An Easy Way to Grout Stone Cobbles

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An Easy Way to Grout Stone Cobbles

Stone cobbles are one of the most beautiful materials to use in paving. Done right, they have a European elegance and robustness that is hard to match.

Cobbles come in a variety of materials, including granite, porphyry, and even concrete. If they are at least 60 mm thick and grouted with gravel, sand, bitumen or mortar, they can be placed on sand foundations. For best results they should be glued to concrete slabs and this article discusses this process.

Cobbles can either be purchased as individual stones or glued into a pattern on a pre-existing grid base. A mesh backing allows for faster laying although they are not always accurate and, if glued to a raised concrete surface, the mesh prevents good glue contact between stone and concrete and is not recommended for vehicular traffic. There is no problem using mats on flat surfaces.

Once the stones are cemented, grouting can begin the next day. Grout can be a simple sand/cement mixture with oxide added for color if desired, or premixed colored grout. Premixed grout is more expensive but less labor intensive and more consistent in color and hardness.

Problem:

Conventionally the grout is spread in 10 mm intervals using a rubber squeegee or by hand and cleaned with a sponge and water when the grout is partially cured. This is a very slow and tedious process in large areas such as driveways. Granite cobbles have a rough surface that is difficult to wipe clean and easily absorbs cement, which can leave stains. They can then be cleaned with hydrochloric acid but this takes a long time and risks staining the grout.

Alternatively, the stone can be sealed before grouting with a good quality penetrating stone sealant. This will prevent stains. However, as the cobbles must be clean and dry before sealing, this is not always practical on large jobs.

Solution:

Faced with these problems, I was convinced that if I could use an extrusion method like a large grouting gun to force the mortar into the gaps, I could significantly reduce the time on this part of the project.

On some inspection ‘The Pointmaster’ is a very simple device consisting of a PVC cylinder with a replaceable, stainless steel nozzle and a hand plunger. The Pointmaster was designed primarily to show off old brickwork, but it proved to be a magical tool for cobble grouting.

Using premixed mortar, fill the cylinder. Place the nozzle at a distance and slowly squeeze the grout, taking care not to spill any. Getting a smooth flow takes some practice (and a strong back).

If you fill the gap close to the top, allow the mortar to set for about 3 hours. The stone can be smoothed down as much as you want it to stand tall. I use different sized bolts or even sticks to smooth it out. It is a simple and satisfying process and gives excellent results.

Tips:

1.Don’t try to smooth the mortar too quickly or it will be slow and messy. Do not leave the set until the next day or it will be too difficult to work with. What is best if you grout in the morning and let it set and smooth in the afternoon.

2. While they are noisy and annoying, a leaf blower is the best thing for cleaning the gaps between stones before grouting and for removing debris after smoothing the grout down.

Happy grouting!

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