Repairing stone walk steps


I have a stone walk from the front of my house to the driveway, which has three steps. The stones that form the top step have come loose and I want to reset them. These stones sit half on dirt and half on other stones that serve as risers from the step below. I couldn't tell if there was any gravel or sand used under the half on dirt. For the other half, it looks as though something was used between the riser stone and the step stone, but roots have grown in between and compromised whatever was there.
Any suggestions as to how I should reset these stones?
Thanks!
-Ben
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Ben wrote:

First comment: Where do you live? Freezing a problem?
Lou
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New York State, so we do get cold in the winter...
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Ben wrote:

If the steps are used a lot you might want to have a stone mason do it. Very bad things could happen after an icy night.
Lou
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-snip-
If what you are calling the top step is flagstones or large flat stones that span from an apparently stable base to a "dirt" base that will shift through the seasons- then I'd tear it apart and do it right.
Either let those stones float up and down with the seasons. [not a great idea as they will tend to tip forward and back at will]. Or make sure that the steps are completely supported by a solid base that goes below the frost line. [on the south side of a house in southern NY that might only be a foot or two--- north side in the Adirondacks, you might want 4-5 feet.]
Jim
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Ben wrote:

Clean out the roots, etc., and clean out the dirt from the joints.
Re-establish the flat support of the top and then lay bed of mortar at the joints.
--
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Ben wrote:

Here's how a handyman would do it: * Remove the loose stones. * Make sure all remaining stones are completely stable. If not, remove those too. * Remove half an inch of the dirt underneath the tread. * Remove the mortar that was sealing the tread to the riser. * Compact the remaining dirt. You can pound it with the end of a 4x4 if you don't have a compactor. Get it good and solid. Add more dirt and compact it until you have about half an inch of room between the dirt and the tread. It will probably line up with the top edge of the riser. * Put a bed of mortar on the dirt and the top edge of the riser. * Moisten the back of the stones, then butter them with a thin coat of mortar. This makes them stick better to the mortar bed. * Position the stones where you want them. Make sure they tilt toward the front just a little so water drains off. * Tap the stones with the butt of your trowel to seat them. * Put mortar in the joints. * Smooth the joints with your finger. Don't forget the one under the front edge. * Use a damp sponge to clean off the mortar on the stone face. * Double-check that the stones are positioned properly and tilt forward for drainage. * Put up barriers inside and outside to keep people off for 24 hours.
Now's a good time to put your initials in there somewhere for posterity. :)
--
Steve Bell
New Life Home Improvement
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wrote:

Thanks, Steve. That's a really helpful guide.
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Ben wrote:

Let us know how your project goes. Some pictures would be nice, too.
--
Steve Bell
New Life Home Improvement
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