Brick and Stone Walkways & Walls

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Needed - Brick Walkway Repair

April 2012

We are looking for a someone to repair the brick walkway and landing leading from our driveway to our front door, which has settled unevely over the years and is in need professional repair (i.e. grading of the land and relaying of the bricks, possibly with some sort of supporting substructure). Beneath a portion of the walkway and landing is a drainage pipe that's no longer functioning properly so we'll need the drainage repaired as well. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks.

We had the same problem about 8 years ago. I was afraid my dad would break his neck on our front stairs! We had a guy named Jason do it. He has his own company and is from England. I think this is them( if he has a strong English accent, it's him!) He wasn't cheap, but the new path's been there for 8 years and there's not a crack in it and it's ROCK SOLID.

In repairs like this, you want to KNOW you are doing the right thing ( or you don't sleep at night worrying you are wasting your money on a company that's gonna screw up with 500 pounds of cement in your front happened to a friend of mine who took a low-ball bid) Anyway, Jason's your guy, I know is website is fancy-looking...but he just puts the rich folk's places on there. He works with regular folks too ;- ) JM

2009 - 2010 Reviews

Landscaper that knows brickwork needed

May 2010

We have a driveway that is on a downslope and in the middle of the driveway is a dirt bed that was intended to grow greenery. However, we have driven over the sprinkler heads enough times to make this impossible and realize that we need to fill in the space (approx. 44' x 3') with brick. I don't know if drainage will be needed, but I do need someone that is quick and experienced. Basically, I want someone that can get the job done well,for a good price, without me having to be around that much. I may have other jobs that involve a bit of stucco work or retaining walls, so those skills could be a plus! Thanks in advance. aaron

I very highly recommend Bill Armijo of Bay Area Stone Gardens ( I recently hired him (on the recommendation of another post to this newsletter) to install a stone pathway in my yard. I was impressed by his vision and creativity as well as his practical approach to dealing with complications like drainage and tree roots. Bill was able to understand the idea in my head and translate it into reality in less than 3 days. He took photos and sent me an email at the end of each day, explaining exactly what he did and what was next. He was on time and on budget - no surprises. I was very pleased with his work, would hire him again, and would recommend him to anyone needing any kind of outdoor landscape/hardscape work. Bridget

2007 - 2008 Reviews

Stone Entry at Front Door

Sept 2008

Any recommendations for a stone/brick layer who could do a simple front entry stoop which would require some concrete foundation and drainage? Nothing too artful...pretty straightforward --inexpensively?? Kate

I want to recommend a stonecrafter who can do your entryway. He does beautiful work; everything he does is one-of-a-kind and perfectly crafted; and his prices are very competitive. He did our back patio in stone and we couldn't be happier. I know he does everything from small projects (such as yours) to larger, full-scale backyards. *Aztec Stonecraft *[Estanislao Gonzalez] * *510.689.4224

Give Jose Maravilla 510-381-0399 a call. He has done all the stone work here in my home and he is great. He's also reasonably priced. Best of luck! Aurora

Bill of Bay Area Stone Gardens ( has done several front entry ways with natural stone which is hand-crafted. He is very detailed and has a good eye for design in both the structure and the finished product. Great person to work with. Happy Customer

Flagstone and cracks..what is realistic?

August 2008

Hello, Last year we had a flagstone patio and paths put into our backyard totaling about $20k in work. The flagstone was set into a concrete base that had steel reinforcement and fiber mesh embedded in the concrete. We were happy with the work until recently.

The problem is that cracks have developed in the concrete at the junctions where the paths get thinner. The flagstone path encircles the lawn and meets up with the has recently cracked at each ''corner'' where the path meets up with a wider section.

I called the contractor to complain and he told me that concrete cracks and insists that there is nothing to do about it. Attempting to cover the crack would, according to him, draw more attention to is essentially the nature of the beast. (Our contract says nothing about cracks).

I am considering filing a complaint with the state contractor's license board, but before I do, I want to make sure I have realistic and reasonable expectations.

