Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Bricklayer Alternative Workout

This workout was both physical and mentally tiring. It required two solid weekends without special equipment. Lots of shoveling and heavy lifting. Lots of core strength working things into the right balance and ensuring proper hydration...of the ground off my new patio!

I was mulling how to do this over last summer. I even had a person come out and give me an obnoxiously priced quote to pave it. I considered a deck versus a concrete pour versus pavers versus brick. I opted for the brick. The job was complicated due to the sloping grade in front of my house and the fact that my house itself is sagging a little. This made the grading interesting, but I was able to get something that looked promising.

This "alternative" workout had several phases.
  1. Dig out
    This was the biggest pain as what was there was gravel packed into clay-ish soil. I just had to fight through it. A spade shovel and a heavy foot allowed for some good progress. I got the area dug out at least 5 inches (13 cm) from the top of bordering retaining wall. I used a flat shovel to "skim" the dirt and get the area adequately graded. I knew taking time with this would make the next steps easier.
  2. Weed barrier
    I took this optional step to lay some plastic as a weed barrier. I know it won't largely be an issue, but this little bit of extra insurance will delay the little green bastards from rising at all.
  3. Base Layment
    My 16'x9' (5m x 3m) patio required roughly 70 bags of base material. I had this (and all materials) delivered from the hardware store on pallets and left in my garage. My son and I poured the bags in the garage into a wheelbarrow. 6-ish bags at a time could then be wheeled and poured and raked out. this helped keeping things level while we worked. I built myself a step compactor with a chain and scrap lumber. I would compact and level and adjust. This took some time too, but got it to a satisfactory state.
  4. Leveling
    I admittedly cut a corner of sorts here. Once the base was satisfactory, I added the leveling sand (another 25 bags of material from the hardware store). Here I distributed the bags on the surface where I thought more and less material was needed (again dealing with non-ideal surfaces). My daughter helped me open the bags and distribute the fill. Once I was mostly satisfied I built a screed level from a longer 2x4, a cheap line level and some duct tape. The pros do suggest laying a couple 1" pipes on the base to guide the screed, but I winged it. It took a couple of iterations but I was ready for the pavers. 
  5. Paving
    Compared to the other steps this one was relatively easy. I again used my trusty wheelbarrow to bring out the blocks from the garage and set them. I would tap them into place with a rubber mallet. Every dozen blocks or so I would check alignment. Frankly, I enjoy "tile" work like this. It is like building a puzzle with a useful result. I chose a two-tone basket-weave pattern. Given there were solid edges on three of the four sides of the patio I was careful to make the block fit just so. My son helped lay roughly 2/3rd of the block (anyone need some grunt labor?). Once completely in, I filled the extra space between the surface and the existing retaining wall with pea gravel and compacted it with the blocks
  6. Grouting
    The final step was to sweep in a fine sand with elastomers to lock the block together. This took a little time making sure all the edges filled. Amazingly the edges against the house and existing walkway filled really well. Wetting the sand hardened it to a grout-like finish. A good sweeping later I am now in need of patio furniture!
I'm contemplating building my own adirondack chairs, but that may be a fall project.  In the end this was a most satisfying alternative workout. I felt physically good and have some sweat equity to show for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment