Thursday, December 3, 2015

Walkway go time!

Back in one of my first posts of the spring, I highlighted our walkway as something I really wanted to get done this summer. Things were looking grim getting it done this year when we still hadn't made any progress well into the fall.

But, like other years, we've decided to race winter, and see if we can sneak one more project in before snow flies.  Like we don't have enough stress :D

One of the big issues I had trying to get this project going was having time to plan.  Pregnant + work + homeschooling + finishing Eve's room = NO TIME. 

Buy, funny enough, having our baby girl actually gave me a lot more time to plan this thing out.  People kept saying how busy I'd be after the baby was born, but thanks to maternity leave, and an ample amount of time nursing, I've been able to squeak in some computer time.  (Mind you, doing anything that involved walking around was a challenge for a while.)

Let me tell you, there was a lot of planning on this project.  First off, we needed to rent tools and equipment.  Second, we needed materials delivered.  Third we needed to know how much materials to order almost exactly, as landscaping companies return policies are bad. 

That, and I had no idea how to make steps.  Or anything landscaping, in general.  It's hard to plan if you don't even have an end goal in mind, so I really had to learn a lot on this one. I'm gonna be a contractor by the time I get done with this house.  I'm learning all there is to know.

We did some [creepy] driving around local neighborhoods, and it seemed like the most common way to make steps with pavers around here was using granite blocks.  Still not satisfied, I googled, and googled and tried to fine anything I liked and thought we could DIY.

First off, I found that retaining wall blocks may be the inexpensive step option we wanted, as they looked okay and would be easy enough for us to move around.  But those would require some sort of tread, which would potentially raise the price up.

Here's a few pictures of what I came up with as options.  

Solid Granite steps:
Image via
Solid Bluestone/poured concrete treads:
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 Wood / Railroad ties
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To move through these options...  granite has a great New England style I could enjoy, but they seemed like an unlikely option for us.  They're pricey ($130 x 11 = $1300),  heavy (hard to move DIY style), and wouldn't work as freestanding stairs.  Plus, I do see a lot of heaved granite steps around our area, and I'm hoping to avoid heaving issues.

Pouring concrete slabs in place was another option, but so similar to what we have.  Aesthetically, we were wanted something that would add a little more value to the house, and doesn't scream "this is the first time we've pour concrete!"  Still, a good fallback if we just couldn't find anything we liked that we could afford.

And wood would pretty much what we have now.  While we could do a better job, and fix the spacing issue, it really wouldn't make me feel confident that our new walkway wouldn't settle like the old one did.  One option we considered was to just throw some stone in the sinking part of the steps, which would be very doable... but maintenance would be hard (our kids love to play in rocks!).  And I really don't like to walk on rocks much.

So, all those options were out.  Here's the next batch of options I was considering.

 Retaining wall caps:
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  Natural Stone pieces:

 Paver Treads
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My favorite of these three would be natural stone.  However, I was finding it to be pricey, hard to plan for and I was a little worried they would become too slippery when wet.  Plus, we had already gotten the Holland pavers for the walkway part, and I wasn't sure how well the look would tie together with natural stone steps.

Which leaves us with two options, retaining wall caps and pavers.  I found the style okay, but it was our best option. So I dug into researching my options for retaining walls, wall caps and pavers.  And what I found surprised me.  I really didn't like almost all of the paver steps I saw, until I saw this picture in a retaining wall block book (Sorry for the poor quality, I scanned it in)

 Paired with my ideal walkway look, I could see us making it work.

So after a lot of back and forth talking to a local landscape materials dealer, looking through books, deciding which blocks to use and how much we're going to be paying..... we had our plan. 

We couldn't find any border stone (also called a solider course) around here that really matched the image above, but we decided to go with the closest cost effect solution we could find locally - Genest Acadia blocks.

All this plan depended on retaining wall blocks, and funny enough, I really don't like the look of typical retaining wall blocks.  They seem so uniform and lack character.  However I found a mix of 3" and 6" highland stone to be really nice and natural looking.  We were hoping that we'd do a little more retaining wall work in the future as well, so we thought it'd be nice to have both match.  So we used those...

sort of...

They were fairly expensive, so we actually bought a lot of filler blocks from home depot to keep costs down.  You wouldn't really see any stagger in the steps up the walkway, so we didn't really need to have the expensive blocks.  It saved us several hundred dollars, and we're hoping it doesn't effect the look too much.  We actually made a several money saving decisions with the retaining wall blocks, as I'm sure I'll step through in a later post.

You can see why the home depot is about $7 cheaper.  If this were holding back a wall of death, I think I'd go for the nice thick name brand block.  For a 6" step, I think home-cheapo will do.

Once we had a plan, I calculated materials and we started gathering them up. We used our minivan to pick up blocks from a few different places locally, one being the actual Genest company, since it was close enough.

We ordered 7 cu yards of hard pack (also called road base or 3/4" pack) to fill our steps and as a base material for the walkway, and we were all super excited to watch it get delivered.

Nothing like creeping out a delivery guy!

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