Pavers by the Driveway: a Birthday Mini-Project

Today marks my 32nd year alive! That seems way too high; I could’ve sworn I was just celebrating my 25th birthday. The traditional present for a 32nd birthday is hard labor involving pavers, right? Well, that’s what I gave myself.

The weather in Louisiana has been jerking towards cooling off. By that, I mean that rather than a nice gentle slide into colder temperatures, we’re bouncing back and forth between highs of 90F and 75F. Overall, though, we’re coming down from the peak heat of summer. Hooray!

As the weather cools down, it’s much easier to spend prolonged periods of time outdoors. I love spending time outside, and I love changing things around the yard. So what better way to celebrate my birthday than to tackle a project that’s been in the back of my mind for months!

When I had my new driveway installed last spring, I decided the little strip running between the turfstone and the fence would make a cute garden. I mulched and sewed seeds and . . . weeds grew.

Truth be told, I didn’t try super hard to grow flowers in the strip garden. I usually park on that side in case I need to pull out my bicycle or garbage bin (on the other side of the driveway is a low garden wall). That means I normally get out of my car and walk on the strip – and I’d be tromping any flowers that did grow!

mulched strip beside driveway, before pavers
Mmm those lovely weeds and grasses.

The best solution for now would be setting some pavers.

I already had a good bit of sand leftover from over-buying when I installed my garden paths. Therefore, all I had to buy was about $50 worth of pea gravel and 12″ x 12″ pavers. Nothing sexy, unless you think neat, square corners are sexy (I do!).

Step 1 involved pulling all the weeds and roots that I could and transferring the mulch to a storage spot in my backyard. I can always use mulch; I just didn’t have any Emergency Mulch Needs at that moment.

weed cloth, gravel, sand, and pavers

With the mulch out of the way, I pulled up the weed cloth and shoveled the sand into my handy garden cart. The cart was a gift from my mom last year. It’s great for toting heavy bags, rocks, etc. around the yard, and if I line it with a tarp, it doubles as a wheelbarrow. The sides even fold down for easy dumping.

The next step involved laying the weed cloth back down and leveling out the significantly uneven parts of the strip with the pea gravel. Then I shoveled the sand back on top of the cloth and gravel and raked it even.

a set of pavers by the driveway

Bing, bang, boom! Pavers.

I spaced the pavers with a piece of 2×4. I actually ran of pavers out at the end. Those last four are scavenged from the chicken coop (which is why they blend in with the sand). The rest of the sand filled in the gaps. The above photo still looks a little messy, but I’m happy with the result. I’ll probably shore up the driveway side with some edging so the next big storm doesn’t wash away the sand.

This project took about two hours, maybe a little less. I tend not to watch the clock closely when I’m in the throes of a project. I tell you what, though. It sure feels good to finish a project that’s been on my mind for months.

Here’s to another year of projects, big and small!

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Demolishing & Installing a Driveway

Step, the First in Operation: Chaos into Beauty was, “The ugly driveway is disappearing.”

As a reminder, here’s the old, busted driveway:

Inkedhouse - old_LI
Broken concrete. Weeds. Barely wider than the sidewalk.

 

Not only was I seeking something that looked nicer, the driveway needed to be widened so I wasn’t driving and stepping into muddy ruts on either side. I also wanted to add an off-street parking area for guests.

Driveways: To DIY or Not to DIY

At the beginning of a project, if you’re me, you plan and scheme and really try to figure out if it’s at all possible to do it yourself. A driveway demolition and installation is slightly out of my skill and resource levels, particularly with squishy clay sediment that gobbles up good intentions and concrete. Reluctantly, I had to relinquish total control and (gasp) hire help.

People who grew up in this area have a friend of a brother-in-law who has an aunt married to a guy whose cousin owns a whatever business that person needs. When my house flooded, I reached out to my (now ex-) boyfriend’s sister-in-law’s father who connected me with his drywall guy. Although I’ve lived here for years, my network lacks a driveway guy. I took to the internet.

Let’s take a moment to talk about fate. I don’t wholeheartedly rely on it, yet I can’t help but notice when things work out a certain way. Fate’s like a tide; if it’s tugging me in a certain direction, I try to float along rather than fight.

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“Guys? Hello? I think the rudder’s broken.     . . . guys?”

And boy howdy, did fate strike this time.

