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stone walkways, dry construction, wet construction

Stone Walkways: Dry Construction or Wet Construction?

Last year, in addition to being under a tight deadline, I was working with a very tight budget. Consequently, I compromised on stone walkways, opting for “pool sand,” which turned out to be a mistake (soft underfoot and sticks to shoes). A year later, I am ready to fix it and am trying to decide between dry or wet construction.

Dry construction vs. wet construction. What is the difference?

stone walkways, dry construction, wet construction
Dry Construction Detail

Laying stone walkways in sand, as opposed to mortar or concrete, is known as “dry construction.” Dry construction allows you not to worry about finishing the placement of the stones while mortar is malleable, before it hardens. You can make adjustments as you go, without feeling rushed. However, stone walkways laid in sand can shift and will have to be re-adjusted over the years. Greater mass equals greater stability.

stone walkways, dry construction, wet construction
Wet Construction Detail

“Wet construction,” on the other hand, refers to setting the slabs of stone in a bed of mortar. It results in a solid, rigid, impermeable surface.  It is long lasting and durable, however it can be more difficult and/or costly to repair or reset if necessary.

stone walkways, dry construction, wet construction
“Pool Sand” vs. Arizona Moss Flagstone

I am on the fence. In the process of interviewing potential installers and getting estimates, I discuss both options with them. One is leaning toward “wet construction.” It is more profitable: more labor-intensive and time-consuming. That’s precisely the reason my preference would be “dry construction.” But I want to do it right!

The other one, as soon as he arrives and takes one look at the garden, tells me that it should be “dry construction.” However, in order to simplify his job, he tries to convince me that the joints should be wide. That’s not what I want.

Regardless of construction, stone walkways should have consistent joints

I like tighter joints for aesthetic reasons. Besides, stones set close together prevent accidental trips and make walking easier. One installer assures me that I can achieve a ½” gap between slabs of stone that can be filled with decomposed granite (DG). The other one insists that 11/2” is the minimum. Actually, that’s more realistic. I can live with that.

In the next “Passion for Details” post, I will share the outcome of my stone walkway: dry construction or wet construction dilemma. Meantime, send me your questions, whatever the project you are working on. I am your DIY Ally!

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6 Comments

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  1. Mia Kazovsky says:

    Very nice and educational post! I am looking forward to the next “Passion for Details” post!

    1. Alla DIY Ally says:

      Thank you, Mia!!! You and I share a passion for details. Hopefully, the work will be done soon and I will report back on the outcome. Good luck with your own projects.

      1. Mia Kazovsky says:

        Thank you! I have some cool DIY home projects to work on this weekend!

        1. Alla DIY Ally says:

          Great! i’d love to hear about them! Have fun.

  2. York says:

    From my experience, I vote for dry! I did a portion of our back yard about six years ago. Really not that difficult, and very forgiving. Two years ago it was put to a repair test due to a tree root pushing some of the pavers up and the repair was much easier than I expected.

    I also prefer smaller gaps!

    1. Alla DIY Ally says:

      York!!! Great minds think alike! Thank you for sharing.

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