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Project postscript: Never underestimate the potential for fun in wet concrete! Allow time for creative flair in your project. Simple (hand- and foot-prints, initials and dates) or fancy (leaf prints, embedded stones or shells, stamped letters, colored dye) concrete stamped effects, take time to play!

How-to and Documentation

Backyard Concrete Paver Project, 2003

backyard before concrete pavers

backyard after concrete pavers

This “BEFORE” bird’s-eye photo was taken in early May, 2003, so admittedly doesn’t have the greened-up pizzazz of the “AFTER” July 2003 photo. But the real improvement lies in the addition of a fence, the removal of all lawn (which languished increasingly each season in this north-facing shady backyard), opening up the never-used corner with a bench, and laying the concrete pavers throughout this small backyard. <Top>

Fence

The beauty of a fence, in addition to any privacy needs, is the clutter-free background that it lends to a garden, giving a neutral backdrop to any flora indulgence you wish to introduce. Our backyard had been “overgrowing” for decades, sneakily encroaching in from the borders each year.

Fence Installation:
  1. fence corner beforePutting in our fence required removing years of overgrown shrubbery and ivy to clear a path and gain access to the back of the yard. I also visited our neighbors to the rear to ensure no hard feelings about the fence!
  2. We chose cedar (though knotty, couldn’t afford clear) and used stainless screws so no rusty trails. We also water-sealed the fence after installation to preserve the fresh look as long as possible.
  3. Fence beforeI live with a curmudgeon-y carpenter (admittedly he is the brain and brute behind most of these projects) who has such high standards that he himself can not live up to them. Each 4X4 fence post is leveled to within a 32nd of an inch!
  4. The six-foot height of the fence is as tall as permitted by city ordinance. Our neighbors to the east like to look into out pretty yard, so made their fence lower. We created an angled section to connect the two.
  5. fence corner afterAfter choosing what we felt was the perfect fence design for the length of the back of our yard (one that looks the same from either side), we were incredibly lucky that both our neighbors, east and west, independently decided to re-do their own fences in the same style. Instant 3-sided finished fence for our yard!
  6. The curmudgeon, Laif, requires a “maintenance clearance” in front of the fence where no overgrowth is permitted. As it turns out, this inspired our entire concrete park-like haven!
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Concrete Installation
  1. Concrete MoldWe purchased a plastic mold for creating random-appearing paving stones; seven stones per 24-inch wide section. Each section requires about 60 pounds of concrete and is cleverly designed to puzzle-piece next to itself, or on an angle by pouring only half the mold, to create an integrated, interlocking surface, curved or straight.
  2. We ran a length of these sections along the back fence. Lots of lugging of concrete, yes, but compared to the price and weight of actual limestone pavers, this is a bargain! The self-leveling nature of poured concrete made the chore a snap; just smooth out the dirt, place the mold, and trowel in the concrete. It rolled easily over the slopes and valleys of the yard.
  3. concrtet pathLaif was in charge of mixing the concrete with a blend of Portland and sand. I toweled the mix into the mold and leveled it. After one minute, the mold could be shimmied loose and repositioned, and the next section poured.
  4. We loved the look so much we continued around the corner, creating a nook for a bench which became a garden “destination.” It visually enlarged the yard immensely, drawing the eye back to the far reaches and offering a “place to go” where once was only overgrowth.
  5. Concret cornerOnce the path wrapped around the bench area, we decided to keep going, eliminating the entire scraggly lawn and paving the remaining yard.
  6. While we were at it, we leveled the area using dirt removed from the east side of the house where a hillside improvement project was underway. (Click here for photos of that project.) Previously the yard sloped downhill, away from the house, causing ongoing run-off and erosion. Leveling the yard was an added improvement, and made it easier to garden and more comfortable to walk on.
  7. dirt to level backyardIn this way, we spent three solid weekends: Drive to Menard’s; buy as much concrete as the pick-up truck could safely carry; drive home; unload; mix, pour; mix, pour; mix, pour . . . collapse! Do it again the next day.
  8. Good exercise and satisfying results! We have enjoyed this park-like atmosphere ever since. Children and adults alike seem not to miss the grass, enjoying instead exploring the garden via paths and sitting comfortable on the bench in the corner. An added advantage is the excellent drainage and the resilience of the pavers to any heaving and thawing of the ground over the winter. They never crack or break apart.
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the completed bench

Supplies:

Don't forget to add a personal touch to your concrete!
(See Project Postscript.)   <Top>


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