It’s been awhile since I posted. I know. But I have a good excuse!
Operation: New Patio literally became all-consuming. For the better part of 6 weeks, Adam and I have spent ever possible minute working on this project. (Which is crazy because we’re literally just moving rocks from one piece of ground to another. Who’da thunk it could take so long?) Evenings, weekends, and even a good portion of Adam’s lunch breaks were spent digging, raking, and lifting stone (over and over again).
I read plenty of professional and DIY blogs before starting this process. Enough to know all the steps for putting in a patio and I at least thought I had a sense of what I was getting into. (Hint: I did not.) As I’ve told friends multiple times, when trying to finish the world’s heaviest and most frustrating puzzle, ignorance is definitely bliss. If I had known what I was getting into with this project, I guarantee you I never would’ve started. On the plus side, our new backyard oasis is UH-MAZING. Since no one ever actually wants to look at the process photos in a DIY blog, I’ll give you a peek at the finished product first.
So last time I wrote, we had finished about 2 days of work and were working on our second layer of digging (unintentionally done in 2 steps. My digger-in-residence was less than happy with this development.) Little did we know that the next 8 million steps would take 5+ weeks. For the sake of brevity, this post will be told mostly in photos. (Warning! Lots of loving pictures of dirty and rock incoming.)
Step 1 continued: Dig. Dig. And dig some more. I recommend finding a very agreeable partner who is both strong and willing to do most of the work for this part. (Love you…) That or maybe hire someone with a machine that doesn’t take 2 weeks to finish this step.
Step 2: Tamp all the dirty and make it all pretty looking. We borrowed an 8×8″ hand tamper from a neighbor which took foreeeeeeeeeeeever to tamp a 400 square foot area. Consider me naively surprised.
Step 3: Take a break and fly some wicked awesome pirate ship kites that you found at Costco.
Step 4: Have 13 tons (!) of gravel dumped in your driveway. Realize you have to move this entire pile to the backyard using a single wheelbarrow. Cry.
Step 5: We put down a thin layer of gravel and then placed the weed barrier over top of it. Just seemed easier somehow. I’m skeptical that this will actually have any effect on our super aggressive weeds, but the internet said I had to do this part and I can’t just not do what the internet says.
Step 6: Put down all the rest of the gravel and start raking and leveling. This is where Adam got back at me for not helping dig. Raking an inch of gravel is a piece of cake. Raking 6 inches of gravel is the worst. Especially when you’re super weak, like me.
Step 7: Once it’s level, start tamping the gravel to prevent too much settling later. See that tamped corner behind Adam? That was my contribution. I literally got about 10 feet done and had to sit down from exhaustion. I do not recommend this step.
Step 8: Cave and rent a vibrating plate to do the hard work for you. According to the guy doing all the work, this was “the best $85 we have ever spent.”
Step 8A: Make sure you stop and have a chat with the neighbors. Our neighbor happens to be 3 years old and is a big fan of Adam. And dress up. And talking. A lot.
Step 9: Finally the “fun” part. (Hint: It’s not fun. None of this was fun. I hate rocks.) Once the gravel is in and level, you can start laying your stone. This was the first piece we put in. It was eventually moved because it turns out triangles are the devil (finally proving what I’ve known since 9th grade geometry).
Step 10: We started with the border since those stones needed to be the heaviest, biggest, and straightest rocks.
Step 10A: Keep. Laying. Rock. Overall it took us a week to get everything to fit. For every stone we put down, it felt like we had to remove 2 others we had previously laid because they just weren’t working the way we wanted. This is essentially a puzzle where all the pieces weigh 150 lbs and none of them are guaranteed to fit together. Yeah. “Fun.”
Step 10B: This was the size of an average stone (Adam for scale). By the end of this process, we were both able to literally throw these stones around like it was nothing. (Ok – that’s a slight exaggeration but you will be seriously strong after this. I can almost do a push-up now!)
Step 11: Finally finished the puzzle! ( I have decided to spare you the photos of us getting frustrated and yelling at each other while carrying giant slabs of stones. But please be aware, this is a significant part of the patio laying process.)
A gratuitous shot from above because we were so proud of ourselves.
Step 12: At this point, I naively thought we were almost done and the last 2 steps would take maybe a day. Ha. Haha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Nope.
For this step we went through and leveled every. individual. stone. For those of you considering doing this yourself, you might think you can skip this step (no? just me then?), but it seriously does make a huge difference. Below is a corner that has been leveled…
And one that hasn’t. Just wanted you to see the difference. Since we went with the irregular stone, all the pieces were different thicknesses and had weird textures on the bottoms. After a few stones, we gave up on making them actually level and just made sure they weren’t tripping hazards. (Pro-tip: This part will go much faster if you compromise all your standards and don’t care. I recommend this route. Also, I would maybe avoid the left side of our patio.)
Step 13: Finally finished leveling every stone and filled in the cracks with polymeric sand.
Step 13: Wet down the polymeric sand and wait for it to become concrete-like. Then just spend the evening sitting in lawn chairs staring at your hard work. And then go to bed at 8:30pm because – holy hell – you are so unbelievably tired.
Step 14: Go hang out on your patio. (Or keep sleeping. I swear I’ll never not feel totally sore and exhausted ever again.)
Final thoughts: Neither of us can believe we actually built this thing. It looks better than we could have hoped for and the fact that we did it ourselves just adds to the bragging rights. I’m so glad we did this project and now I can unequivocally say that I will never ever ever ever EVER build another patio again.