Posts tagged patio

Before and After

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Now that it’s basically completed, I thought some before and after pictures for the patio area were in order. My first pictures were taken on May 1st, while today is, well, today. I wasn’t able to work every day on it during that time between weather, vacations, trips and other duties or logistical delays. I’d guess I have about 250 hours into it as of today.

First, a wide view:

Tough to see much there with the pool dominating the foreground. And yes, I’ve got to get some grass growing again. I did say “basically” done.

Now, here’s the left side as viewed from under the deck:

Just a little different. Now the right side:

As I mentioned earlier, the first order of business will be to get some grass growing again around the pool. Next year, I think, we’ll tackle some of the landscaping in the immediate area of the patio.

Here are some statistics about the scope of the project:

  • There are 20 tons of wall stone in the 3 retaining walls.
  • There are 20 tons of 3/4″ stone used behind the retaining walls and under the patio.
  • There are 15 tons of 3/4″ processed gravel (this is a combination of sand and gravel) in the project, about 10 of those are under the patio and the remainder is under the pool.
  • I had to move about 30 tons of earth between digging out for the retaining walls and then down to set the patio height. Most of that is under the pool, the rest I spread out in different parts of the property.
  • There are about 11 tons of pavers in the patio.
  • There are roughly 7 tons of sand, a couple under the pavers and the rest under the pool. There is another quarter ton of polymeric sand filling the paver joints.
  • The apron around the pool has about 3 tons of 4″ river rock.

Suffice it to say, it wasn’t a ton of work- it was many tons of work.

Patio Pix

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When this whole thing is done, I’ll have to put a page together showing the various stages of progress. As originally envisioned, the project is complete. However, due to realities on the ground, I have a final stage to complete- construction of a small retaining wall around the pool. Once that’s completed and then filled with river rock around the pool, everything will be done.

Pavers Done

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Polymeric sand.

In two words, that was my problem with finishing the pavers. That’s the short explanation. The long explanation is … considerably longer. And follows.

First, a quick education. Polymeric sand is special sand with an acrylic polymer that when exposed to moisture, activates and forms a pliable matrix, essentially making the sand a solid mass. A simpler explanation is that polymerized sand is to pavers what grout is to tile.

Polymerized sand is highly sensitive to moisture. There doesn’t need to be a steady stream or puddle of water, just dampness in the pavers is enough to activate the polymer.

So, yesterday was a beautiful day. Sunny with a few clouds with reasonable humidity levels. Unfortunately, it followed a couple of days of heavy persistent rain. The pavers were soaked. A fact that was made quite clear over the course of the 13 hours I spent working on them yesterday. For giggles, I’ll note that I was told it would only take a few hours to get complete the sand portion of the project. If only.

The pavers next to the pool dried first, a not inconsiderable amount of area, so that’s where I began spreading sand. I assumed that the rest of the pavers would dry out as I worked. I was only partially right. More pavers did dry out, but only those that saw persistent Sun. The pavers sheltered by the deck continued to linger with their dampness.

I started around 9AM. I put all the edging around the exposed portions of the paver edges. I then started sanding the area next to the pool, which was exposed to a steady diet of Sun and very dry. As I worked my way along, more of the pavers dried, but spotty patches of dampness still remained. With the rep’s warning that “Make sure it is ABSOLUTELY dry before spreading this sand…” echoing in my mind, I decided to try spreading it over a small area where there were a couple of damp spots. Just the dampness was enough to activate it. So I was stuck at that point.

I decided to compact the area that I’d done. I worked through it, hoping in the meantime the remaining damp areas would dry out. I started running a fan over those areas around 1 o’clock. It helped, but there was still a lot of dampness. Around 5 o’clock, I decided it was time to take more drastic action.

I pulled out a hair dryer and went to work.

It worked, but now time was against me, as well as a number of other factors. I still needed to finish spreading the product, compact it, re-spread it, re-compact, finish spread and then wet it. I now only a couple hours or so until I had no sunlight. Trying to think ahead, I checked the weather and our local forecast was showing the possibility of a thunderstorm in the early morning. With the humidity, I also started thinking that morning dew would screw me up.

In short, all the factors I could think of lead me to believe I had to finish it last night. So I continued working.

One thing about spreading sand over pavers that is hard to appreciate is the film that coats the pavers. The instructions on the bag and my inexperience with the product led me to believe I needed to clean the pavers thoroughly. I could never completely remove that haze from them though and finally, around 9:30 last night having filled, compacted and swept it several times over, I decided it was time to start wetting and hope I could wash the sand off.

By that time, I was working by flashlight. I had a porch light to help, but none of it was enough to really allow me to see the state the pavers were in. Making matter more difficult, the acrylic caused a foaming in the water which would have made it difficult to see the sand in good lighting conditions, let alone what I was dealing with.

By the time I’d finished wetting the pavers, it was almost 11 o’clock. I could still feel the grit under my shoes. But there was nothing more I could do. I couldn’t see the grit and couldn’t tell if I was actually moving it or not. Exhausted and sore, I finally wrapped things up for the night. Thus, my disappointed posting from last night.

A slight tanget- polymerized sand really sucks. I mean really sucks. The clouds of it from sweeping stick to sweaty clothes and skin. It goes up your nose and creates weird boogers. It gets in your hair and acts like a nasty mousse. There is literally a layer of muck on you after working with it.

This morning, I woke up and came down around 6:30 to see what kind of mess I had to deal with. As I’d suspected, I still had tons of sand and grit on the pavers surfaces. Also, as I’d suspected, it looked awful. Pavers that had dried had a haze that completed obscured their real color pattern.

