The Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) Stone Seminar – Paving the Way, sponsored by London Stone, this week brought together landscapers, designers and suppliers to discuss and debate the methods and issues involved in laying stone.

Held at Whittlebury Hall in Northamptonshire the 80 strong audience heard from a number of experts and industry practitioners about all aspects of working with stone from the importance of design and sub-bases to sealing and sourcing.

Laying stone used to be a relatively straightforward process when there were just a relatively small number of traditional stone types available, it is very different now. Now with such a plethora of stone on the market from across the world, particularly from India and China, it is a much more complex picture with associated technical issues. Speakers through the day looked at some of the intricacies involved in selecting and laying stone – it is clear that there is no one size fits all approach and all jobs need to be assessed according to site conditions such as sub-soil and soil type and along with the aspect of the garden.

Leading consultant Barry Hunt, Director of IBIS Limited, the UK’s first consultancy specialising only in building materials problems, provided a fascinating talk about what to do when things go wrong. Barry emphasised the point that stone is the innocent party and failure is normally the result of poor preparation or understanding leading to the works not being fit for purpose. Barry was inundated with questions imparting his valuable knowledge to the audience. There was also much debate about porcelain - ‘the new kid on the block’ which despite its excellent qualities is still to stand the test of time.

APL Chairman, Ken White from Frosts Landscape Construction, who opened and closed the seminar, comments, “Whilst it is evident that there is no one size fits all approach to working with stone there are areas of commonality. The day provided a great forum for discussion, debate, and sharing of information, the industry is better integrated and informed.”

Top tips from the day include:

Consider the design carefully, ensuring your choices are fit for purpose
Don’t apply a one size fits all approach
There is no standard depth of a sub base
Rigid on rigid or flexible on flexible was best laying practice
Consistency is key
Apply the 5% rule - strive to make every job 5% better
Share knowledge and best practice – everyone has something to learn
Make sure you use experts in the field – pick up the phone
Know where your stone comes from
Use the right product for the right place
Get the manufacturers to come out and demonstrate how to use a product
Sealing of natural stone is not necessary however it can add benefits provided the right sealant is used.
Define the purpose of the stone and understand the specification – ensuring it is fit for purpose.

Speakers included Jason Lock (Deakinlock), Paul Hensey (FSGD from Green Zone Design), Steven Walley, Craig Potter and Chris Durnford (London Stone), David Sewell (The Gardenmakers), Giles Heap (CED), Barry Hunt (IBIS Limited), Martyn Fear (Specialist Precast Products Ltd), James Lucas (Extensive Limited) and Mark Gregory (Landform Consultants).

Many thanks to headline partner: London Stone, conference partner: ICL, and exhibitor partners Aggregate Industries, CED, CambridgeHOK, Citation, Ecovision, Global Stone Paving, Melcourt, Millboard, Towergate HTA Insurance and  XL Horticulture.

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