Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rock Wall Seating Bench

The boulders are in place for the most part and I'm really amped to get going on the round patio and pathways, but before I can do that I need to get the rock wall seating bench in place. Or at least the base of it.

I start with about 4" to 6" of 3/4" minus as a base then start building with split grey basalt. Since it's conforming to the outside of the 11' diameter round patio, I can use squares and rectangular pieces rather than hunt and pick for concave shapes.

The first 4 layers. As it's built, I fill the back with 3/4"-minus rock and let it migrate between and below the stone. This helps support and steady the unlevel surfaces.

Moving along slowly. I try and vary the rock height to give it character but that creates lots of challenges. 

At this point I stopped building the wall and would complete later. This part of the project was moving too slowly and I was anxious to get to the patio part.

The completed rock wall bench seat. The top pieces are the same material as the round porch and pathways and are mortared in, giving it a solid feel.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


I wasn't too sure on how I was to deal with the boulders that the designer, Jane Coombs, added to the hardscape layout. I knew how great they'd look. I just wasn't sure how to get them to the house and moved in place. It turned out to be much easier than anticipated. 

All that was needed was to select the boulders at the rock & stone landscape store and they set up delivery to the house. I then rented a Bobcat MT 52 from Lewis Rents (block away from the house). It was a walk behind model and narrow and easy to manuveur. It did tear up the yard pretty quickly though.

Once the boulders were in the general location, I moved them by hand to settle them in and backfilled with dirt so they looked like they'd been there naturally. 

Dumping the boulders

The Bobcat poised and ready for action

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Outdoor Steps

My favorite thing about working on the house is delving into challenges that I've never done before. This landscape project has all sorts of new adventures lying in wait. The first one is building concrete steps. I've done concrete bases for posts, slabs and plenty of other general concrete work but never steps.

This task actually started last summer but more fun things to do in the sun distracted me and I abandoned all form building practices.

The original steps. You can't see in this blurry picture but they're in bad shape with a major crack. Sledge hammer lying in wait.

Fortunately, these were built poorly so demolition didn't take long.

It was a pile of rubble in minutes.

I laid out the new step shape with rope.

I pre-cut the stone pieces and shaped them on a 4x8 plywood. The steps acutally ended up being slightly different but this still helped.

After realizing I couldn't pound wood stakes in the ground, I discovered metal stakes with holes to attach the wood to.
Getting there with bendable but weak plywood.

After finding 1/4" plywood that would bend but not break, my forms were completed.

I added 3/4" minus gravel up to 4" below the top of the forms and a few inches at the face of the step.
My orange buddy for the concrete mixing process which saved hours of manual concrete mixing.

Adding rebar to the top step.

I used 20 bags and was only about 1/4" shy of the top of the forms.

Done with the concrete pour
And from the other side.

After a couple of days, the forms are pulled off.

In mid stone install, using white polymer thin set. The challenge was the different thickness of travertine patio stone which ranged from 3/4" to 1 1/4"
Complete with the stone setting.

After a day, I add the grout. I completed this at 9pm in the dark, literally feeling my way around to make sure the grout was set in place. This made for some surprises the next morning!