Monday, March 26, 2012

Walk With Me.

Since I'm not very handy at this point in the kitchen renovation (trust me, I should not be playing with electrical wires), I've had to set my sights on other projects to keep myself busy.  I've decided that in the next 1-2 months, I would like to renovate the upstairs guest bedroom and pave a new front walkway.  To be honest, the guest bedroom should probably be the priority as we have guests coming to stay with us in May, but I decided I would get more satisfaction out of tackling the front walkway first.  Aside from the weather being unusually warm and perfect for working outside, I just plain hate the current front walk.  It was definitely some sort of after thought and very poorly planned.  In fact, it's practically useless.

For one, the current path is comprised of 14" by 14" pavers that just look so dang tacky.  Second, the path is two pavers wide off of the porch, but reduces to a one paver width extending to the driveway.  Why you ask?  Oh because there's a lamp post in the way.  Obviously it makes more sense to squeeze in a path in the 14" between the bulbous azalea bushes and the lamp post rather than paving on the outside of the lamp post.  Totally, obviously, duh.  Whoever planned that out was a dummy, and the level to which this irks me is deeper than the words I can type to describe it.

Even Rooney's noticing how dumb that "walkway" is.

So I'm gonna demolish someone's stupidity with one heck of a smile on my face and create something spectacular.  I've got grandiose visions for the front yard, and they include ripping out that lame walkway and replacing it with a spiffy new one.  Not only will the new walkway be a consistent and appropriate width throughout, but it will enclose the azalea bushes and lamp post in a new flower bed.  I'll also create a flower bed in front of the bushes to the right of the porch.  Essentially, the whole front of the house will have large flower beds which I feel will make it look a lot cozier and make up our curb appeal about 10 billion notches.  Here's a crude drawing I made in Paint to convey my visions to Chris:

Don't judge me.

And here is another drawing that I did using Chris' CAD drawing as a template.  I personally prefer my Paint rendition because this version lacks colorful appeal, but Chris is clearly the better technical artist.
Credit for house drawing: Chris.  Credit for garden blobs: Erin.

Time to get started!  Once I removed the original pavers, I began by outlining where the new path would be.  This required meticulous measurements to be sure the path was straight and consistently three feet wide throughout its span.  Obviously, I had to recruit Chris to help me with this one.

We outlined our path by hammering stakes in the ground along the edges.  Then we tied bright colored yarn around the stakes to create the border of our future path -- there is specific string you can purchase from any home improvement store to do this, but I had yarn and it got the job done just fine.  Next, I took a can of spray paint and did my best to spray a line on the grass just under the yarn -- again, you can purchase a chalk spray to do this, but regular spray paint (which is what we had on hand) works as well; just be sure to use a bright color that will stand out against the grass.  It's sort of annoying to dig around the string, so once you have sprayed the outline, you can just remove the yarn.

Once the path was outlined, it was time to get my dig on.  This is probably the most difficult and tedious task involved in paving any walkway.  Luckily I had Roon to help me dig.  It took me (& Rooney) about three days to get all of the grass removed from my pathway.  Keep in mind that you need to dig down deep enough to accommodate a layer of paving gravel, a layer of paving sand, and the depth of your paver stones/bricks.  In our case, most of our path will be surrounded by garden space, so we didn't really need to dig down more than a few inches.
Perhaps he was digging for tubers.

After digging up the ground to make way for the new pavers, I had one of those "crap, there's no turning back now" moments.  For some people, this is usually where a daunting task can sometimes conquer progress.  Too afraid of facing a stagnant project, I had to press on.  Plus I was already sick of the dirt and mud Rooney had tracked in the house over a 3 day time span.

While we were digging (and I was freaking out about the daunting task ahead of me), Chris and I did some noodling on how we could make our task at hand a little easier.  The problem we were facing was that our front yard is very uneven, which would make having a consistently level path sort of difficult.  We decided that we would build a frame out of 2x4's that would frame the entire path.  We would then fill the space between the 2x4's with the gravel and sand.  The sand would fill the frame up to the rim; from there we would level the top of the sand and place the pavers on top using our frame as a guideline.  Sort of confusing to describe, but it was the best idea that we could come up with to solve our "level path" dilemma.

Chris and his Dad helped me out by framing the path with 2x4's.  Then it was time for me to get down to business.  I filled the frame with paving gravel first.  This is specific gravel meant for paving, and you can find bags of it at your local home improvement store located near bricks and pavers.  I did my best to spread out the gravel evenly, then set it by tamping it down with a tamper.  You will need a tamper for this job -- it is essential in helping solidify your surface!
Check out the 2x4's framing my future walkway.

Paving gravel.

Before pouring down sand, I needed to lay out a barrier between the sand and the gravel.  This will help keep my sand from seeping down into the gravel over time, thus helping to maintain my path's structure so the pavers don't get all wonky.  There are barriers that are specifically made for this purpose, but Chris and I felt they were a little gimmicky.  We decided to use roof paper (used for the barrier between shingles and plywood on roofs) which we had on hand.  Roof paper comes in large rolls and is much more economical than purchasing a product geared toward paving -- more importantly, it gets the job done.  So I scrounged up our big 'ol roll of roof paper and cut a sheet to fit over my gravel.
That's paper used for roofing, but you can also use designated barriers sold in the outdoor section of your
 home improvement store.

Next, I poured sand down on top of the roof paper.  I made sure the sand filled the rest of the frame, and tamped it down into place.  I found that with the sand, I needed to tamp, then add a little more sand since the sand compacted a lot more than the gravel.  I repeated this process a couple times, then I used a spare piece of 2x4 to scrape along the top of the frame edges to level off the sand.
That square thing is a tamper.  I like to compare it to an elephant's foot stomping out my sand.  Yup.

Finally it was paver time!  I simply laid out my pavers in the pattern that I wanted, using the wood frame as a guide for my edges.  At first I laid out the first row of pavers and was disappointed at how stupid they looked.  Of course, there was no turning back at this point so I kept on paving.  After a few rows it started lookin' pretty snazzy and now I'm highly anticipating what the path will look like once it's finished!  I am working down the path in 3-foot chunks instead of doing it all at once (i.e., pouring gravel down the whole path, tamping, laying out roof paper, pouring sand, tamping, etc);  I just decided this would be easier, but it can be done either way.
See how much better it looks the more you pave?  Satisfying.

On a fun side note, I've found that paving a new walkway can replace the gym.  Apparently, lifting and moving over 500 pounds of gravel/sand/bricks is quite the workout.  I've got the guns to prove it.  Call me a nerd, but I'm totally all about the "Home Improvement Workout".  Not only are you workin' on your fitness, but you get something productive done at the same time.  It gives a whole new meaning to the term "brick bodies"...haha corny, I know.

Due to an excessively rainy weekend, I wasn't able to finish paving my path so I'll have to post an after photo later when I'm done.  I've got a week put into this project so far, and I'm looking to have it finished within the next week.  Though two weeks sounds like a long time to pave a walkway, I feel like this is a realistic time frame to work with considering I work full time and I'm doing it all by my lonesome.  When you DIY, you gotta give yourself lots of time for projects -- if you want it done quick, contacting a professional might be the better option.  But let's be honest, that's just no fun.  Anywho, I'll keep pavin' away this week and hopefully have a finished product to show you by the end of next weekend!

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