Posts Tagged ‘hardscape’

back to the front

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Well, we did it. Managed to squeeze one final outside project into 2011: the front walkway. I didn’t feel strongly about having one but David did, so we enlisted Jim Egan at Land Design Associates to create something that would tie to the rest of the hardscaping he’s done for us.

Here’s what Jim came up with…













Basically three terraced levels with steps in between. In his drawing, the top level (far left) shows the original concrete walk that fronts our concrete entryway steps and walls being replaced with granite. That’s this area…





















There was also talk of facing the concrete steps and walls with granite but that just doesn’t make sense. I think the concrete is integral to the design of the house. And there’s nothing wrong with any of it other than that stupid crack (under the black mat in the photo) at the bottom of the steps. So we’re keeping it as is and adding below it down to the street level. We realize that a granite walkway will never match the old concrete but think we can make it work.

So, our slight revision to Jim’s initial idea looks something like this (click to biggify)…

fronthill2 | rough drawing












The crew came and made short work of it. First they dug out the hillside and leveled out bases for the two terraced parts of the walkway…













That involved moving a lot of soil…





















I added a good amount of that soil to other parts of the slope after they left, shovel by shovel, and then sculpted it as I saw fit. But I digress. The crushed base went down and the steps were heaved into place…





















Then the first granite terrace went in…





















Followed by the second terrace…













And Bob’s yer uncle!

We’re left with a hillside of disturbed soil and it’s too late in the season for plants to take root. So once again, I staked biodegradable Curlex down to hold the dirt in place…

























I rolled erosion control blanket and pounded stakes until almost midnite in a mad rush to beat the ground freezing the next day. But it’s done now and I won’t touch it again until April. Looks much better, no? Remind yourself what it used to look like.

And the crack? I’ll show you another time.


what’s your angle on this light?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Okay, time to order path lighting for the outside so people don’t break their necks trying to get around out there. These lights are specifically for the steps and we really only need a few out front and back.

After tons of poking around for something that’s not over-designed (“i’m an attention hog, do not look away from me!!”) and not too out-there (omg it’s like makers think the word “modern” = quirky and hideous), plus not too delicate (this house calls for something beefy, not slender) etc., I’ve finally located two options that are not only modern and minimal but pretty affordable!

First, this simple right-angled path light in aluminum…

hinkley right angle light bronze















From the Atlantis Collection made by Hinkley Lighting, it’s available in bronze, hermatite or titanium finish…

hinkley right angle options






Or this angled path light from their Piza collection, also in aluminum…

hinkley angle light bronze















Available in bronze and titanium finish…

hinkley angle options





I think either style could work. Our house has both right angles and angley angles…

angles and right angles




















Ah, remember summer when it was warm and the garden was just starting to take off?

Anyway, whaddya think? Angle or right angle? Bronze would blend into the scenery the best. Titanium would almost but not quite go with the aluminum window frames and flashing, as well as the galvanized aluminum planter boxes and steps. Decisions, decisions.

loving the way this looks!

Friday, September 16th, 2011

wall appreciation

Just wait until the wood turns a lovely silvery grey. Perfect.

walling in the beds

Friday, September 16th, 2011

So. We live on a hillside with a steep grade. When it rains or snows, the soil travels downhill. My planting beds slowly migrate into the paths, which I am constantly digging out. How to solve this dilemma? Some sort of retaining solution, der.

In some places, the drop from bed to path is well over a foot, so off-the-shelf retainment has been impossible to find — believe me, I’ve considered everything from concrete curbing to galvanized roofing materials to gabions. Large rocks just looked busy and let soil through the gaps. We finally gave in and decided we’d have to make our own. And when I say “we,” I mean our landscaping friends from Land Design Associates.

In the September Dwell (The Hidden Fortress), there’s a house that uses 4″ x 6″, Japanese-style wood pilings like so…

from september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress

from september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress


They’re staggered, wabi-sabi style. Imperfect, much like our topography…

september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress

september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress

september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress

september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress

You see that look frequently in bamboo edging…
bamboo edging |

bamboo edging |

Bamboo isn’t beefy enough to actually hold back the hillside, so we’ve decided to riff off of the hidden fortress and use wood pilings. The boys showed up yesterday with a truckload of 5″ x 5″ white cedar fence posts…
cedar fence posts

They started by digging trenches to accommodate the pilings…
trench dug

Then they cut the posts into random lengths and pounded them into place. One wall done!
one wall done

almost pond

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Pleased to report that our moat now has bridges across it…

the bridge is in!



















Even though we argued over granite vs. wood, it looks pretty good, no?

finished pond and patio — with bridges!












The joints of the granite cap around the edge of the pond are now mortared…

wet mortar in the joints of the granite pond wall cap



















And thanks to David and Bix, the pond got cleaned out. First they sprayed down the liner and gave it a scrub with the broom…

the boys spray down the pond liner



















Then they used a ShopVac to suck up the last of the bilge water…

shop vaccing the liner



















Like a big ol’ bucket of the rankest Earl Grey ever…

yuckwater for dumping



















And then it was time to start filling the pond! How long do you think it takes to fill about 3,300 gallons?

pond filling begins with a trickle




















In one hour, the water was up to 6″…

6 inches one hour later



















We’re only going to 2′ so you can do the math. Will take a little under 4 hours when we finally finish filling it. A few issues with the plumbing that need resolving so we had to pause at 11.5″. Not officially Pond yet. Rats.


