Pavers and You

In the last few years there has been an increase in do-it-yourself projects by many homeowners. With friendly, helpful employees at the home improvement stores plus hundreds to how-to videos on line, just about anyone can create, design, and complete almost any project. You do have to have certain skills: creativity and vision, muscles and determination, and a plan for achievement. Otherwise you may slap down something in a haphazard way with a pace that requires years to finish. I remember a neighbor who planned a rock garden and so she hauled in a load of rocks in her trusty wheelbarrow. She dumped them and spread them around and returned to her base for load #2. It arrived and was dumped but spread with much less enthusiasm. And now, seven years later, the rock garden remains a mystery and a dream that will probably stay incomplete for a lifetime.

You, dear dedicated home improvement individual, have a plan that includes a rough but fairly specific timeline and a definite vision of completion. If you only have a weekend to get the job done, review the size of your project to decide if this is doable and then plan accordingly. If you intend to completely paint your house inside and out and add new trim, you have already set yourself up for failure unless you have a bevy of hearty friends to see you through the job. Even then the cluster of too many helpers who most often will offer too much advice may cause your dream project to vanish into a distant blur.

This weekend our family decided to put in pavers. Friday night after work the four of us pitched in to clear the areas (driveway, patio, and walkway) of the previous piles of gravel that invited and in fact encouraged weeds to grow and loved to be kicked around left and right until holes and mess replaced organized rocks. The three areas covered approximately 600 square feet. We were fortunate because the gravel could be scooped and shoveled to a different area and the ground underneath was fairly level. With rake, shovel, and hoe we then smoothed the surface and pounded it into a level field. With about three hours of labor, part one of the project was complete.

Early Saturday my son drove to the home improvement store to purchase pavers. For the driveway he wanted thick pavers that measured 6x12x2, thick enough to hold the extra weight of a parked car. A pallet contained 180 stones, just right for the project. He then purchased thinner, larger pavers for the patio and walkway: 16x16x1. Ready to load the first pallet onto his pickup he discovered that the salesperson could not operate a forklift and so a lengthy wait ensued while a loader could be procured. After loading one pallet, this salesperson said, “Oh, since you cannot load everything [3 pallets] we are going to have to void your sales slip and have you buy one load at a time.” Aghast, my son’s face dropped but then the non-forklift driver intervened and said of course he could come back for more loads using the initial paperwork, making up for his lack of small equipment operation skills.

Paver load #1 went like a breeze with only occasional re-raking necessary to insure a flat surface. Having purchased a stonecutter blade, the final task of straightening the edges was time-consuming but made for a beautiful finished project. While this had required only about four hours, the time spent at the store and unloading (about 6 hours total) meant that there was only daylight left to get the second load retrieved and unloaded and then to go back for the third. But that was all right – the front was complete and looked great and dinner tasted even better after a day of hard work.

Day 3 led to patio and walkway installation. Again having the surface ready increased the speed of installation. In no time (six hours) the project was complete. The most difficult part was loading up each paver one at a time (as they are quite heavy) and then hauling them around the house and into the backyard. Many steps were involved. Again some additional smoothing and trimming of stones were necessary but with the knack of pavers securely engrained in our brains, Sunday evening offered a lovely barbecue on the patio celebrating a paver project well done as my grandson wheeled his racecar bike around and around and we relaxed in exhausted bliss.