Patio (Part 1)

  In 2009, I built a Drain System to take water away from the depressed square area formed by the Garage, the house, the Little Picket Fence, and the sidewalk between the house and garage. The drain had to be in before the Front Rock Wall could be installed. Now, with half the wall complete, I turn my attention to the patio in the depressed area. (If you have seen these pictures more than 34 times, i.e., 34 separate pictures, and want to skip ahead, click here to go to Patio Part 2 or even futher ahead to Patio Part 3.)

  Click for a Larger Image June 26, 2010. Here is the first picture taken. I had some laborer help, so I couldn't stop and take vanity shots too often. The orange line marks the excavation points. The Earthforce EF-3 comes in handy.

  Getting the laborers to do some of the digging. With his eyes focused intently on the orange lines of the border, our laborer prepares to scratch off the sod. It takes heavy concentration, but he's demanding that bucket to follow his commands, regardless of the realities of the primative hydraulics. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Another opportunity to use all the machines, including the GMC Dump Truck, the EF-3, and the G-Cart. Note the bubble level for sighting in elevations. I can't tell you how handy it is to have the dump truck to take all the excavation spoils. Spoils me. How do non-dump truck owners do it? I guess they use the thousands of thousands of avoided maintenance costs to have patios built professionally.

  June 27, 2010. Junior manning the shovel. Here we are archeologically (i.e., manually) unearthing one of the drain pipes. Note the two other shovels, waiting on two other laborers. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Hmm, there they are. Hanging in the G-Cart. While I labor and sweat taking these pictures. See the loaded Dump Truck? Its going to either dump it in the top soil pile or contribute to the fill for the Machine Shed Pad.

  More under utilized shovels and rakes. Here you can see the excavation for the sidewalk that will join the front Front Walkways. See the barely visible drain pipe? This is something I'm hoping not to break during the entire project. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Dump Truck dumping on the machine pad. Junior is driving and dumping (the truck). See the other topsoil pile on the left? Also see the goat on the right?

  Backing the GMC back into the job site after a successful dump. Using the mirrors to line up the truck perpendicular to the sidewalk. That's my girl!!!. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image July 17, 2010. My Patio Simulator. This takes some patio oriented stuff nearby and lets us determine if we have the right size for "comfortable lounging." I have yet to dig out the ramp or the access from the sidewalk on the left. Note the G-Cart on the other side of the fence.

  This is the ramp after I dug it out and replaced with fill, making it easier to remove it when the time comes. The ramp makes it easy to drive in and out of the patio hole and load the Dump Truck. Also, I've dug out the bulk of the access walkway. The stone dust you can see is a trace of the trench where the Garage Media System data, intercom, and TV cable conduit is buried. Another thing I hope to avoid. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Most of the work through July 18. Here the general floor level, accounting for slope going down to the right, is marked by the yellow string. Note the deeper excavation (based on the unearthed drain pipe), probably six inches deeper than necessary. Gives me a few more trips to the gravel store in the dump truck for the three or four truckloads of gravel that I didn't need.

  July 24, 2010. 18 Tons of Crusher Run gravel ready to be spread around. Before spreading, I have to put up the borders for the patio. I was told I wanted at least eight inches of gravel, to which I add an inch of rock dust and then an inch of slate. That equals 10 inches. I dug them about 15 inches deep. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image A closer look. I have my wood connecting duo, the Hitachi 1/2 drill (green) and the 3/8 Black and Decker (red). You can get a better feel for the overkill digging from this shot. That's OK. 15" of foundation gives better drainage and lets me take a few more trips to the gravel-rama in the Dump Truck.

  Borders are starting to shape up. These will be under the rock, so appearance is not so important. They will mainly hold gravel - 15" of it! You may note some of the Drain Pipe that's been exposed in the overdig. You can also see the EF-3, the little lawn mower, and the tripod mounted level. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Progress through July 27. Gravel was sort of spread (or so I thought). Its hard to spread it when taking it off a slope, with an EF-3, over a sidewalk that I don't want to break, and into a little area about the size of the machine. But, being the first patio I built I thought it was OK.

  August 7, 2009. A little more gravel, oh, about 18 more tons. See how hard it is to easily move it into the right area? First I have to drive up this himalaya then dive down an alp of gravel, keeping the bucket level and horizontal the whole time so as not to dig into the earth. Meanwhile, I shovel dirt into the little junior wheelbarrow to put back the dirt that I took out earlier. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image This is where the little water feature will go - right above the water drains that take all the natural water out of this area. Note the rock border with the temporary board border to hold it back. That gravel border goes around the patio and is the foundation for a natural rock wallish thing that surrounds the slate. Also, (on the left), see that the walkway out to the other walkway is finished. I had to cut the bottoms off the gate pickets so it would close (keeping in the dogs).

