York stone – King of paving


The Gardenmakers are experts at the laying of York stone and natural stone paving. It’s an aspect
of our business that we are particularly proud of and over the years we’ve laid thousands of square metres. Each terrace we build adds to our knowledge and respect for this remarkable material.

In February 2009 The Association of Professional Landscapers awarded The Gardenmakers with
their ‘Supreme Winner’ award for a garden we created using Yorkstone. The chairman of the judging committee and vice Chairman of the APL was award–winning garden designer and landscaper Mark Gregory and he commented…

 The attention to detail and the craftsmanship, especially with the riven York stone paving and its detailing were a pleasure to see. Clearly a company with excellent technical skills….

In 2011 the APL awarded us with the ‘Best garden over £100,000’ for a project that was again predominantly constructed using York stone. Our track record with this material is very solid indeed.

Synonymous with stately homes and Cotswold manor houses, York stone paving has unrivalled status within the fine garden community. Properly laid and in the right setting it has no equal – lending an instantly timeless quality to any terrace.

The subtle tones within the stone are the perfect foil for other quality landscaping materials like
granite or York stone setts and handmade bricks.

York stone flags come in two basic forms – new or reclaimed. The reclaimed stone comes from
a variety of sources including long derelict northern mills, private houses and flagstone pavements
that were laid when times were more prosperous. This means that you can get a century or more
of history with the stone but you can also find painted yellow lines from parking bays, 50 year old blobs of chewing gum or holes where heavy factory machines have been bolted to the floor. ‘Character’ is the word most associated with reclaimed stone!

Reclaimed stone comes from a variety of sources…

The stone in the picture below came from Northamptonshire Magistrates Court and we installed it in a Tudor manor house near to Redditch.

Reclaimed stone comes at a premium and as each source slowly dries up the price climbs ever higher. However, a note of caution. This applies to ‘good’ reclaimed stone which should have an even thickness of between 50-100-mm. The unaware can be seduced by the word ‘reclaimed’ and fooled into buying huge flags that can be 50-mm thick at one end and up to 200-mm thick at the other.

This stone is nigh on impossible to lay single-handedly and is tricky to create any sort of consistent hardcore base for. Steer clear if possible. Our advice is to always view any stone you are thinking of buying. If you like what you see, order it there and then and mark the individual pallets and possibly even the undersides of the stone that you’ve chosen.

New York stone, on the other hand, is still being quarried extensively and is usually something like two thirds of the reclaimed price. It tends to be far more regular in thickness (usually 50-75-mm) and is therefore lighter and easier to lay. Once laid, newly quarried York stone weathers quickly and beautifully. A new stone terrace looks absolutely superb and is undoubtedly a worthy investment for the right property.

So why is reclaimed stone so expensive?!

Well the name is a giveaway – it’s been ‘reclaimed’. This means that somebody somewhere has had
to lift it, clean it, measure it, palletise it and finally store it. Then when it’s purchased somebody has
to move it and bearing in mind that reclaimed flags can be up to 6″ (150-mm) thick the weight of even a small piece can be phenomenal!

New York stone is much easier to find and more sensibly priced. It tends to be thinner so it’s easier
to handle meaning that more can be transported on one lorry – reducing transport costs. New stone can be 25% cheaper to supply and lay and over a large area this can save thousands of pounds. However the ‘genius of the garden and property’ will dictate which is the right stone to use.

Using the stone.

York stone is not easy to lay properly. When a terrace has been laid correctly it becomes a combination of good building practice and an artistic and a sympathetic eye. Where each piece has been selected for being the very best for its position within the paved area.

Bearing in mind that a stone terrace is almost always a ‘one off’ (and usually fairly expensive) opportunity to create something truly stunning we never fail to be amazed when the project is handed to a jobbing builder or a landscaper with no experience of the material. OK so they’re cheaper….but there’s a reason for that and you’re going to be staring at it until you’ve saved up even more money to put it right !

 What should you look for?

Firstly check out your landscapers ability to lay the stone (this goes for any paving!) and think very carefully about using somebody with little or no experience. Do this by inspecting their work and use the criteria below to assess whether the finished product stands up to scrutiny.

There are just a few basic rules to follow when laying York stone. Look carefully at the photos on this page to see how they’ve been applied.

1. If the stone is to be laid in a random pattern then you achieve this by taking a smaller piece of stone and radiating bigger pieces around it. This theme is replicated throughout the terrace.

2. Avoid long straight joints. As a rule there should be no more than 3 pieces with their sides lining up. If the pieces are fairly small then you can get away with 4.

3. Keep your joints tight and even. Down to 5-mm if possible but 10-mm is a good figure to aim for. Sometimes, if you don’t want to square the slabs up with a disc cutter, you’ll have to go bigger but anything over 15-mm should be avoided.

4. The stone should make a flat surface even if the individual pieces are deeply riven. This means that each edge should flow into the next as much as possible. This is often achieved by laying to the low points and dressing the high points once the whole area is laid and pointed.

5. If a piece has to be cut (with a diamond or carbon-bladed cutter) then the cut edge should be dressed to blend in with the normal fettled edges. This very simply involves tapping off the sharp edge with a hammer or stone axe.

This short article only touches on the art of laying York stone but hopefully it will give you a greater appreciation of this wonderful material and how it can enhance your property. You may now also
view the craftsmen that lay it with renewed respect. You rarely get an operation where such brute force and strength has to be combined with a genuinely artistic eye and the patience to achieve the desired end result.

When it’s laid well York stone will give a timeless quality to a garden that is unsurpassable.

Laid badly it’s an expensive eyesore. So make sure you get it right first time!

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