Monday, September 28, 2015

Curb Appeal

Approximately one foot between the tires and the edge of the driveway. 
Last winter, a friend dropped me off at our house and I almost slid under the wheels of his car because there was so little space between the car and the snowbank, given our narrow driveway. So this year, as his summer project, Stephen has built a landing and stairs in our front yard.

Our house in September 2014.
We haven't paid much attention to the front yard since we bought the house in 2005 -- aside from painting the door a happy colour and putting some seats under the front porch. There is so much we want to do here that we've created a three-year plan that started with our safety concerns.

Before putting in stairs, we addressed the weird proportions of the front porch, which didn't even go to the edge of the front step.

This proved to be a good starter project for installing interlock.


Including the incredible challenge of matching colours! We knew we had the correct style of block, and thought the newer blocks just needed time to darken, but, if anything, they've gotten lighter. We will fix this during next year's summer project.

In this picture, the car is parked far to the left of the driveway, to allow easier access to the work site.

Over the course of several weeks, Stephen used brute strength to haul away the sandy soil that would become the front walkway. It doesn't look like that much in this picture, but it was, quite literally, tons of earth.

In that picture, he is just about to begin preparing the base for the interlock. We used a garden hose to demonstrate roughly where I wanted the curves to go, then Steve put in stakes to help him place the boundary strips that hold the blocks in place.

Putting in the strips for the upper landing. These pictures are not in chronological order.
When it came time to install the interlock for the first landing Steve noticed that the bricks had two variations -- one slightly lighter than the other. Fortunately, he hadn't gone very far, so he undid what he'd started and mixed the two tones randomly.


But this really demonstrates why it's important to order enough supply for your entire project before you even get started. (This applies to painting, knitting, and sewing as well. Slight "batch" variations are normal.)

The view from upstairs.

After weeks of gravel and sand, it was exciting to see the steps start to take shape. Kane occasionally kept Steve company outside (if the work was not too noisy or dusty).



Then it was time to put in the first pair of stairs.



For the steps, we decided to use faux limestone concrete. They come in four-foot blocks, however, and we wanted nice, wide stairs -- six feet wide. So Steve had to cut those burger-flinging-huge blocks in half.


Fortunately, the blocks were hollowed out -- that made it possible to cut a controlled fault line and then break the block with a stone chisel. But then we had to block in the open cut. A couple of bricks and some mortar did the job.


We discovered that the stone-like faces of the steps produced a considerable gap between the blocks, even when Steve placed them as close together as possible.


We will fill these gaps with polymeric sand (have to plug the downhill opening), but I think it actually adds to the appeal.


So does our daughter. Just one more set of steps to go!


Steve converted another half-brick.

Steve used cold asphalt patch to clean up the edge between the interlock and the driveway.

And, voil√†!

Next year, we'll hire someone to haul away all the nutrient-poor sandy soil and bring in something nice and rich to support gardens out front. (As with the back yard, we're hoping to be grass-free, or minimal lawn. So, for now, we aren't even patching the grass or worrying about erosion.

P.S. Total cost for the materials, including crushed stone, sand, interlock bricks and concrete steps was approximately $3,000. Estimates to have the job done by professional landscaping companies were in the neighbourhood of $15,000.

4 comments:

  1. We know first hand how hard Steve worked! John and a friend did a similar interlocking project...same one step (only the 4' wide) and a bigger patio and smaller walkway. It looks great.

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    Replies
    1. It's a big job! I was glad that the extent of my own effort was to bring Steve big jugs of cold water.

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  2. Oh wow - that is a lot of hard work! Good job and well done to Steve. It looks fabulous. I have a big plan for our front entrance and walk too. It's kinda funny that I have concentrated so much time on the BACK of the house, when what everyone actually sees, is the front. However, we spend most of our time in the back, thus it is a bigger priority for our daily life. But now I can't wait to get started on my own front garden plan!!! I doubt my hubby will be as thrilled. LOL

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    Replies
    1. We did the same thing! But the scare when I almost slid under the car was a big motivator!!

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