout is in place, use marking paint to spray the outline. This will act as a guide when digging.

Tip: If there are long curves, use 1/2 inch diameter PVC pipe and grade stakes to help get a smooth curve. Determine the beginning and end points of the curve and drive in one stake at each end. With the PVC pipe wedged against the two end stakes, push the middle of the pipe until the desired curve is achieved. Drive in the middle stake to hold the pipe in place.

Step 3: Preparation

Dig along the outline created in Step 2 to approximately 4 inches deep by 4 inches wide. This may need to be deeper and wider depending on the type of stone used. Once the trench is dug, layout the stone along the border for easy access. Only lay out what can be installed for that day. Also, have the mortar, wheelbarrow, water hose, shovel, rubber mallet, bucket, sponge, level and trowel ready to go.

Step 4: Installation

Now it is time to start laying the stone. First, mix the mortar in the wheelbarrow, adding only enough water until the mortar has the consistency of peanut butter. Start on one side of the trench and lay two to three inches of mortar into the trench. Next, lay the first stone into the mortar and tap slightly with a rubber mallet, only using enough force to set the stone slightly in the mortar. Repeat this process until the border complete, using a level along the way to make sure the border has an uniform height (not necessarily level). Fill in the gaps between the stones with mortar, making sure to leave drain holes about every 5 feet to allow water to drain from the landscaped areas. Use a damp sponge to wipe off excess mortar from the stone every ten feet, this will keep the mortar from drying and staining the stone. After allowing the mortar to dry for a day, backfill with dirt along the border to cover up the base.

Tip: Only mix enough mortar that can be used in a 30 minute time period, don’t mix so much that it hardens during use. Some stone looks better with a beige mortar. To accomplish this mix four parts masonry sand to one part white Portland cement. Mix these two together before adding water. The stone yard should have both of these in stock. Figure one-half yard masonry sand and two bags of white Portland per one hundred feet of border.

Step 5: Enjoy!