One of the contractors I found through a Saturday morning internet search practically grew up in my house. His grandma owned it for more than 60 years. They planted the oak tree in my backyard when his aunt was born about 70 years ago. Before he even visited to build the estimate, he described the inside of my house perfectly (well, other than the furnishings). In the early 2000s, they sold the house to a couple who then, a few years later, sold it to me. To be clear:  the contractor and I had never met before. I had no idea about his history; I just thought his company had a pretty website.

To be honest, I didn’t really consider anyone after we realized his connection to the property. Most of the folks on my street have lived here for decades. Social bonds run deep in this city, and only a fool would do poor work when word can easily get back to Mama and Daddy. And the contractor was so flipping excited to work on Grandma’s old house!

On a sunny Tuesday morning, a work crew of more than a dozen red-shirted men descended on my front yard with excavators and wheelbarrows. The operation was magnitudes larger than I expected; trucks blocked the parking strip and a lane of traffic.

As the end of my workday drew near, I had trouble sitting still at my desk and took a little peek through my video doorbell:

Work on the driveway is underway
Creepin’ on the work crew. Isn’t technology amazing?

A little after 5pm, the contractor called me to come inspect the work before he dismissed the crew. He said my old driveway (which his grandma had hated too) was so broken and weedy near the street because the original contractors had skimped on concrete. But this new driveway, oh, she’s a beauty:

a turfstone driveway
Okay. So you know how someone’s all swollen and bruised after they get plastic surgery? Imagine the driveway a month from now, all cleaned up and fetching.

As a wannabe hippy and anti-bland crusader, I didn’t want the same old poured concrete that plagues neighborhoods across the country.

My new driveway is turfstone, a honeycombed set of pavers with holes for sediment and plants. Turfstone allows rain water to drain back into the ground instead of funneling it into the sewer system.

Many people grow grass in the pockets of turfstone. If you remember, though, one of Operation: Chaos into Beauty’s steps was, “the grass is getting ripped up and/or smothered.” Therefore, I decided to sow a few pounds of dichondra seeds due to the perennial’s low-growing nature (it should only get two inches tall), drought tolerance, and love of full sun.

I don’t have a picture of a lush, green driveway yet, but I’m happy to report that teeny tiny green sprouts have started to pop up. Although dichondra can handle some foot traffic, I’ll try to ease the vehicle impact by varying where I park (when I don’t have guests). A recent rainstorm also washed some of the river sand out of the pockets. The contractor offered to refill them, but instead, I think I’ll lay down peat moss to help retain moisture while the seedlings are trying to establish themselves.

Guys. Things are happening. The Operation is in full swing.

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< Step 0:  Operation: Chaos into Beauty

Step 2:  How (Not to) Till Your Lawn >

Chaos into Beauty: A Vital Operation

If you live in the average American neighborhood, chances are you have a front yard covered in grass. Perhaps you have chaos, and weeds rule. Me? I’ve decided to rip everything up and replace it with a massive, beautiful garden.

chaos and destruction lead to beauty and calm

One of the first major changes I made to my house was adding gardens in the backyard. Moving from an apartment to a house with plenty of green space was so freeing! I even bought a sledgehammer and demolished – bit by jagged bit – a concrete slab that served a long-gone shed to create more space. Recycled concrete rubble formed the sides of raised butterfly gardens. Lumber from the second-hand store and leftover chicken wire became a vegetable garden fence.

But this year, I’ve realized, I need more.

I’ve never been happy with my front lawn. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m happy immediately after I mow and trim, and neat corners and crisp edges replace the jungle. But in subtropical south Louisiana, go in for a glass of lemonade and by the time you come back outside, the grass (who are we kidding, the weeds) is scraggly again.

My front yard is chaos.

Also, my driveway sucks. It’s broken. Huge cracks with woody stems and tiny green leaves creep over the concrete. And it’s only seven feet wide. What? Yes. Seven feet. Interestingly, the internet tells me the standard width for a single-car driveway is ten feet. That explains why the grass on either side of my driveway is usually a muddy rut.

Therefore,  I’m enacting a multi-stage plan for the entire front of my house. All of those problems going away

Inkedhouse - old_LI

The ugly driveway will disappear.

The grass will be ripped up and/or smothered.

Eventually, flowers will grow.

Then a fence will appear to keep the drunk fools and dogs from killing the flowers.

Finally, I’ll have a nice little area to sit where I can drink coffee on the weekends and wine on weeknights.

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Step 1:  Demolishing & Installing a Driveway >