What is the best way to fix cracks that develop in the concrete under flagstones? Anyone know about realistic/reasonable expectations regarding the performance of flagstone over concrete? Is there an objective 3rd party I can contact for another opinion? Any other advice or suggestions? thanks!

Cracks in concrete? You bet! I've helped my brother put down plenty of concrete walks, and they pretty much always crack.

Those lines in sidewalks are called ''control lines'' ... they're put there to encourage the concrete to crack along the straight line, rather than at a random location. But walk down a sidewalk sometime and you'll see that most of the time, the control lines work and the cracks form in those lines. But there's plenty of times when the cracks zag across the face of the sidewalk.

With embedded flagstones, the flags themselves are the control lines.

Concrete walks without cracks? Unlikely. Rebar and mesh will help. About the only way to guarantee zero cracks is to pre-stress the concrete, and that's a job way beyond your backyard.

Concrete cracks are almost always caused by the top of the concrete being in tension, which is usually caused by settling of the ground underneath (perhaps when it got damp. Or maybe when it dried out - either way, it'll no longer evenly support the slab)

Incidentally, putting rebar under a walkway is overkill unless you expect to drive a car over it. Reinforced concrete in a yard or walkway is very difficult to remove.

I learned to put flagstones into sand, never concrete. They're way easier to change, should we (or some later owner) wish to rearrange our backyard. Oakland homeowner

As a landscape designer, I warn clients that with our clay soils and earth movement, concrete will crack and if it is suitable for the situation, I recommend laying the stone on sand or decomposed granite instead. This also has the advantage of being a pervious surface, allowing water to percolate through the soil, where it is cleaned and replenishes the water table rather than taking pollutants through the storm drains to the bay. I noticed on an estimate that one of the contractors I work with did recently for one of my design clients that he wrote a disclaimer next to his bid for concrete work saying ''due to the nature of expansive soils in our area, we cannot warrant against concrete heaving or cracking.'' Still, sometimes people really want the smoothness of stone mortared onto concrete and are willing to put up with the cracking. Claudia

I'm a landscape designer/contractor, so have some experience with this. It's difficult to give a full opinion without seeing your flagstone, but here are a few comments. I'm going to assume that you're right that the base itself is cracking, not just the mortar.

It sounds like your contractor did a better-than-average job in laying the concrete in that plenty don't bother to put in proper reinforcement for paths and patios, and I'm surprised to hear that cracking in the concrete base is happening already. However, how well the soil below the concrete is excavated and compacted also comes into play with settling and cracking, and poorly done compaction can defeat all the reinforcing in the world. Of course, the reinforcing itself has to be properly installed to be effective, but it would be very surprising if it wasn't.

Another factor is where you live- some areas have more natural ground movement than others, and there's not anything that anyone can do about that.

He's right- concrete does crack, and ''corners'' are vulnerable spots. It's possible that putting in special expansion joints at those places might have stopped it from cracking, but the downside is that they're not especially attractive in the middle of a run of garden paving (not ghastly, but they do break the visual flow a bit, at least as much as cracks do).

He's also right that trying to repair the cracks now will make them stand out even more, it's better to live with them. Right now your eye is going to the problem, you're focussing on it, but over time it's very likely that your eye will skim right over the cracks and focus on the overall (hopefully nice) effect.

As to filing a complaint, I would first try to determine how the compaction was done, which is the only place I can think of where he might have seriously slipped up. Was baserock laid down, leveled, and power tamped? That's the very best way. At the least, the soil below the concrete pour should have been leveled and well compacted. Cece

Lay flagstone for a backyard patio

July 2008

I'm looking for someone who can lay flagstone for a backyard patio. I don't think it's a complicated or big job--but what do I know or I'd do it myself. :-) Seriously, it's a fairly small space, but I'd like to find someone who really knows what they're doing (we already had a botched job due to inexperience). Thanks for any contacts the group can provide! Tish

Great landscaper: Steve Rudy w/ Rare Earth Landscaping see the website: Happy Customer

