A couple of the most common outdoor features on a home is a walkway and/or a patio. Some are made of flagging…bluestone, granite, sandstone or limestone to name a few. Others are smaller units like concrete pavers or clay brick pavers ( SWB-severe weather brick ).
Over time, the stone or pavers may need adjustment or re-leveling due to frost movement, excessive traffic in a specific area or root encroachment. Having done a fair amount of repair work, I thought I would show a couple simple tools I use to lift or adjust pavers and flagstone.
The first one is a pry bar used for trim work. It’s thin profile is excellent for slipping into joints packed with stone dust or very tight stone, like travertine pavers. You will also find that it is useful for scraping out weeds or other organic material that the hose can’t rise away. Here’s a picture of a trim/pry bar..
The thin profile and thin blade works great for those tight joints. Once the bar is between the stones or pavers, you can make adjustments to straighten the lines of the pattern or square up your work. Laying reclaimed cobblestone or clay pavers, which tend to be imperfect, having a tool like this really helps. Kicking units into line hurts your knees and feet after awhile! Also, using the bar allows the unit to slide along the top of the base material which helps keep it level. Kicking them into line tends to push the unit into the base..then you need to lift it out and re-level your screed….arggg!!
The angled part saves the tips of your fingers from digging under the stone/paver.
The trim bar works better for smaller format stone or paving units. But what about lifting very large flagstone? Sure you can do it with the trim bar, but you need the death grip of a python to lift a 200 lb stone with one. Even if it’s not a problem for you at first, a full day of lifting heavy stone will make your hands and fingers pretty sore. So, thats when the next tool comes in handy.
This next tool doesn’t really have a name because its homemade. I guess finger saver, slab lifter and the handy dandy all work.
This version evolved from a similar tool I first saw being used by my first employer in stone masonry. He had taken the wire handle from a 5 gallon bucket and bent it into a handle. The part that hooked into the bucket served as the pick up point, being pre-bent at the factory. Then tape would be used to create a comfortable grip on the doubled up wire. The problem was that after lifting a few heavy stones, the pick up end would get fatigued and start straightening out. That’s a problem when it straightens out then drops a stone on the fingers of your other hand. You usually end up hopping around holding the injured hand and saying words that would make a sailor blush…after you launch the offending tool into the woods in a pain induced fury…..not that I ever did that, I’m just saying.
While working on the patio area at Ed J’s house another contractor saw the bucket tool I was using to pick up large granite flagging. He mentioned that he used to be a welder and asked if I wanted some tools made out of heavy round stock. I said yes, and then discussed a design based on Hay or meat hook. The idea was that the weight of the stone will rest on the width of the fingers instead of relying on grip. He came back a few days later with 6 of these tools and they worked great!
The handle position allows the weight of the stone to be held longer with less fatigue.
The hook is in line with your forearm which helps when lifting straight up. I have lifted very heavy stones with this little guy. I modified the hook end by grinding a flat lifting surface for more contact with the stone.
This pic shows the tool at work but poor lifting technique…it was hard to get the right angle for this shot. Anyway, you get the idea.
One of the things I appreciate about this type of work is that most of the tools are very simple and practical. Sometimes simple tools are all you need for a large project…your fingers will thank you for it.