Making the entrance to a house seem truly open and welcoming means more than slapping a wreath on your door and getting a "wipe your paws" door mat...not that there's anything wrong with that. Rather than just making it look pretty, you need to draw your guests in; give their eyes and feet something to follow and they will naturally gravitate to the door.
Enter the walkway. By defining a set path to the door, your guests won't feel bad about walking through your front yard, and now you have the opportunity to give them a great first impression before they ever set foot in your house. Line your path with colorful or aromatic flowers, add little eye catching features, or give your path a theme. Making your features interactive is an often overlooked aspect of landscaping. No, I don't mean a virtual reality lawn (not gonna lie that does sound pretty cool), but simply stimulating your guests's senses makes them feel relaxed and comfortable in that environment.
Instead of just having a small pond, add a small waterfall or fountain to add soothing sounds and something to catch the eye. Aromatic flowers make you feel like you're walking in a wild field. Large smooth stones or wooden features that look weathered beg to have someone run their hands over them. And having gravel in your path not only sounds interesting, but feels great underfoot.
Hopefully, you can learn how to make such a path in this instrucable. And with some free time and lots of creativity you can easily (and cheaply) make your front yard beautiful and inviting!!
*please be aware of any safety precautions involved with the tools and materials used in this instructable*
Step 1: Materials/tools Needed
The materials will vary a lot depending on what kind of path you choose, but most of the tools will be used regardless.
- SAND (general all purpose sand will work better than fine playground sand. the larger stone size will drain better). on average, a 50lb bag of sand will cover about 6 sq ft at 1" deep. I had roughly 100 sq ft and I used a little over 14 bags to get about 3/4" deep.
- GRAVEL the size, color, and shape, of the stone is entirely up to you. I used about 3/4 of a ton 3/8" white washed stone sometimes called "pea gravel" to cover about 100 sq ft at about 2" deep.
- BRICKS I think the bricks look great in a path and they provide a barrier to keep the stone in and the dirt sidewalls from crumbling in. If you don't use bricks you may need to buy a plastic barrier to line the edges of the path
- SHOVELS for this instructable I used a flat edge shovel to edge out the path and help remove the grass and a spade point shovel for general digging
- PICK AXE, HATCHET, AXE, SLEDGE HAMMER, RECIPROCATING SAW if your path is anywhere near a tree you will invariably run into roots. Having an assortment of tools to help tackle them will save you time, energy, and a lot of sore muscles
- TENT SPIKES, OR DOWELS AND A LONG ROPE (at least double the length of your path)
- WHITE SPRAY PAINT
- 2X4'S CUT A SPECIFIC LENGTHS these will help you to check your progress, and to level the dirt/sand
- LOPPER (BIG AND SMALL) these guys will become your best friends when it comes to small root removal. They will save your hands!!
- WHEEL BARROW
- GLOVES, FACE MASK, EYE PROTECTION
Step 2: Laying Out Your Path
Before your first shovelful of dirt, you should take the time to lay out a path on paper. This way you can dial in the dimensions and calculate your materials. Once that's done, make sure your future path is clear of any debris, or stones. I removed our old slate stone path, and some pavers.
Now, grab some short dowels or tent spikes and stick them in the ground at the part of your path closest to your front door. Make sure you set them at the final width of your path. Once they're set, wrap the rope along the outside and extend it to the end of the path. This let's you outline where your path will go at full scale. At this point you should make any changes needed. Maybe you like the look of curved path vs a straight path or maybe there is an unexpected set of roots that you have to go around.
Once you have your desired path laid out, cut a 2x4 to the final width of your path (mine was 3') and run it in between the rope making sure your path is a consistent width all the way across.
Now all you have to do is take a can of spray paint and mark a line on the grass following your rope. After you finish you can remove the rope and tent spikes and you're ready to start digging!
Step 3: Time to Start Shoveling!
Now comes the fun part! With your edging shovel, start cutting a line following your paint. It helps to overlap each cut by a few inches to keep everything even. If you hit roots, don't worry, just go as deep as you can and make sure you have a continuous line.
After both your edges are cut you can start lifting the edges of the grass. Try to keep it from breaking up into little pieces as this makes it more difficult to remove. I then started at one end with the flat end of the pick axe and lifted as big a piece of grass as I could.