We called Jason Wady of International Masonry Specialists Inc. to install some flagstone in our back patio and he was great. He's an English fellow who is very straightforward and didn't hesitate to tell us why our original design was flawed. He has a good design ethic and we love the new patio. He also did some stamped/stained concrete work on our sidewalk strip. He has a Website (can't remember) Jason Wady International Masonry Specialists (510)632-4541

Mason needed for patio work

June 2008

My husband and I would like to make a nice patio area (possibly out of flagstone) in our backyard. We are looking for recommendations from people who have had similar work done. Thank you!! Amy

Let me recommend Jose from Maravilla Landscaping 510-381-0399. He recently put in a flagstone patio in my backyard and built me a pergola. He's very professional and I loved all his ideas. I really felt that he listened to what I wanted and gave me feedback as to what would look beautiful [some of my ideas were a little exaggerated =0] He's very knowledgablein other areas, I have used him for my irrigation and he even built my greenhouse. His prices are quite reasonable as well. Aurora

Where to buy stone and rock?

June 2008

Hi - where is a good source locally (Berkeley-Oakland) for landscaping stone products such as flagstones, builder's sand, river stones and other decorative landscaping rock products? Thanks! Wanting to Rock Out

I'm sure I won't be the only person who recommends American Soil & Stone in Richmond ( -- they have an amazing selection in stock and are very helpful. I even know a kindergarten teacher who took her class there as a field trip to climb in all the different piles of dirt -- it was a big hit. Also Dreaming of Hardscape

I recently landscaped my front yard and bought boulders, black flagstone, pea gravel, bark and soil enhancer from Acapulco Rock and Soil, 3251 Jacuzzi St, Richmond, 510- 526-3800. It was awesome to get all the stuff from one place and pay only one delivery fee. I did research many places before going there and I found their prices to be the most competitive as well as they had great boulders. There is another place right down the street called American Soil & Stone Products. Between the two you'll find about everything you need. Karlyn

Stone wall and walk way

July 2007

I am wondering if anybody knows a ''not-so-pricey'' contractor who can help replacing our broken wood fence in the front of the house with a retaining wall made out of stacked stones. We also plan on replacing our old cemented walk way (paint peels off) which leads from the sidewalk to the front of the house with an irregular flagstone path (probably over a concrete base with mortar applied between the joints). Also, we are thinking about breaking up a brick walk way in the back yard and replacing it with an irregular flagstone path (dry-laid and with grass around and between the stones). Can anybody give a recommendation on who to contact if I DO NOT want to spend a fortune on a landscape architect or designer but are willing to pay for quality labor? Having two kids and no experience in laying stones myself, I am not sure I can take on this kind of job myself. Of course this would be the cheapest solution though. Or did somebody do this by him/herself and can tell me how it went? In general, how much more is it to build a stone wall vs. putting up a nice new fence? Need some change

Hi there, I recommend Douglas Polentz. He might not be taking on any new projects, but its worth giving him a call. He's very artistic, inexpensive and does a quality job. His email is chromater [at] and his ph# is 510-219-9604. Good luck! Colette

If your looking for someone to build a retaining wall we had one built about a year ago. The guy we usesd was great his name is Jim Brady and his number is 510-455-0831. He did a great job and was very reliable. We also had are kitchen redone. If anyone looking for that the company was rock steady kitchen solutions. The guys name is Jack Rich (888) 780-4035. Hope this helps vh

Builder for stone retaining walls

Feb 2007

Anyone recommend a good company for rebuilding stone retaining walls? There are two old posts for Jose Galvez of Orinda. Anyone use his company lately and have his contact info? Anyone use Lazar Landscaping? We need some old cement removed and someone with vision to figure out the best way to reconfigure our walls to make our slighty sloped yard more useable.

