Front Sidewalks

  After we moved in the house in 2000, we left the walkways finished in a natural mud. Seeing the results indelibly marking our fine berber carpet, we decided to put some nice cardboard out to where we parked our cars. Cardboard doesn't wear too well in our four season, multi-precipitation climate. So we decided to be bait-and-switched by a local lansdscape schiester (Village Garden Center, Fishersville, VA) by having them install a permanent walkway differently than we orderd. This entailed allowing them to install bowling ball shaped river boulders instead of the dry laid field stones we specified. Well, after a few twisted ankles and having to get a tow truck to pull out my mom's wheel chair, we thought we would replace the sphere stones with slate.

  Original Look This is the initial walk (right) and the temporary walk (left). The inital one, that goes around the corner, looks good here. But try walking or rolling on it! All that dirt and gravel between the stones mostly ends up ground into the wood floors. Then the weeds grow in the remaining dirt. How bout shoveling the snow off? Sweep? Good luck. For those with solid ankles and teflon shoes, its fine.

  Here it is now (Nov 2008). Still some construction going on the other side of the garage and the driveway. Also, the wall going around that little grass yard is still not there. But the walkways are done here. The main one to the driveway is mortared and the little one to the garage is dry laid. Both use backbreaking hunks of slate that have to lay on flat, level surfaces made of wet mortar or dry sand. As is

  Protowalk Pre-initial. This is as the builder imagined. This approach is hard on carpet.

  The curbside view before being rebuilt. Railroad ties are steps. They take on the same slope as the ground. The rocks leading to the boulders are stones I lifted from the field next door before they turned them into grit.. I was happy with this because it indicated to people where to walk when parking in the circle driveway and kept them from getting their shoes grassy. Mid summer crab grass growing under the crap temporary walk. You can tell I waited years to get this shot. I was going for the worst it can be. Imagine the impression you get pulling up to this in your Sunday finest! Original

  Walk after boulders are mostly removed. This shot is from the house. I've pulled out all the old boulders and the crap temporary field stone out. I left a few boulders to walk on so as not to drag in any sandpaper grit. Looks extra crumby now.

  Using the Earthforce EF-3, I yanked all the boulders out and turned them into a dam near the Pergola. Then I dug out a seven or eight foot excavation (that's what its called when you do it for a reason) and started packing in some of the old rock dust. I also had to figure the level of the walk after about 25 feet.

  After the dust was out and the forms were in. Note the barely visible steel reinforcement over the gravel. The concrete will be about 4.5 inches.

  Stairs are easier to walk on than to build. I had to figure the level to make the stairs 5.5 inches tall (which let me use standard 2x6 lumber for forms). One can barely notice, but the bottom of the cross boards are beveled so that the slab can be leveled under the wood. All in all, the forms took me two weekends to build. The two skis are for me to practice my skateboarding.

  I have no pictures of the finished slab, but it dried for several weeks before I got the nerve to glue these big hunks of slate down with mortar. Like the forms, the gluing (or mortaring) job that I thought would take an afternoon or two took me three weekends. Its apparently important to have the right angle, slope, thickness and mixture so that many puddles aren't created. I have one big puddle in the bottom of the first step. Another challenge is getting all the mortar off the slate before it dries on like concrete (hee hee, cause it is concrete!).

  A close up view of the slate work. This was the last of the puzzle I had to put together. This posed more challenge as I had to make sure the slate on the left was lower than that on the right to eliminate drainback towards the porch. It would be easy if the 1 inch, 1000 lb hunks of slate were a bit more flexible so I could bend the corners down to match their neigbors.

  This is the door that goes into the garage. We need it so we can get in when using the great new walkways, but the garage doors are closed. The door will get a slab with some bricks to match the foundation in front.

  Done. Apparently, that little slab is called a Landing. You land on it before going in the door. I should have left some slab room to put the bricks on the front too, but I thought it would be backfilled all the way up. This form will be permanent and hold the left over rock dust, sand, and heavy slate that is being dry-laid for this walkway. That's me doing physical thearapy on my wrist after snapping some important pieces inside on another project.

  Fence extension is complete. The little stair goes to the landing at the same angle as the little fence extension. Its made of wood since I had no idea what the right angle would be before making the stair. Another amazingly coincidental fact - the dimension of the step, 24 inches x 41 inches, allowed me to PERFECTLY fit a 24x24 and an 18x24 heavy-ass slate pieces without cutting.

  The completed runway (that goes to the Landing - get it?). This was the easiest summer project. That's cause I just set the level from the top of the new walk in the foreground to the bottom of where I figured the stair should be in the background. Then I made an adjustable screed and screed the dust. Changed the height and screeded in some sand.

  This is the same shot as before, but its a closeup of the great little machine, the Earthforce EF-3. It also shows the best little shovel I have - a flat head spade. Its very useful. In the background, behind the garage, looking like they are just above the pickup tailgate, are 72 wood guard rail posts. Each is about six feet long and 8" x 7" rough sawn. They will become the driveway wall that will be in the next project page.

  This picture is the confluence of both mortared and dry laid walkways. These have made it much easier to get to the cars and garbage without having to don mud boots. It should also be easier for my wife and daughter and their friends to sweep and shovel snow.

  Here is the completed mortared walkway (or a little piece of it) leading down to the driveway and into the next two projects - Driveway Relocation and Wall and Courtyard Wall.

Walk Ups