Time to say Good-bye to flagstone pavements


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Pavement repairs. It’s a common enough sight across London and inconvenience. The pavement width is reduced to single file, if not closed altogether, while a work crew lay new flag stones. The obstruction can last for days. I photographed just such a site on the King’s Road in Chelsea (4th Nov. 2019). Besides the squeeze, bus stops are placed out of service and there’s a loss of business to shops along the street. And of course there’s all the construction noise, not least from the masonry cutting machines used to cut flagstones into the needed shape. Noisy and stone dust flying everywhere. What does the NHS say about stone dust:

Silica is a substance naturally found in certain types of stone, rock, sand and clay. Working with these materials can create a very fine dust that can be easily inhaled. Once inside the lungs, the dust particles are attacked by the immune system. This causes swelling (inflammation) and gradually leads to areas of hardened and scarred lung tissue (fibrosis). Lung tissue that’s scarred in this way doesn’t function properly. There is no cure for silicosis because the lung damage can not be reversed.

Oh come on, don’t’ be a woosy. The occasional lung full of stone dust won’t kill you. And the noise and narrow footpath for a week or ten days are a necessary inconvenience. What else can you do? Well, quite a lot IMO.

Let’s start with a central fact: flagstones are not essential to providing a safe, smooth pavement. To prove the point, as I continued along the King’s Road, I photographed the ground beneath my feet at various locations to record the vast range of surfaces I, and we, walk over quite safely.


Faster, Cheaper, Healthier

This native born Londoner lived in California for some time and yep, sidewalks need replacing there too. (The part of the street where the cars drive is called the pavement. Vive la diffĂ©rence.) The civil engineers in CA have a different approach to fixing sidewalks. A common practice is to pour cement into a wooden mold which is erected around a section of sidewalk. Next, smooth the surface. Then one of the workers takes a tool like a smoother with a ridge embossed in the lower side (called a concrete groover tool) and scores straight lines into the still wet concrete to mimic a flagstone. Maybe the divots channel some rain water, but to my eye it is 100% decorative. The area is cordoned off to allow the cement to dry. Next morning, that’s less than 24hrs, a smaller work crew return to test the firmness of the concrete. If all is well, the ropes are taken away and the sidewalk if fully operational once again. The photographs show a sidewalk being repaired in San Rafael, California, which is about 20 miles north of San Francisco.




To review; the repair takes less than 24 hours, there is not construction noise and no stone dust flying all over the place.

Adopting this technique might not be great news for flagstone makers, like
Fairhurst Stone Merchants who provide the slabs at the King’s Road site.


The taxpayer on the other hand will enjoy a significant saving in materials and manpower. Manpower which can be assigned to other projects sooner. Not to mention pavements will be re-opened in less time. There will be less noise, less disruption and no harmful stone dust.

Keith Howard
(Email: kwh101@hotmail.com)



A minimum of 8 days. Probably longer – my first picture was 4th Nov. and pavement was closed already.

MEANWHILE – directly across the street, south side King’s Road,

another long pavement closure commences. Six days and counting.




San Rafael Shares Cost of Sidewalk Repairs with Homeowners (KPIX-TV report)


NHS re: Stone Dust






London : Re-Visited Re-Imagined


I’m a native Londoner. I am passionate about the wonderful city I grew up in. Having worked overseas for many years, I return with fresh joy. I re-visit my home with lifetime experiences having lived and worked in the US for many years. The energy is just as vibrant now.

Keith Howard