We live in the Oakland Hills and we used Bob Harmola of Welte Construction. Bob was great! He had vision and worked with us on different options. We ended up getting rid of old, crumbling retaining walls, installing new walls, changing the layout of the walls, installing a French drain, sprinklers, etc. His crew was clean, courteous and timely. Our neighbor even came over to say ''thank you'' for choosing such a polite company. Two years later we are thinking about having more work done and we won't hesitate to call Bob again! Mel

Manuel Gutierrez did a super job on our stone retaining walls. Beautifully done, reasonably priced. Here are then numbers i have for him: mobile 510-501-8252 home 510-237-9461
dan h

Darcy Hahn in Berkeley does beautiful rock walls, both retaining and decorative. She has done work for several people I know. She can be contacted at 510-528-8208. anon

I know of someone who does beautiful natural stone work -- he's done extensive work for a friend of mine in Pacifica -- retaining walls, planters, walkways, and a fountain/stream all built by hand with stone. He took her crappy weed-filled back yard and made it look like an oasis. He does the design plan and building. The company is based in San Francisco where I live, but I think he works all over the bay. It's called Stonescape Exotics, and his name is Robert Pendergrast. I think he advertises on Craigslist, but I can get his contact info if you're interested, from my friend. maryish

Matt Hornby built a stone retaining wall in my backyard three years ago that is really a work of art. Most people who see it think it is original to the house, a 1912 Craftsman, because it fits in so well with its surroundings. The stones were carefully fitted together without mortar, and a stone bench is incorporated into the wall. He also put down a flagstone path, also very beautiful. Matt has a graduate degree in Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley and many years of experience working in landscaping, so he is not going to be the cheapest option. But he will create something that you will enjoy for many years. He's a very careful and artful designer and builder who does high quality work. He's also a very nice guy. Matt's phone number is 510 717-1342

2005 - 2006 Reviews

Reviews of Stone Masons & Brick Masons

Oct 2006

Once again, I would like to recommend a wonderful mason who has helped us with countless landscaping projects. He has built rock walls, brick patios/steps and flagstone patio/steps. He has also trenched and put in french drains, dug and terraced our yard, and helped us with our planting. He is very affordable and a very nice man. A real find and I am happy to refer him - Arnoldo can be reached at 510-827-8598. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. margaret

May 2006

Tom Doss does excellent stone work. He specializes in working in harmony with Mother Nature without the use of concrete to create patios, walls and other decorative stone features. 510 655-2839 Melanie

May 2005

Landscape architect/stone mason recommended
I am writing in response to several posts in the April 22 Digest about landscape architects and garden construction teams. We have recently landscaped the side area to our house in Alameda, and Matt Hornby, based in Berkeley, was an incredibly good landscape architect to work with. He is timely, reasonably priced, and a very good communicator. Matt also has extensive experience as a stone mason and has worked on projects big and small througout the East Bay. He is willing to take on small projects as well. He can be contacted at matthornby72 AT If you would like more references or to take a look at the brick path and cement driveway he did for us, give me a call. Thanks! Anna

2004 & Earlier

Stepping Stones for Backyard

March 2004

I am looking for a recommendation on where to buy nice stepping stones for our backyard. We looked at the ones at Home Depot which were relatively inexpensive (I believe about $2 per piece)but we did not like the sort of 'artificial' look of them. Does anyone know another place that might have a bit more of a selection than Home Depot but is not much more expensive ? Andrea

Go to an arts & craft website and learn how to make your own. You can use disposable pie/cake ''pans'', or make your own mold (depending on what size you need). This way, you can personalize with kids/grandkids hand or foot print, animal foot print, write sayings, etc. I know it is with concrete or plaster or something. Saw it on Martha of course and they turned out really cute. DiAnn

Try American Soil Products in west Berkeley (3rd Street, I think). They have an amazing selection, and as for price, you get what you pay for. Lisa McL

Brick Layer for Patio

July 2002

In the course of my remodel, my yard got dug up and I need someone to re-brick about half of a small Berkeley yard. There are a couple spots with mildly tricky grading/stair issues, so we need someone that knows what s/he's doing. Can anyone recommend someone to do this work? We would like it done ASAP. Thanks so much! - Catherine

We have a beautiful flagstone patio layed by a wonderful gardener/landscaper, and he does alot of brick work. His name is Francisco Mayo and his number is 601-9350. He has done a beautiful job of overall landscaping for us with our costs in mind. We are very happy with his work. - I. Sazer