For a lot of people the thought of Landscaping your property yourself can be daunting and most home owners will contract out the work to a landscape company which will make your property look great but comes with a hefty price tag.
In this instructable I will show you the steps anyone can take to transform an old landscape into a new aesthetically pleasing and highly functional outdoor space that is an extension of your home and for a fraction of the cost of hiring a landscape contractor.
For this project I re-designed and installed a new front walkway with a total price tag of under $1500. These steps can be applied to patios or any type of landscape project that deals with paving stone or step systems. If I was to have hired a landscape company to do this for me I would have paid around $6000-8000 for the job.
Landscaping is all about prep work for the finished product and making sure your base is perfect. Its whats under all the material that is the most important because if that fails your new landscape will flood, sink or fall apart.
Your own projects materials.
The correct square footage of paving stone for your project. *** 1 skid of stone (how its sold) lays 125 sqft***
(so 250 SQFT needs 2 skids), always get a little extra for cutting stone. (The stone I used here was Uni-lock - Beacon Hill Flagstone Paver - Desert Sand colour, Sold across North America)
This walkway was 130 SQFT of pavers so I ordered 150 to have extra.
Proper Linear ft. of step stone. I needed 3 steps @ 5'-6' so I ordered 20 linear feet of step system stone so I have extra for cutting if I have to. (the stone I used was Permacon 15" Celtic Step System" which is sold across North America)
I am redoing a walkway so I am using the existing base materials. if you are doing a new walkway remember you need 6" of compacted base material and 1" of screenings to lay the paving stone on top of.
4' to 5' pipes, 1" thick x 2
rubber mallet that has a dead impact meaning it wont bounce off a hard material
stakes ( I used cut pieces of re-bar @ 2' long)
mini sledge hammer
Rented Tools (available at home reno stores; Home depot, Lowes)
8" Hand tamper
Step 1: Design
Having a plan to work off is extremely important. I drew this one up in a cad program but this can easily be done by hand on some graph paper.
Start by measuring your property and home, including doors and windows. Draw out your base plan to scale on graph paper and make a few copies. Now begin laying out what you would like to do, be sure to make a few different concepts to see what you like the most.
Now redraw your final design again to make a construction ready drawing you can work from with measurements added for ease of construction.
Remember things often change a little during construction so when you are building and you want to move something a few inches to make it work better don't worry the plan is a guide offering a general direction of construction.
I did not include plants for this instructable because Instuctables is viewed from all around the world you will have to select plants that are specifically hardy to your particular region.
Step 2: Tearing Out the Existing
Now that you have a design that you like you can begin tearing out the existing material. If you are building a new walkway or patio this stage would be the "excavation stage"
For this project I was sure not to contaminate the base with the soil that had fallen between the existing paving stones because I am planning on using the base material for my new walkway.
Step 3: Clean Up for Construction.
For this project I used the existing rocks on site and moved them to accommodate the new design.
I raked out the base material and removed all soil from the original paving stone.
I began to dig out where the first step would have to go to get an idea of what it will look like when complete.
Step 4: Steps.
For the steps the first thing is to set your heights. From my driveway to the porch the height is 29" so I know I need 3 steps with rise of 7" per step and then 1 step onto the porch. (4 steps total)
Start with the lowest step and work to the highest step
I set a line level 7" above my driveway then ran a string line to the front of the step to get the height of the top of the 1st step. I know that with this step material 1 full step from bottom base stone to top of cap is 11" so I have to remove the base material 11"-12" below my line level. once I have removed base to the correct depth I use the hand tamper and compact down the base where the step will sit to improve the strength of the step. Then I use some screenings and just with my hand add about 1/2" to the compacted base. the screenings will help you level your stone base.
Get the base as level as you can by eye then place your first step stone. I use a small level and check the side to side and back to front levelness I always keep the back of the stone slightly high because this will allow water to run off the step and not pool at the back of the step. Which ever side is off level use the dead headed mallet to pound down and make level. After I lay 1 stone check it with your line level to make sure your heights are still correct.
Repeat this process with each stone until you have a bottom layer of the step that is completely level right to left and leaning slightly forward back to front.
Then begin to build your step. Make sure to stagger your joints for the step stone. This looks better as well as provides structural support for the step. finally add your cap stone and repeat process for how ever many steps your have.
Step 5: Preping for Pavers
Now that the steps are complete you must prep the base to lay the paving material. I know that the paving stone I chose is 2-1/4" thick so If I want it to sit flush to my top of step I need to have a base that's compacted to the perfect slope and levelness 2" below my top of step. the extra 1/4" will be compacted down after.
To achieve this I rake the base adding or removing material by eye to 3-1/4" below the top of the step. Then using the 1" bars I lay them in place and add screenings to the ground to set the pipes at the exact height I need.
I start by making sure 1 end of the pipe in exactly 2" down from the top of step then I level the pipe with a slight slope away from my house for drainage. then repeat the process for the second pipe.
After both pipes are level and have the slope you want place the level on both pipes making sure the slope is correct. now that both pipes are set and at the correct height add more screenings to the area almost covering the pipes.
Use a 4' level and drag the level across the pipes pulling the screenings with you creating a perfectly level area. once complete remove the pipes and carefully fill the gaps with more screenings.
repeat this for all landings
*** if you are laying a patio using 10' pipes is helpful because you can do more are one time***
Step 6: Laying the Pavers
I started with the upper landing closest to my porch and I used the porch to lay off of because I wanted the walkway square to the porch.
Paint out a general guide line for laying and begin placing your pavers. Be sure not to step on the screening base you just prepped in the last step. The pavers need to be placed evenly on the ground and the screenings should be level with a slight slope away from the house.
Follow any pattern you like or lay just randomly but try to avoid the + sign or cross hair look, always stagger where joints hit.
Repeat this process for the rest of your landings or patio.
Step 7: Sanding
If you are using an edge material secure it into place now.
Using polymeric sand sweep the sand into the joints of the pavers. do this once then repeat as the sand will sink into the cracks and need to be topped up.
***Wear a mask when sweeping***
the poly sand hardens with water and you do not want to breath it in.
After all joints are filled and the remaining sand is swept off the interlock use a hose and spray down the walkway lightly removing any dirt and saw dust then allow to dry setting the sand.
Step 8: Cutting in the Garden Beds
following the design, use marker paint and spray out the general shape of garden beds. To get a perfectly round edge use a string and a stake attaching the string to the stake in the middle of the intended circle and use the string to guide your marker paint.
once the beds are laid out remove the sod and soil to create a bed edge.
Step 9: Soil and Mulch
First add soil then plants if you have them already then add mulch. Plants can be added at anytime but if you have them, plant them before adding the much just to make things easier.
Step 10: Finish Up
Now its time to do a final sweep and spray down to have everything clean and beautiful. This is the relaxing part so grab a beer and a hose and you are good to go!!
I had saved a few hens and chicks and added them into a small strip of soil in the second landing.
This project was done in spring and the existing plants have not yet grown in so it looks a little bare but there are a number of perennials that will grow in.
I hope this was helpful for anyone hoping to fix up their property this year and for much cheaper then hiring someone to do the work.