  That morning, we rented a plate compactor, thinking we were ready. Typical of me - thinking it would take about four hours to set up the foundation when it actually took about four days. We got about 2 laps in before the machine stopped running. I took it back before the end of the day and they charged me for a half day only. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image This screwy triangle was going to be stepped up about five inches. But then it would be too high. Seems that the level we choose for the whole thing was about right, requiring this little grill triangle (cause the grill will go here) to be the same height as rest of patio. Most of the borders are laid out, but we're still a little shy of gravel (15" takes a lot of tons). The EF-3 slept here for the night.

  August 11, 2010. Making some real progress now. Having spent vacation time with Junior) building this thing, we are almost finished the framing and graveling. I couldn't finish framing until I got most of the gravel in. Here, Junior backfills the walkway to the Mudroom-Garage back walk. We had to avoid all the ethernet cables, TV cables, power cables, telephone cables, and other conveniences of this century - that's why the front of the porch is about 10 feet from the walkway. Note the little 1" cube of slate on top of the board where the adjoining rail hits. This provides the right offset height to account for the top of the slate being level with the rail on the adjoining walk and above the rail for the main patio slate. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image August 12, 2010. All framed out. The dirt pile is running low as we've used it for backfill. Note the EF-3 with another load of Crusher Run to fill low spots before the rock dust goes in. Look closely in the adjoining walkway and you'll see some rip-rap rubble stones that were left over from the Front Wall. The crappy plywood on the side of the walk holds the gravel away from the soil while we backfill. The orange flag shows where the conduit for the garage wiring is, though its another 24" below grade. There is another conduit under the adjoining walk about half way to run any cables we may put in later.

  Filling in low spots with the last load of Crusher Run - now at 40 tons (at $11 / ton, makes $440 worth of solid drainage, about $250 more than I needed). Using the potential energy stored by the EF-3 hydraulics is fantastically easier and more precise than just shoving it around then manually smoothing (though much slower). But it beats shoveling into the wheelbarrow by daughter - far fewer complaints. We are just filling the edges and some low spots. Note the wheel chock I got for my birthday. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Our second cut at a plate tamper. This one worked much better. Maybe that's cause I didn't have to run it. The tamper kind of pulls you along, but refuses to go backward. And when you are ready to stop, you have to run in front and turn the kill switch, hopefully before the thing gets away from you. Note the stone dust pile in front of the garage. That goes in over the compacted gravel. Got those eight tons with the Dump Truck too. That's about $13 / ton.

  Just starting to spread the stone dust. Much easier in the shadow of the house in the afternoon. This is why we are building it here. Plus a nice breeze comes through. The board on top is a screed, but too short. I have a 16 footer in the garage. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image August 13, 2010 (Friday the 13th). Here we screed off the end of the patio with the long 2x4. No Plate Compactor. Instead, I use the Toe Compactor, the yellow-handled, toe-smashing, and sometimes-gravel-compacting tool to the left.

  With a good bit of the patio screeded, it was time to bring in the slate. This is the third little pallet made up from one giant pallet. The Dump Truck brought it home, but we had to break it down into three pallets so the EF-3 could safely unload them. Seems that there's enough lift power, but the back wheels come off the ground and it gets a bit scary. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Top coat. This is the first set of slate laid down. It goes according to a pattern we put together (based on a base square the Luck Stone people give us). This is same stone as we used for the Front Walkways.

  August 21. Can't do any more rock laying till I get some edging down. Of course, I can't use wood or little plastic edging - that would be too fast, cheap, and easy. No instead, I have to buy rock, separate it from its gargantuan pallets so I can carry it, dig foundations, buy mortar and concrete, pick stones for fit and size, lay them down, back them with cheap rock, separate the stone wall from the dirt with landscape fabric, backfill with stone dust, and backfill with dirt. Sort of like wood or plastic, just 50 times harder. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Here is the rock boder as it starts to take on a few layers. I can't do the left corner till I cut some rock and decide where the water feature will go.

  The back of the wall with cheap stone. This gets parged and then backfilled with dust. See the wood holding the rocks up till the concrete drys? This is the same technique used on the Front Wall. Also, the board under the rock had to come out before backfilling, less the wall may crack when the foundation shifts as its gravel fills the voids left with the rotting wood. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Junior sparging the wall with mortar. She is not having a great time. But she did an EXCEPTIONAL job. She's really become an independant doer this summer, going from taking orders to figuring out what needs to be done and doing it. But that doesn't make for a great time.

  Junior at work some more. This time, brooming in stone dust in the cracks in the slate. We chose on to mortar them so 1) we can get them up if we have to, 2) cause then it would have all been on a slab, and 3) its a bit less formal and keeping with the style of the rough rock. Click for a Larger Image

  Click for a Larger Image Progress as of September 4. This work was simply more screeding and rock laying. Tomorrow I hope to finish laying slate out on the screeded main patio and then build the first layer of rock border in front. To continue in this fascinating, riveting story of flat and round rocks, go to Patio Part 2.

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