Laying A Slate Path (We Dug It, Laid It, & Now There’s Grass!)

We’re long overdue on our front walkway project update, but now that we’re getting a bit of rain, the grass is finally filling in between the slate that we painstakingly arranged and dug-in over the course of a few weekends in May (click those links for more pics and a step by step slate-laying tutorial). There are still a few spots that will fill in even more over the next month or so (thanks to a few hurricanes that will send some much needed rain our way) but we figured you waited long enough for the big reveal, so here it is. But first a walk down memory lane.

Here’s the path we inherited with the house. A shoddy old tripping hazard with wooden beams, loose slate and overgrown leaf filled grasses:

And here’s what we were left with once we dug up the overgrown grasses on the right side of the path along with the old rickety slate:

After widening the path, and making sure things were a lot more level, we tackled the backbreaking task of placing each tile along the path for a much more deliberate and clean appearance. And since we didn’t have a wet saw to cut the edges of the slate, we just had to piece things together to achieve a clean edge along the right side of the path. Thank goodness we had some extra slate from our old patio to choose from:

It ended up taking us a looooong time, but the outcome was something that we’re both really happy with. And the varied colors and tones in the slate have an unexpectedly luxe effect- almost like a bluestone walkway:

Then we had to dig everything in to keep the slate from teetering as visitors approached our front door. And of course this ended up being a super long process as well, but the result was oh so worth it:

Then all we needed was some grass seed and a little water. The summer months were so hot that our sprinkler didn’t cut the mustard, but a few natural rainstorms just swept through… and lo and behold, we have grass:

We love the wider, more open pathway to our front door (that feels a lot less invasive thanks to the removal of that dastardly monkey grass). And we really like how the traditional material (slate) works with the traditional exterior of our home (red brick, black shutters, red door- we even dream of a slate roof one day). But it doesn’t look too formal and rigid thanks to the soft curve and the cottagy-grass growing in between the stones. Hooray for a delicate balance. If you can refer to 900 pounds of rock as delicate. And thanks to our super thorough job of digging everything in, there’s nary a rickety slab in sight- which we know the Fed-Ex guy appreciates.

Comments

  1. Sarah says

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog… just scraped the surface I think!

    I’m tickled by the fact that you got married on 07.07.07 on your 2nd anniversray – my husband and I got married on 07.07.06 on our 3rd anniversary – so you got together on the day we got engaged (exactly a year before our wedding, after exactly 2 years together.)

    We’re currently doing up our 2nd house in the UK… but it looks nowhere near as nice as yours!!

    xx

  2. Wendy says

    Hi Sherry & John, I am an avid reader of your blog and am always inspired by the projects you share and how well your DIY work turns out. I have a few questions about this one because after seeing the original posts in May, I set about doing my own slate walkway, since I had a falling-apart slate patio similar to yours. However, I found that many of the slate pieces were quite brittle and easily break. Did you have that same problem? Also, in terms of digging, did you just dig the areas where the stone would lay, or did you dig out the entire walk, lay the slate, and then fill it back in? And finally, do you have any sort of gravel/sand base underneath the stones? Thanks!

  3. Kathryn says

    The walkway looks fantastic- I assume you can mow right over the pathway? Attacking that grass with scissors would be a pain in the behind!

    And, “shudder” is an involuntary full body twitch caused by disgust or revulsion. “Shutters” are what you put on windows. The latter spelling is what you’re looking for…because the former has no place anywhere near your home!!!

  4. YoungHouseLove says

    Hola everyone,

    So glad you’re digging our front walkway update!

    Sarah- we’re equally tickled by the similarities in our anniversaries. So adorable to think that we were nervously sharing a first date while you were getting engaged. Big day for both of us. Lucky sevens unite!

    Wendy, a lot of the slate that ended up using for the walkway was recycled from our back yard’s old patio (it was pretty thick, and only one slab broke after repeated dropping). We’d suggest something at least an inch thick for maximum durability (which is still pretty affordable, we remember seeing some at Lowe’s for around $1 a slab). As for the digging in process, John actually painstakingly dug in each stone (after tracing the shape of it with a shovel, he moved it aside, dug an inch deep hole and slid the stone right in the custom hole he created). Although it took forever, the dirt was packed around them in a way that made them a lot more secure than digging out an entire channel and then backfilling around the stones. We didn’t personally use any sand or gravel, but perhaps that would have secured the slabs of slate and then the custom digging would have been less necessary. Hope that helps! Happy digging…

    Kathryn- how sweet and funny you are to gently remind me about my shudder/shutter problem. I’ve actually made this mistake three times over the past few months. Ack! When will I learn? Hopefully the third time’s the charm. Oh and as for the mowing right over it question, yup, we just roll right down the path. Thanks to sinking the stones to ground level they’re secure and mow-overable.

    xoxo,
    Sherry

  5. meredith says

    We are also the proud owners of a brick ranch and I love seeing what you guys have done to make it more modern and fun! I have been working on our own slate pathway and I was wondering what to do with the concrete stoop that leads up to the front door. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!! Thanks for all the diy inspiration!!

  6. says

    I like your more “natural” approach to building this walkway. This weekend we are going to start building a slate walkway from scratch. My original intention was to dig out the existing grass, lay down some weedblock fabric and place the pieces of slate. We have a lot of egg-sized stones that I was going to fill around the slate then finish off with a plastic landscape edging. Although it sounds like more work, I like the less-manicured look of your walkway.

  7. Tish says

    Hi,
    My husband and I inherited a HUGE pile of blue slate and intend to build a similar walkway as yours. It’s beautiful and you have inspired me. We lost most of our driveway and yard to Irene and have slowly begun to get our “outside” in order. Thanks for your beautiful pictures.
    Tish

  8. Megan says

    Hello!!

    I am working with my community to build a path for kids at our local park and budget is a big concern…. we want to build a path about the width of yours here and no more than a mile long…. any ideas on how many slabs of slate would be needed?

    Any other advice you could give us?

    Thanks!!!

    • says

      Hi Megan,

      I’m not sure if we could guess how many materials you’d need. Our slate slabs were very irregular. You’re probably better off finding the place where you’ll purchase your slate and getting their help estimating, since they might have more standard sizes.

      -John

  9. dee herrick says

    did you seal the stone? We uncovered a great treasure in a slate pathway from house to mil box we love it but it looks dusty lol would love to seal/shine it up