I wasn’t without luck though. The overnight humidity had kept the pavers drying and sand from setting completely and I quickly figured out I could still clean the pavers using one of the spray settings on the hose nozzle. So I set to work with that job.

It was slow.

I essentially had to go paver course by paver course, washing each paver and pushing the sand down slope. About halfway, I had accumulated so much extra sand that I was having difficulty pushing it with the water from the hose. I then had to resort to a combination of sweeping it with a rubber broom and pushing it with the hose water.

The process was tedious, but it yielded results. I was able to walk on the pavers without feeling the grit under my feet nor the tackiness from the acrylic material. It ended up taking me several more hours and repetitions of sweeping, but I finally finished up earlier this afternoon. Pavers that have dried now look proper, without the haze from the acrylic. I’m not completely happy with the edges by the walls, but there’s only so much I can do there. Water tends to pool and it’s difficult to get the sand to flow away from those spots.

It never did rain this morning. Knowing that might have saved me a lot of work last night, but I wasn’t willing to gamble. Probably due to impaired judgment from breathing polymerized sand. Ironically, letting the sand sit wet for several hours overnight seemed to work in my favor. The surface sand could still be removed, but not at the expense of the joints that I wanted filled, so I was able to avoid gouging the sanded joints.

Whatever mistakes I made, the main thing is I was able to make it work and satisfactorily complete the project. Last night, I was concerned I might have to redo the sanding. Tonight, I’ll rest easy knowing I’m all done. A pleasant change of circumstance. I’ll post pictures when things have dried out a bit more.

Paving Done

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This is the best shot I could get of the final section of pavers I’ve laid. Actually, a friend came over to help me out so I shouldn’t claim I did it all myself. With it being as hot and oppressive as it was, that’s a good friend. Thankfully, we didn’t have a lot of pavers to lay so the work didn’t take us all day, we completed it a little after lunch time.

The little inner curve will give the Wife a place to plant a bush or tree or something, while the other section gives a path for people to access the yard from the patio. The guy who helped me out actually convinced me to go this rout versus what I originally had in mind. It took us a few more pavers to complete it, but I like his result better than what I had in mind.

At this point, I have to put the retaining trim in place, then spread the sand and perform the final compaction. Almost there.

The First Rule of Design

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I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this written elsewhere, but I’ll paraphrase it here: the first rule of design is that any design will not survive first contact with reality. The reasons for this are obvious to anyone who’s tried their hand at design: assumptions don’t pan out, facts on the ground change, etc. Personally, I always try to start with minimal designs because they tend to be easier to modify as needed.

This is where the pool will be going. When the installers showed up on Friday, they explained that in order to avoid having to install a fence around the pool, the pool walls had to be 48 inches above the surrounding area for 3 feet. The pool we chose happens to have 52 inch high sides, so that gives us a little margin.

As can be seen from the picture, that margin is not nearly enough. The site is now level, and it had to be built up with about 18 inches of processed gravel on the “downslope” side to make it so. It’s deceiving how a small grade to the ground can add up so quickly.

So, I’d toyed with the idea of putting a ring of stone around the pool but now I pretty much had a third wall project on my hands. It would be the easiest of the 3 walls to build, but it was something I hadn’t anticipated in the beginning. Fortunately, it all works out with all the other stone work we already have in the yard. Plus, I still have left over stone from the first two walls, so I was able to make some progress today:

There are more changes coming as well, but those are related to the pavers and patio, which I’ll document in another post on another day. Suffice it to say, the first rule of design has worked it’s magic on this project.

Patio Update

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All of the field pieces are laid and now I only have cuts around the post piers. The field had been completed several days ago, but I only finished all the cut-in work around the stone walls today. Here’s a flavor of what I was dealing with:

Just follow along the line of the wall and around the drain to get an idea. Some of those took a lot of work to get right. When the cuts weren’t difficult, getting the piece in was because of the combination of sand and stone next to the wall that I couldn’t skreet. I had to do that part by hand, which was tedious.

I would have completed the cuts around one of the piers today, but I was going to make the final adjustments to the piece and when I set it down, the piece cracked into two pieces. I was so disgusted I decided I was done. Not the best note to end on, but I wasn’t going to spend another 30 minutes cutting the arc again.

Cutting pavers is a miserable job, especially in this kind of heat. By the end of the day, I was caked in a layer of paver dust from head to toe. Thankfully, my Dad had me a breathing mask for just this kind of work. I was also outfitted with eye guards and ear plugs, making it a thoroughly unpleasant way to spend a day.

Be that as it may, a lot of work is done and the end is in sight.

1 Day of Pavers

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I’m pretty beat, so I’ll save any technical explanations for another day. Here’s a shot of the progress I made laying pavers all day. In the heat, which felt worse than yesterday, remarkably.

I’ve got shots of the individual pavers as well as the clover leaf pattern used to lay them down. Like I hinted earlier, for another day.

Waiting for Pavers

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Almost all of the prep work is complete. All that’s left is the layer of sand that the pavers will rest on. That’s arriving today thank to our paver rep pulling some strings for me. The pavers arrive Monday- not sure when. This is the first picture where I think there is a feel of what it’s going to look like when the project is completed.

I noted before that actually building the walls took less time than all of the prep work. That’s going to hold true for the pavers as well- but even more extreme I think. Unlike the stone for the walls, the pavers are made to go together a certain way, so I’ll just set them and go. There will be details of course, but they’ll get taken care in due time. The majority of the pavers will be done within a day I’m willing to bet.

The Next Project

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The site of our next big DIY project. I’ve begun breaking ground today. First I had to clean some of that mess up though.

Details to follow at some point later when I deem it appropriate to start doling them out. Suffice it to say for now, this area won’t look like this for much longer.

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