Help me make a thing of beauty not a grand mess!
June 15, 2007 7:00 AM   Subscribe

My boy is going out of town for four days and I want to make a project to surprise him when he gets home. I am making a pathway in our backyard, does anyone have any experience in this?

I have 4 days to accomplish a landscape project. I want to make a pathway in my back yard. Has anyone done this recently? Did you run into any unforseen expeirences or headaches? Any good tips or tricks? What matierals did you think turned out beautifully?

Here is the plan. I want to make a path that looks a little like this path. That would snake down to the firepit thing in my back yard.

Then I want to get three of these benches and putting them in a little circle like this and then using a thin flagstone veneer to pretty up that fireplace thing.

I am thinking of using these steppers and these edgers and then using this as filling. Whew, that is a lot, hopefully it will work out. I await your tails of tribulation that will disseaude me from this.
posted by stormygrey to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: these edgers
posted by stormygrey at 7:04 AM on June 15, 2007

Best answer: Pretty, and pretty ambitious! This is heavy, sweaty work with lots of back and forth carting stuff with a wheelbarrow, and lots of shovelling.

The first thing you need to do is lay out your path with garden hose, string, whatever, to get it exactly where you want it. Winding is nice. You have to dig out the grass, tamp down the soil, and lay black sheeting down so no weeds grow up through the stones, because they will. Depending on your stones and pavers and what not, you may want to cover the sheeting with some sand. You don't need to for loose pebbles, but for flat rock or stone you need a leveller.

I don't know anything about veneer or applying stone to a vertical surface, but I have laid a few paths (cobblestone and flagstone are my favorite materials), and all the prep work you do (the tamping, the sheeting, etc) is what pays off in the end. Think in advance of how you will eventually landscape the sides of the path and the circle, which may affect how you snake and wind it.

This is a good mini-tutorial, with some very inspirational photos.
posted by iconomy at 7:24 AM on June 15, 2007

iconomy's got the scoop.

I did something similar over a weekend last year -- dug out / filled in an area in front of my ex-girlfriend's house and laid down pavers so that we didn't have to walk through mud to get to her front door. It took me three days total to get it done, working from 8-12 and 3-8 to avoid the august heat of the day in texas.
posted by SpecialK at 7:30 AM on June 15, 2007

Best answer: I've built a number of paths like this at my landscaping job. What's going to be most important is having a good 3" of sand underneath the path in order to level the pavers so they don't rock or crack. Sand with also keep soil from moving into your gravel layer and mucking it up. I never used landscaping fabric or weedcloth; it's very hard to lay it perfectly (especially on a curving path), and weeds eventually grow in the gravel on top of the weedcloth or around the edges. It's pretty much just landfill fodder, IMO.

Set out your path, excavate 5". Lay down 3" of sand, including under your edging. Set your flagstone steps, making sure they don't rock (a rubber mallet is helpful here). Lay your edging. Fill in around your flagstone with 2" of pebble.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:00 AM on June 15, 2007

Yeah, this looks way too much like real work. I third iconomy's admonishion about the prep work--if you want it to last, put in the work up front. Lest it be washed away in the first big rain, like my neighbor's lets-just-throw-some-rocks-down-there approach.

I built our walkway by digging out a slope with a squared shovel, then covering that with black plastic sheeting and backfilling with crushed limestone. I rounded off and sanded pieces of a couple of broken cast concrete picnic tables for paving stones (cost: $0, plus the fun of taking a hammer and chisel out and Breaking Stuff -- I snagged them from a marina that just wanted them gone) and placed them on the sheeting. Then I covered the whole thing with wood chips, because my wife thought the limestone was too bright and just didn't fit our backyard.

Then I made the mistake of bordering the damn thing with monkeygrass, which is now threatening to take over the whole yard.

Dump all the gravel/sand/limestone in the driveway, you'll thank yourself when you go to clean up.

This is also a job for which you will need a truck, or better yet, a friend with a truck who will do heavy lifting in exchange for beer.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:08 AM on June 15, 2007

Response by poster: Inspired by inconomy's tutorial (specifically the gravel plus edgers only pictures), do you think that the path looks better with or without the random size steppers in the path?

Second, I have a pretty heavy duty tiller, can I use that to excavate most of the way then move to the shovel or would I be better off trying to rent a sodcutter? Or just bringing in $12/hr labor guy?
posted by stormygrey at 10:53 AM on June 15, 2007

Getting the sub base correct is essential - - having a good base to work on will make the whole project longer lasting and better looking.

Consult the guru of all things paving, way too much info there, all of it good.

Good luck!
posted by Giant luck at 11:04 AM on June 15, 2007

I like the path with the big stepping stones. I think it looks neat, and I think it will require less maintenance. It seems like the gravel might get kicked out of a gravel-only path pretty easily, but the big stones would give you some stability.
posted by robinpME at 11:09 AM on June 15, 2007

Please post some after photos...I'm dying to see what you decide on. I'm faving this thread so I can check back in a few days. Good luck and have fun....your boy is very lucky!
posted by iconomy at 11:21 AM on June 15, 2007

Just an FYI- if you use smooth pebble on a slope (minus pavers or flagstone) it can sometimes be quite slippery. Noisy, as well- but sometimes crunching gravel is kind of nice.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:26 AM on June 15, 2007

If you're not used to this kind of work: mind that you only lift with your knees, keeping your lower back erect and perpendicular to the ground. Weightlifter belts do not protect your lower back, but they can remind you not to flex it or bend it over when you're lifting rocks up and down, and for that reason I always wear one when I'm doing this kind of work.

Sounds like a good idea; no reason to have to follow it up with a visit to the spine surgeon.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:28 PM on June 15, 2007

If you call in the Ground Force team, Tommy will lay those heavy stones for you... and you might even get a water feature!
posted by bink at 9:23 PM on June 15, 2007

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