How to Do Your Own Low-Cost Natural Stone Floor
Lay Your Own Natural Stone Flooring - For Almost Nothing!!
Finding the perfect flooring to enhance the natural features of a rustic home, or outdoor space, is not always an easy task and by no means is it cheap. Forget buying expensive floor tiles, laminate, carpet or wood. Try using natural river or beach stones for your floor.
Laying a natural stone floor is easier than you may think, and the results are truly impressive. But most important of all, you have created yourself a low-cost, practical, natural floor.
What do I need to lay my own Natural Stone Floor?
- River Pebbles
- Grout (professional and waterproof grade)
- PVA/latex liquid
What tools do I need to do my own Natural Stone Floor?
- Rubber grout float
- Stone liquid sealer
- A level
- 3 x 3' straight-edges
- Bolts, screws, wall plugs
- Cement mixer or equipment to hand mix the mortar mix
(1) Collect your river stones or beach pebbles.
It's best to collect more than you need in case some are unsuitable when you come to use them. You can always use the surplus for other projects in the future.
How many stones do I need?
Measure out a square meter with a tape on the beach where you are collecting the stones and arrange some collected stones within this square. I like the stones to be touching but the spacing and resulting grout width is up to you. Bear in mind that the finished grout lines will vary in thickness due to the random shape of the stones. The number of stones in this square meter will give you a rough idea of how many stones you are going to need. Multiply this amount by the number of square meters of your floor and then add some extras just to be on the safe side.
Which are the best stones to pick?
choosing stones it´s best to look for ones with a flat face. This may
not be possible depending on the type of stone and where you´re
collecting it from, but it makes the job easier and the result more
pleasing to the eye.
(2) The Base
Make sure that you have a good, sound base upon which to lay the stone floor. Ideally, you will be laying the pebble floor on top of a flat concrete base that has had sufficient time to cure to take the additional weight of the stone floor finish.
Prep the base. I usually use a watered down
solution to prime or prepare the concrete so that the new floor will
bond to it better. Check the manufacturer´s label for the solution
concentration as this varies depending on the product. Paint it on with a
brush or roller.
(3) Set up level datums
are different ways of doing this. An easy, adjustable way is to drill
holes into the concrete floor, put in a plastic wall plug and fix a
screw in to the level that you want the finished floor to be, minus the
thickness of the straight-edge. Drill a square matrix of holes 2' 10''
apart from each other over the area of your floor. Repeat the plug and
screw fixing procedure, making sure the top of the screws are all level
with each other. Be fussy as it makes the next steps easier.
Alternatively, you could lay a border of rustic tyles/bricks to finished floor level to act as your datum, then fill in the remaining space in-between with the river stones. It´s your floor so it´s up to you how you proceed!
(4) Wash the river stones to remove dirt and dust.
(5) Lay the mortar bed and set the level datums
Mix the sand and cement in a 4:1 ratio with water to
the consistency of a stiffish porridge, but not too wet. You want the
stones to move a little in the mortar but not excessively as they will
sink in too much. You will see what consistency works best for you when
you have tried steps (6) – (9).
(6) Bucket mortar onto the concrete slab to cover one of your 2' 10" 'squares', with a screw in each corner. Be careful not to cover the screw heads. You may need to add or take away mortar depending on the thickness of the stones.
Place one straight-edge on top of two screws/bolts and then the other
straight-edge on top of the two other screws/bolts so that the
straight-edges are parallel to each other. The top of the straight-edges
will be your finished floor level.
(8) Laying the stones
stones in the mortar, flat-face up, so that they are slightly above the
finished floor level. Continue placing stones until the square is full.
As I mentioned above, the spacing is up to you. I place the stones so
that they are touching and this still gives a fairly wide grout line in
places. Due to the random shape of the stones the grout line will vary,
unless you manage to collect very uniform stones.
(9) Hold the level or third straight edge with a hand at each end. With a tapping motion, use the straight-edge to bring the stones to the level of the two parallel straight-edges. The bottom of the straight-edge in your hands should be touching the surface of the two parallel straight-edges and the surfaces of all the stones.
(10) Clean off the stones
a soft brush and water to carefully clean any of the stones that get
dirty or they will be stained. Make sure that the level of the mortar is
low enough so that you can add the grout to the correct thickness.
Check the grout manufacturer's guidelines for the required thickness.
Remove any excess mortar carefully so you do not disturb the stones or
(11) Repeat steps (6) – (10) for the rest of the floor. Leave floor to rest for a few days.
(12) Seal the stones according to manufacturer’s guideline, after checking that they are clean and dust free. This is to prevent them staining when applying the grout.
Mix the grout according to manufacturer’s guidelines. Use a rubber grout trowel to apply grout into the joints between the stones. Clean off the residual grout with a sponge and leave it to cure for a couple of days.
If you prefer to save money at this stage, rather than using the waterproof pre-mixed grout, it is possible to use a standard 4:1 sand and cement mix for outdoor or general flooring.
(14) Clean off any residual dust. Re-seal the entire floor with liquid stone seal. Your beautiful natural stone floor is complete. Sit back and enjoy.
When you have mastered this technique you can try being more creative using patterns and combinations of other floor materials to create a more varied floor finish.