There was splashing. It was 90 degrees, after all. Godzilla, Mrs. Godzilla and Minya (Godzilla Jr.) regarded the proceedings with approval.

godzilla family watches


shades of deliverance

Friday, May 27th, 2011

So is the koi pond up and running yet? Uh… well, not quite yet. What we have right now is more of a festering swamp than a pond.

our lovely swamp

The crew pumped out most of the rainwater a few days ago but we still have this mosquito-friendly bit left to deal with. Better get on that. Before the hillbillies show up.

almost embarrassing

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Going outside this afternoon to find the lower patio done is like winning Lotto. For the second time in two days.

lower patio done

Crazy, right?

progress report: whoa, dude!

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

So what’s new? Let’s see… feelings of inadequacy. Doubts we can live up to our unbelievably fabulous new patio. And ideas for ways to regain some of that white trash aesthetic we’re so accustomed to. Yup, the upper patio is pretty much done.


The boys from Land Design Associates weathered two damp, blustery days to make it happen. I love you guys. They raked out a thick layer of crushed stone base and stone dust, then tamped it down good…


They compacted the heck out of it…


FYI, that’s a screed board being dragged across the surface to make it smooth. Screed. Not scrod. Does not smell like fish.


And then the granite started to go down…


And then more (torrential downpour break!)…


And then just like that, all the stone was in. The seams were filled in with stone dust…


And the whole thing was swept clean. The rectangle by the railing will be the home of the corten steel grill/firepit. More on that another time…


With the patio essentially done, it was time to clean up the yard. The crew raked out the soil and graded the slope so that it wouldn’t be so steep around the pond’s edge…


And then our gorgeous, boulder-free soil was once again revealed.


So this is what we’re left with: a supa-dope patio that looks like it goes with the house and a clean slate for pond-side plants and lawn. (Click to biggify for the full dope…)


Before the crew cleared out of the back area, they brought in two 5′ granite steps for the top of the yard…


I’ve been picturing this little spot as the perfect shady vantage point from which to gaze upon our swank new kingdom from some yet-to-be-determined bench…


Funny. This spot is considerably higher than the pond but the camera just can’t capture that. What it also can’t capture is how psyched I am that the boys also added 4′ stone steps out front where that tree came down last week…


Thank you! New trees coming soon. Also coming soon: the lower patio. But for now, the machinery sleeps.


progress report: cap done!

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Yesterday the crew from Land Design Associates came and knocked that pond into shape, finishing off the wall with a granite cap. I’ll make this quick so we can get to the big reveal.

First, they trimmed back the liner, scalloping the edge like it was a giant rubber doily. I assume that’s so the mortar can adhere the cap stones to the cinder block, right?

the rubber liner gets trimmed back

There were clouds of stone dust…

pond capstone cutting

Much hefting, measuring, slathering of mortar and leveling…

pond capstone mortaring

And then…

pond cap done!


no really, it’s DONE!

Oooooooh! Aaaaaaaaaaaah! Now we let the mortar harden up and pretend like we’re not already lighting the grill and mixing up a pitcher of sangria.


tougher than it looks

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Pardon me for a few sick days. Back at it now — and lookie, we have achieved pond liner!

finished pond liner

The best part: Joe and David did it without a single excuse not to! Want to see how?

First the cat took one final roll in the sand. I don’t understand why she never used the pond as a giant litter box. I certainly would have. But for whatever reason, she didn’t…

one last roll in the sand

Our friend Joe has some experience in dealing with rubber so we took complete advantage of his expertise. First, he gave the sand a final rake, being sure to curve the sand up the walls slightly…

the sand gets one last raking over

Then he and David laid out a base layer of heavy-duty geotextile fabric across the bottom of the pond and up and over the walls. It had to be done in two sections to fit our wacky L-shape…

a base of GeoTex geotextile fabric

Next, they added a layer of felt (again in two sections) as extra protection for the rubber liner…

and then a layer of felt

The boys were careful to keep the corners and overlapping bits as neat as possible. With the geotex fabric and the felt in, it almost looks like they’re done. But no. Hard part still to come.

pond all geotexed and felted up

Next up: the .045″ EPDM Firestone PondGard rubber liner. Luckily our neighbor has a green, rock-free lawn where they were able to roll out the rubber and cut it into two sections. Thanks, neighbor!

EPDM rubber liner gets trimmed to fit

As they did with the geotex fabric, Joe and David fit the rubber over the tops of the walls with plenty of overlap…

liner gets positioned so that it overlaps the wall

The steel bridge supports were slipped into their grooves atop felt in the hopes of protecting the rubber liner…

steel bridge supports are set in felt atop the rubber

As you’d imagine, it’s hard to be precise with a rubber liner. It’s bulky, awkward stuff to work with when you have squared up walls and corners to contend with rather than an organic shape. There was also the matter of seaming together the two pieces of liner without it looking like a hack job…

rubber is carefully dealt with on cantankerous corners

Thank god they managed the corners and seams with a great amount of care. And colorful language.

neat and tidy seams

The overlapping seams were joined by cleaning the surface area, then brushing on Carlisle Low-VOC primer.

Carlisle Low-VOC Primer adheres the liner to the seam tape

The primer softens the EPDM enough for 3″ peel-and-stick seam tape to fully adhere the rubber together. On top of the 3″ stuff, the boys cleaned and primed the surface again and applied 6″ uncured rubber tape that comes in this crazy, super-sticky roll…

super sticky peel-and-stick 6" uncured rubber tops off the seams

The binoculars in the background were not used to see what the sunbathing coeds down the street were up to. That would be unseamly, right?

the boys finish off the seams

So now the two-pieces of liner are fused into one L-shaped piece of leak-free liner. Knock on wubber. It rained yesterday and I see no leaks.

pond liner — finished and rained on

The water, bridges and plants should be enough to mask whatever imperfections are sure to keep David awake at night. Looks fine to me. Jim Egan and his crew should be here some time this week to deal with plumbing the pond, capping the walls with stone and finishing up the patios. Can I get a whoop-whoop?!