So, we're getting ready to move to Japan for a year or so, which has somehow translated into a series of projects around the house. We've put up gutters, two new doors, done some trim work inside, and constructed a flagstone patio out our back door. (The back door is really our front door, but we still call it the back door since we have a door on the front of the house. The only folks who knock on the front door are the UPS driver and the chickens.)
Drainage is the other motivation for these projects. No one likes a leaky basement, and for sure no one likes mildewed holiday decorations. (If you do, I've got a nice selection that need to move along.) And friends took up their flagstone patio to put in pavers. We spotted the stack of flagstones, and craftily rubbed our hands together.
A bout of beautiful weather in the fall gave us a window of opportunity. We took up the old mulch, removed some bushes that had proven to be a tripping hazard, and moved the old pavers. (Those went to live in the hoophouse and looked much happier.) With the help of our friends at Ambry Farms, and using a neighbor's tractor we scraped down about six inches, added a good layer of new sand (with a touch of gravel) and then raked it smooth. We pitched the slope toward and away from the house. This was a real exercise in three dimensional thinking and geometry. We constantly measured and checked to make sure water would move the way we wanted it to. We also removed the old railroad ties that extended the "patio" area about two feet out. (I transplanted some bulbs and perennials the neighbor with a tractor had given me to another spot.)
It was great fun trying to piece together a pattern that worked for the space. We also used one of the larger stones as a doormat/step just in front of the door. Richard became proficient in shaping the stone with a chisel, and we continued to spend a great deal of time using the level to ensure we maintained the pitch.
We also dug a trench next to the foundation of the porch to create a sort of French drain. The trench pitches to the west, and a perferated pipe lies at the bottom. We topped it up with small gravel along the side of the house, and then gravel and dirt once it got beyond the new patio border. It ends in a dry well - a hole we dug, filled with gravel and topped with dirt - that send the majority of water away and down. (I planted a row of daffodils along the new trench to mark it and take advantage of the available space.)
Once the stones were positioned we got a load of sand from our local quarry in Napoleon, and began filling in the cracks. This still required measuring and checking the pitch. Some of the flagstones naturally had uneven bottoms and sand needed to be tucked under in order to protect against drastic settling. We also packed sand between the stones to keep them from shifting and for good drainage. (The folks at the quarry were incredibly helpful in talking us through this whole process, too.)
Some settling has occurred, and we've got two five-gallon buckets of sand on hand to continue filling in as needed. We do need to keep it clear of snow or we end up with a thick pad of ice. Woodash works well for traction if it gets slippery, but as long as we shovel or sweep all seems well. And it's just beautiful to boot.