How to build an Awesome Sidewalk with recycled lumber for only $50.00

Picture of How to build an Awesome Sidewalk with recycled lumber for only $50.00

        After reading that title you might wonder, why would anyone make a sidewalk out of wood? Well, there are a few very good reasons for doing it.

  A little history

      More than 25 years ago my wood sidewalk started out as an experiment to see how practical it might be. We needed some kind of walkway for the country house we had just moved into. I thought of using the traditional concrete but in the climate that I live (Northeastern Montana) cement sidewalks have some problems. The ground here moves around a lot. It shrinks in the hot dry summers, sometimes making cracks that are 4 inches wide. In the winter it freezes 6 to 8 feet down so the ground heaves up a lot. Between the shrinking in the summer and freezing in the winter concrete does a lot of cracking. Also cement stays cold and frozen all winter whereas wood warms up and the ice melts off of it anytime it gets above freezing. It was also the least expensive of my available choices. So I built a wood sidewalk. It lasted far longer than I ever thought it would, more than 25 years.  But all things deteriorate and my sidewalk has been in need of replacing for a while now. Once again I found myself debating about what to use. I had been looking into making my own pavers but in the end I went back to wood, especially when I got used redwood for free.

My challenges for this project were:

   Come up with a design that could use all the different sizes of redwood I salvaged without producing a lot of waste.

    Resurface the older weathered wood so it matched with everything.

    Create a good-looking, practical sidewalk at a reasonable cost. 

By the way, I have included a lot of comments and extra info in the pictures so be sure to check any yellow outlined squares in them.
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onrust3 years ago
Awesome! The snow photo gets me. Nice work
That is just beautiful!
Annatar24 years ago
Own the same saw as you, and from experience none of the saws craftsman makes now match it for performance until you start getting into the 500 dollar range. The old cast iron topped craftsman saws are great and if you watch craigslist or eBay can usually pick one up from 150 to 250 depending on condition and accessories.
MrLunnaXIII4 years ago
I REALLY enjoyed your instructable. It is like watching a work of art done step by step. The nail holes give the wood the impression of telling a "story".
If only the wood could talk.
Great job!!
vrbnstl4 years ago
Thank you! I've been wondering how to do a wooden walk w/o all the digging, fill, gravel, etc. That wood preservative also seems like a great idea! I too appreciate the work you put into the project and to your presentation here. Beautiful!
llodge4 years ago
very nice, liked the comments too, was a lot of work to do the sidewalk but also I think a lot of work to put it up here, so big thanks for that, very, very nice, thanks for sharing.
I was wondering if you could use this idea for a deck? I want to put one in the front of my house... it would be ground level.... what ya think?
Vyger (author)  whisper140724 years ago
It would probably work great. Mine has performed really good so far. And, unlike cement if your not happy with the results you can change it.
simerice4 years ago
I love this project...it is awesome and I was looking for an idea in creating a walkway from the back of our house to the barn...thanks for sharing...you did a really great job!
kameelyon4 years ago
that looks incredible, well done, the time and effort you must have put into it really paid off imo
wonderfull job , masterpeice work , just the base will be good with a raised simed finishing, save the world
nice performnce
Hiroak4 years ago
This would look great indoors, now to find redwood in Alaska.
bmontalvo4 years ago
Dr. Pepper4 years ago
Very cool project!
jeff-o4 years ago
I'm facing the replacement of my old, ugly, cracking backyard path this coming summer. Now you've got me wondering if I should use wood to do the job. I suppose the weather here in Canada is no worse than in Montana...
Vyger (author)  jeff-o4 years ago
If the old walk is cement you could just leave it in place and build the wood one on top of it. That would eliminate the cost and work of removing and disposing of the cement. The savings in that alone would probably pay for a large part of the wood. In addition building it on top of an already level surface would make construction that much easier. About the only problem you might run into is needing to add some short posts to help keep it in place so it doesn't slide off the cement.
jeff-o Vyger4 years ago
Hey! Now there's an idea. Unfortunately, the path we've got needs to be wider, some of it needs to be removed completely (so we're already paying for removal), and some pathways need to go elsewhere.

