Make a hole, make it wide

Money for new windows isn’t falling off the trees this summer, so we decided to make some progress with the stuff we have on hand. Now that the front stairs lead up to a fancy new door, it made the janky concrete walkway we inherited look that much shittier. (The light-colored patch in the photo above was concrete I mixed and poured two days before I owned the house, in order to make someone’s insurance agent happy).

About six years ago, our neighbor asked if I’d be interested in some leftover brick he got from a friend, and I eagerly accepted. He loaded his truck up and we stacked it all under the side porch by the garage, where it’s been collecting leaves and bugs ever since. I’ve always had a plan for it, but it was pointless to start anything until we replaced the stairs.

Waiting for crushed gravel

I got busy with my new sledgehammer on Saturday morning, and to my surprise, the slab closest to the stairs came apart pretty easily. Instead of the poorly poured, varied-depth slabs going around the house, this was an even 4″ from edge to edge. A few choice whacks and I was able to pry it up and out easily. Sadly, after being clear of debris for the summer, I’ve started yet another mountain of concrete next to the driveway. Sigh.

Among many other awesome tools, Dad sent me home this spring with his mattock, which is a tool I wish I’d had years ago. The wide blade made short work of the clay our yard is cursed with, and I was able to easily go down 6″ and flatten the base.


My only real tactical error was buying 8 cubic yards of pea gravel because Lowe’s didn’t have crushed gravel. Luckily, I stopped for the day before cutting any of the bags open, talked to my neighbor, and learned Home Depot had it in stock. So, Sunday morning I loaded 8 cubic yards of that, returned the pea gravel, and got to work filling the hole back up.  Dad also gave me his tamper, which made things smooth smoothly, but I had to go back out for another six bags of gravel to get the depth I was looking for. (I spent a lot of time humping heavy bags of shit to and from the Scout).

Crushed gravel down

Then it was time for sand. I laid down two 2×4″s and nailed them level in place, made a screed with another stick of wood and some leftover drywall, and set the sand in place. At this point I got smart and put up our collapsible event tent over the workspace, which made being outside in the afternoon sun much more bearable.

Sand and edging down

Then plastic edging went in to hold things in place, and we got to work laying brick.

Brick in place

From this angle it doesn’t look like much, but that’s over eight feet of brick from the foot of the stairs. There’s a cool stamped brick in the lower right that says CALVERT, which needed a good place to live.

We have another 20′ to go before we get to the sidewalk by the hedge, but I’ve got a good system down now. I’m hoping that the concrete is an even 4″ all the way out, and that we’ve got enough salvaged brick to make it out there (Home Depot sells new brick that looks similar, but not identical to our salvaged brick). The other trick is going to be allowing for some of the odd-sized bricks we inherited; there’s a bunch out there that are wider and thicker than the stuff we’ve got, which means I might need to cut it down as we get further along. I was hoping to avoid renting a brick cutter…


Date posted: September 7, 2015 | Filed under house, photo | Leave a Comment »

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