Friday, January 29, 2010

With a Little Path Running Down the Middle...

3 big piles

Wednesday morning I started working on the front walk again. Gravel and sand were due at 10AM and the pavers some time after that, but I wasn't sure how long the break in the rain would last, so I worked at a faster pace than I might have otherwise. The gravel and sand arrived as scheduled, and then I went and rented a plate compactor before the pavers arrived. In short order I had 3 big piles of materials, a heavy machine, and a flight of stairs to take them all down.

the machine

I lost track of how many buckets of gravel I carried down, but eventually got the space filled and then turned to compacting it. The compactor made quick work of compacting the gravel (actually, "engineered fill", which is recycled concrete that's ground up into something like gravel) to a good level. I checked the level of things with my screed, and added some gravel where needed, then recompacted.

At this point my arms were tired enough that I was happier bringing down the sand one bucket at a time instead of two like I did with the gravel. And I didn't need as much, since it was about 1" of sand vs. 3" or so of gravel. Laying the pavers went fairly quickly, but even for a 32' long walkway it takes a lot of pavers. So I only made it about 1/3 of the way down with pavers before it was too dark to work, and waited for K to come home to be sure she saw the piles in the carport and could fine her way down the path in the dark.


Thursday I started up again early, hauling more sand and placing more pavers. On one of my countless trips up to the carport, a couple of guys drove up in a pickup asking if I had any work for them. We talked for a bit, but I was somewhat distracted because I wanted to get back to work. They were really hungry for work, so we settled on a wage and they got right to work. They brought down more sand and pavers as fast I could place them, so in short order I'd placed all but the pavers needing cuts at the end. While I worked on cutting the last pavers, Rene and Raul put some gravel along the edge opposite the concrete berm and spread sand over the top of the pavers to fit into the cracks. I fired up the machine again to help work the sand in and to firmly set the pavers into the sand under them.

I ended up doing a local jobs stimulus plan, paying two workers for half a day instead of renting the machine for a second day. Besides the path, I had them move the leftover gravel and sand to various places around the yard, move some stuff, and they even helped me carry an old stump up to the carport for eventual disposal. I was pleased with the trade-off, and they were pleased with the paying work. I got Rene's phone number in case I have more work for them later.

final results

With their help to speed me along, I even had enough time to rearrange some of the low voltage lights along the path and add a new one at the bottom of the stairs. I'm very pleased with the final result. Well, almost final. I'll need to add more sand to the cracks as what's there settles, but it's a joy to have a smooth, level, sturdy path to walk down now instead of the lumpy, wobbling brick path that was here when I bought the house 16 years ago.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rain Barrel Ready!

rain barrel

One of the things planned for the new front porch was a place to put a rain barrel. Given the weather patterns here in California (rainy winters, dry summers), there's a limit to the usefulness of a barrel as it won't get refilled from roughly May to October, but every little bit helps. Today I cut the downspout and added an elbow to get it ready.

Eventually I'd like to have a big tank under the deck that gets fed from multiple downspouts, but for now I'll have to settle for this 50 gallon one. It should get its first test Saturday night, and the overflow system some time after that as the forecast has rain on and off all next week.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What's at Stake

stake puller

Today I stripped the forms and pulled the stakes. Or at least most of them. The ones for the steps are hecka difficult to pull, even with the rented stake puller. But the path is ready for gravel, sand and pavers, and the drain for the overflow from the rain barrel is connected. Tomorrow I'll deal with those last stakes, and cut the downspout to feed into the rain barrel. More rain is due Saturday and beyond, so I doubt I'll get the path dealt with, but it's finally starting to look like a porch instead of a hodge-podge of construction detritus.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Concrete on the Way...

Which is a good thing, as rain is due for Tuesday and Wednesday. The total should be around 2.5 yards, which isn't that much in the big scheme of things. But it would be around a hundred 80 pound bags, which is way too much to mix by hand alone.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Breaking Up...

busted bricks

Actually isn't so hard to do, at least if it's brick and a bit of mortar and you've got a jackhammer. It's even easier if said brick and mortar has spent years in damp ground. There was a bit of concrete, and even a clay drain pipe (full of dirt and roots), but nothing like the ├╝ber-thick layers of the front walk I'd taken out before. As is usually the case, cleaning up the debris was more work than busting things up.

As happens with many DIY projects, this has gotten bigger than when it started. Initially I was just going to pour concrete for the front porch area. It was more than I could reasonably mix by hand, but not enough to get a concrete truck and pump. So we added in the steps to K's office. Then I decided I should take out the brick steps down from the walkway, as they were a bit sloped and would surrounded by concrete. Then I realized I could do the footings for new steps up to the carport, too. Now after busting out the steps, I'll need to build a little retaining wall above the area, too. I haven't calculated how much concrete I'll need altogether, but I'm pretty sure it'll be at least a truck load now.

the front walkway

The plan for the walkway is to have a concrete berm along the side to keep things in place, and then use permeable pavers (over a nice bed of gravel and sand) for the main part of path. That'll lead down to a couple concrete steps down to the front porch area. The porch area will be home to a 50 gallon rain barrel, and the overflow from that will go into a drain pipe through to the downhill side of the house.

Eventually, I'll build some new steps up to the carport. The current steps are getting a bit rickety, and they've always been a pain for moving large items (like refrigerators) up and down, both because they're just barely wide enough to hold such items, and there's a 90 degree turn to navigate. The new steps will be a straight shot (basically the hypotenuse of a triangle with the current steps being the two sides), and about 8" wider. But first things first -- a decent walkway. Rain permitting, that should happen Friday or early next week.