But, I do wonder if I could use big 2x2 concrete slabs instead of bricks as "anchors" for the wood pathways. I could make modular sections that bolt together, too! Oh, I gotta write this down so I don't forget. Thanks for the inspiration!
tleet594 years ago
I love the recycled beauty of this. The last picture in your final step shows snow on the ground. I'd worry about the surface being slipery when wet or frozen. Did you use any final finishing product besides sealer? Also, did you use any sort of spacer between the wood slats to allow for expansion of the wood?
Vyger (author)  tleet594 years ago
I started out using a putty knife blade as a spacer but after a while I just eyeballed it. Experts might think that I spaced the wood to close, but I got tired of having to fish stuff out from under the walk that fell through the cracks. If it turns out that they are spaced to closely I will unscrew the boards and shave a little off with the table saw.
When the snow first started the surface was slippery but as this winter is going on that appears to be going away. It got so cold so fast that there was never a chance to put anything else on it except the first coat. I am hoping that its enough for this winter.
Nice touch showing all your tools in the same photo.
noesc4 years ago
This is one of the most beautiful walkways I've seen.

Not just only for the finished result, but for the whole concept. And it is instructables like this that prevents this site to drown in sloppy and crappy instructables. Thank you =)

Wounderful descriptions
Clear and good photos
Scavenged wood
DIY-sealant with comparatively low poisonous effects (and the motoroil is already used once before. Reuse yet again!)
"Function over estetics" where parts does not show: I vote for that one!

Even the comments so far is of good quality!
This is what internet is for!
Good job!

PS. You even made me want to move from our apartment and get a house so I've got a reason to do something similar :)
noesc noesc4 years ago
I forgot to mention that it really shows that you were thinking about next steps all the time.

The time and effort put into this must be incredible, and it shows!
this is beautiful! very nice job
Gothbunny4 years ago
Love it!!!! The wood you can get in Montana is great, I love the design!!!
frazeeg4 years ago
That's the kind of project I like to see. I had some initial concerns about using the motor oil/diesel mix for treating the wood (especially considering redwood is naturally rot/bug resistant) but your comments have put those fears to rest.

We don't get redwood out in the midwest but I'd sure like to try a project with some. It's a gorgeous wood, and as long as it's sustainably harvested I'm all for using it. I'm glad to see it recycled so well in your project.
uh, wow!
ryangranado4 years ago
Beautiful wood sidewalk!!! I wish I could have friends and family throwing away this kind of lumber. Here in the oil country part of Texas we only get pine, cedar and ugly pressure treated where oak, redwood and other beautiful woods are a hard commodity to get a chance to reclaim. Just a note; if you have more kickback as your saw gets older you might need to re-align it with the miter slot as it tends to kick out of square (parallel) witht the slot. Besides that, you made a very very beautiful piece of functional art that you should be very proud of!!!
subi4ester4 years ago
I have the same table saw. Still works great!
Sequimania4 years ago
Beautiful! It makes me wonder if large "stepping stones" could be made out of discarded pallets. We find a lot of pallets made out of oak up here in the NW. New Project!

It looks gorgeous, a very elegant solution. I'm guessing Redwood ages rather like Oak, so it should last well.

A couple of suggestions I'd offer to anyone else embarking on such a project.