Work your way down the path until all the grass is removed. Don't worry about getting to your finished depth right now, just remove the top layer of grass, roots and some soil.
At this point, you'll quickly realize that most of your time will be spent cutting, pulling, hacking, sawing, and prying roots out of the ground. Just be patient, and focus on one section at a time. Of the 3-4 days my wife and I spent making our path, 2 of them were spent just removing roots!
Step 4: Smoothing, Tamping, Raking...then More Smoothing and Tamping
After laboring for what will probably be hours digging and developing a healthy hatred for all things root related, you'll start to have something resembling a path!!
Once you've dug to your final depth (we estimated about 4" but found that 3.5" was plenty) take your 2x4 cut to final width and start dragging it across the path. This serves two purposes: to help level your surface/expose spots that you may need to refill, and helping you to check that the depth of your path is even throughout. Since we only dug our path to a total depth of 3.5", all we had to do was to make sure the top of the 2x4 was just about even with the surrounding ground level. As you start working your way down the path, you'll notice low spots underneath the 2x4. Just take some of the excavated dirt, overfill the spot below the lower edge of the 2x4 and smooth it back out again, this time removing the excess dirt.
After you have a smooth and relatively level surface, you want to compact it to keep it from shifting as the path gets walked on. To keep dust from flying everywhere, you may want to wet the soil down. You don't need to drench it, just spray it lightly. Now, simply take your tamper and start slamming into the ground making sure to overlap each hit by a few inches. Work your way across and down your path.
Now, one bag at a time, start pouring the sand* along the middle of the path. Rake it out to evenly fill the edges, run the 2x4 across to smooth the surface and even out any bumps, spray it down with water, and tamp it down. You may have to repeat this once or twice to make sure you reach a thickness of anywhere from 3/4" to 1.5" depending on the layout of your path.
*when pouring the sand be sure to have a dust mask on. The fine dust gets everywhere and it's pretty nasty
Step 5: Brick by Brick!
Almost done! Once you have the sand tamped and at the right depth, you can start laying the brick along the edges. I would recommend starting from your door and working toward the street. This way if you don't have enough room at the end for a full brick it won't show by your front door.
As you start laying the bricks, you might find that they won't all sit evenly. You may have to add/remove some sand underneath the the brick so that is sits level and is even with the surrounding bricks. Once you have the brick placed the way you want it, give it a tap with a rubber mallet to set it in place. Don't worry if it's still a little loose, once you add and tamp the gravel they should get pretty tight.
You may notice that there's a gap between the outside brick face and the cut edge of the path. You can remedy this by filling those gaps with sand to help support the brick. I would wait until you fill the path with gravel so you don't overfill the gap and mistakenly angle the brick in towards the path.
For the brick pattern you can be as creative you like. You may not want one at all and just fill the path with gravel. We played with a few different designs and settled on an alternating herringbone and empty diamond. In total we used about 150 bricks.
Step 6: Almost There!
And now for the finishing touches! Once your bricks are laid out and set the way you want them, you can start adding a thin layer of gravel to fill the path. You only want to put down about 1" (or about half of the brick width), rake it out evenly and tamp this to pack it down nice and tight.
At this point you can repeat the process until you're about 1\2" shy of the brick face and then loosely fill the path until you're even with your brick pattern. This gives you a solid feeling path with some movement as you walk. your other alternative would be to lay the first inch down, tamp it, and then fill the rest to the top of the bricks and lightly tamp that. This will make for a much softer more giving path, but it will require some raking and leveling from time to time to keep the gravel from shifting too much.
Once your brick is set and your gravel has been laid out, the last thing you need to do is to fill the gaps behind the bricks lining the path. This will provide more support and will stabilize the bricks. Using a small cup, or even a funnel, you can fill all the spaces with the same sand you used before. I found it also helped to pour some sand in between the brick patterns. This keeps them from shifting too much when you walk on them.
Aaaaaaannd that's it folks! Now you can sit back, relax, and have your friends and family *carefully* walk up and down your beautiful new path! Hope you enjoyed this instructable, feel free to leave any comments or questions down below.
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