How to Build a Stone Patio Without a Mortor

Updated July 20, 2017

A patio provides an attractive and efficient way to lounge, dine and entertain in your backyard. The use of a stone surface material, such as flagstone, stone pavers or cobblestones, is an appealing departure from the popular, but drab grey concrete. You don't need mortar to produce a sturdy, durable patio that has the added benefit of easy stone replacement if one gets damaged. A motivated homeowner can accomplish this project in a few days. With a bit of muscle and meticulous planning, your results will be stunning and long-lasting.

Measure the length and width for your patio and mark the corners with spray paint.

Drive a wooden stake into the ground at each painted mark to produce a square or rectangle.

Tie mason's string between the stakes to designate the patio boundary. Keep the string taught and at the level of your finished patio, using the line level.

Excavate the patio area to a minimum of 5 inches below the top layer where you will install the stones, using the shovel.

Apply a 4-inch layer of the ¾-inch crushed gravel over the excavated area with the shovel.

Tamp the gravel until it's firmly compacted, using a hand tamper or plate compactor. Repeat this process at least three times over the entire area.

Roll out landscaping fabric across the gravel, keeping the edges tight against the sides of the excavated area. Overlap the sections onto each other by at least 6 inches.

Spread out a layer of concrete sand over the fabric using a shovel and smooth it out with the rake. Measure the depth of the sand with the ruler. Repeat this process until the depth is at least 2 inches.

Pull the 2-by-4 slowly across the sand to level it out. Stop to fill in any low spots as you continue over the entire area. Mist the sand periodically with the garden hose to keep it damp during this process. Don't walk on the levelled sand.

Lay the edging against the inside perimeter of the patio area. Use the standard level to keep the pieces even with the string line and level with each other. Tamp them with the mallet to help make any adjustments.

Drive a stake into the ground at least every 2 feet along the outside edge of any long lengths of edging. Attach each stake to the edging with wood screws for support while you install the stones.

Lay out the stones starting at one inside corner of the edging and fit them tightly together. Complete one row at a time, carefully tapping each stone in place with the mallet. Check the level of the stones against each other frequently and keep the rows straight, using the previous row as your guide.

Measure and mark the space where a full stone won't fit. Transfer that measurement onto a stone using the marker. Repeat this process for each such space.

Cut each stone slowly and carefully with the masonry saw, following the accompanying instructions or directions from the renter. Test fit each stone to ensure a proper fit and cut off additional material if needed.

Spread sand over the stones and use your broom to sweep it into the joints.

Settle your stones and the sand down into the joints by tamping across the surface, using the tamper or plate compactor. Repeat this process until all joints are firmly filled with sand, which is level with the surface.


In areas with poor drainage, increase the layer of gravel to 8 inches deep to prevent water from pooling on your patio. Most natural flagstone pieces can be very heavy and uneven, which makes this type of stone more difficult to install. Slate and cobblestone are more uniform in size, requiring fewer cuts.


Wear a face mask or safety glasses when cutting the stone for extra protection from the stone dust.

Things You'll Need

  • Stone
  • Concrete sand
  • ¾-inch crushed gravel
  • Stone, wood, metal or plastic edging
  • Measuring tape
  • Marking paint
  • Stakes
  • Mason's string
  • Line level
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Hand tamper or plate compactor (rented)
  • 2-by-4 at least 3 feet long
  • Rule
  • Garden hose
  • Landscaping fabric
  • Standard level
  • Mallet
  • 3-inch wood screws
  • Masonry saw (rented)
  • Felt marker
  • Safety glasses
  • Broom
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About the Author

Based in Washington, Mariah Elaine has been a freelance writer since 2010. She has professional writing experience in a variety of media including Navy correspondence, business documents and research reports. Elaine holds a Bachelor of Arts in natural science/mathematics from Thomas Edison State College.