The enemy of wood in any exterior installations is moisture, and certainly here in the UK you'd need something more than "sealer" to protect your wood. What you buy here as "sealer" won't go NEARLY far enough. I'm sure this project is fine for the author's particular situation but the best solution will depend on many factors including the particular type of wood, the prevailing climate, and there may be chemical toxicity laws to consider, it's always wise get good advice on the correct treatments for the particular wood you use in the country you live in. It might also be a good idea to install a damp proof membrane to act as a permanent barrier between the wood and the ground, in this case it may not be necessary, but again it might be worth the extra effort. If you DO install a damp proof membrane you will need to consider ventilation also. you will need some means to ensure air can circulate underneath the wood so that there are no "dead spots" that could cause water to collect and damage your beautiful work..
Vyger (author)  Dream Dragon4 years ago
Did they ever try putting several inches of gravel down for drainage? Gravel does a good job of keeping things out of the water provided it doesn't get to deep. Since my walkway is not attached to the ground if it rained to much it would float away. Of course I could use that as a selling point "Sidewalk also serves as a flotation device in high precipitation emergencies."
Vyger (author)  Vyger4 years ago
I forgot to mention that redwood is naturally resistant to rotting. It does eventually but it lasts a lot longer than most other woods. Its similar to cedar in that way. It does turn gray with exposure so the purpose of the sealer for me is mostly to try and retain some of the color longer and to make it a little more dirt resistant. If you were only concerned with longevity, pressure treated wood is probably the best. Its injected with a preservative under high pressure so it penetrates deep into the wood. Do they use creosote in the UK? That is an excellent preservative but its is believed to be a carcinogen so its restricted here now. They still treat power poles and railroad ties with it but home use is discouraged. In fact I don't know if you can even buy it anymore. It also smells really bad.
DavidMF Vyger4 years ago
I use a stone sealant called "511" for most of my wood projects as well. It has worked better on my projects than most others. It's pricey but it works great.
Shiftlock Vyger4 years ago
I remember seeing a commercial an epoxy-like wood treatment. From what I remember, It basically soaks into the wood, then hardens, making the wood impervious to water and rot. I believe it said the wood becomes almost like a very hard plastic. I don't know much about it, but it looked like it might be good for this type of thing. *shrug*

Beautiful sidewalk, BTW. Almost looks too nice to be an outdoor sidewalk.

Everything looked cleaner in 1987. I think you need to tie those bushes to a truck, yank them out, and plant new (smaller) ones.
I think I know the treatment you are referring to, it's even useable on rotting and damaged wood (if we are talking about the same stuff) It's probably a bit pricey for treating a whole walkway, but it would keep the water out. Not sure how it works with the UV either, but certainly worth looking into if you are starting a project in warmer and generally wetter areas.
Vyger (author)  Shiftlock4 years ago
Things always look messier in the fall. I put off cleaning up so I could get the project done first. Now I have a garden cart full of frozen solid leaves buried in the snow. Winter came on fast this year. The really annoying thing about this area is this snow could be here until March.
The bushes are on the south side so they provide a lot of shade for the house in the summer time, so they do have some positive things going for them.
Shiftlock Vyger4 years ago
Ah, yeah, leaves, snow. I remember them well. Endlessly raking, carting, shoveling, plowing. I'm going on two years now in south Florida, and I'll be a happy guy if I never see another leaf pile or snowflake in my entire life.
Gravel would certainly help, but for many woods the moisture laden air above such a drain would be enough to promote fungal infestation and rotting, hence my comment about ventilation.

It sounds like the Redwood is very similar to Oak in the aging process (I'm not really familiar with Ceder either). The silver grey oxidation layer inhibits the fungal growth and rotting. As long as you can keep it out of STANDING water there's no reason it shouldn't last for dozens and possibly HUNDREDS of years with no treatment what so ever. Pressure treated wood is definitely a good option.

I'm still not clear what you are referring to as "Sealer" but to effectively seal against the oxygen in the air and the UV that fades the colour you might require some kind of varnish. If you bought "sealer" here in the UK you'd end up with a watery substance that wouldn't really do anything useful in that direction. You're certainly right to want to preserve that lovely rich colour as far as possible. We have a "Diamond Hard - Floor Varnish" that I've used for things other than floors, but which might suit such a project if you were doing something similar here.
Vyger (author)  Dream Dragon4 years ago
As regards the sealer I used --- It looks like the company has quit making it but I did find a link to the sealer that I used, if you want specifics there is a link to a PDF data sheet at this web site.
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