paver brick driveway and landscaping our front yard

Article By Shorty

Here is the first view we had of the house, I took this photo as I drove up the first time after seeing the listing on MLS. The people who previously owned the house were laywers and could easily affort to run their sprinkler every day plus have landscapers come over and manicure every week.

I hate pine trees, they drop tons of needles making a mess everywhere, plus my older daughter is allergic to them. So top of the list was to get rid of the pine trees -- plus we discovered that the big one on the left was starting to dig under the house, and we were afraid if left any longer, it might lift and crack the foundation. My wife and both my daughters are allergic to the olive trees to the right, which are next to the driveway, plus the trees kept scratching the cars as we drove in and out, and dropping olives every day -- what a huge mess as all the neighborhood kids would stomp on them. So they were marked to go also.

I was able to find this aerial photo on the county website, so with a little photoshop we played with a bunch of different scenarios.

We wanted to convert the yard to a rock landscape so we didn't have to water the front, which saves a bunch of bucks plus cuts down on the maintenance needed. A lot of people have courtyard walls which are very attractive, and since our house is set so back on our lot, we had room to add one. It adds more private space to the property, and also blocks the view from the street into our windows. So now I can walk around the house in the buff. :)

We decided to go with river rock, which since it is grey, I figured it would look like the moon. Why not add in a lunar lander, with the earth rising mural painted on the wall? Surely the city would consider it art ?

Bulk trash pickup day was coming up so it was time for the olive trees to go. I bought one of those cheap little electric chainsaws at Home Depot to cut olive trees down. Morgan would pull on the branch with a rope while I would cut the base of the branch. Worked perfectly every time, the branch would drop exactly where she would pull it to.

I pushed my pdracer off into the yard and used the trailer to carry the branches all the way around the end of the block and into the alley. Some of the branches were rather big and I chopped them up in the alley to get them under teh 4' max length allowed by the city trash pickup regulations.

On bulk pickup day, the crew showed up with this neat bobcat looking machine.

Also in the driveway was a basketball pole that had to go. The footer on it was atleast 24" in diameter, and about 24" deep. I whacked on it for a while with my 10 lb sledge hammer, but couldn't do anything besides round off the corners. We rented an electric jackhammer from Home Depot and busted up the rest of the concrete.

Yes, she really is running the jack hammer. I held the 3rd handle so it wouldn't fall on her, and she would operate the 2 side handles and squeeze the handle to drive it.

I didn't get any pictures of having the big pine tree cut down, but do have a video of it.

We have looked at this house for years, it is right next to Christy Cove park, on Christy drive (and ironically I have dated a few Christy's). When we moved back to Phoenix, Steph was keeping an eye on it while shopping for houses. When we sold our house in Houston, the day we started moving, this house went on the market and was sold the same day! Steph was so angry she missed it.

Their courtyard is nice looking, but it is still fairly low and doesn't provide the nice privacy that a 6' one does.

This one is really jazzy looking.

This is the one we liked the most, and pretty much tried to emulate.

We had some concrete bordering to the flower bed right outside the garage. When I busted it out, I had a moment of inspiration. It is supposed to be stonehenge.

We had stopped watering the front yard and over the summer, the grass looked pretty much dead. We weren't sure if we should have all the grass removed, but our landscaper assured us that with the weed cloth & a healty dose of kilzall, it wouldn't come back. And since we are using the cloth instead of the plastic, we could apply more weed killer and it would soak thru the fabric to kill the weeds.

The yard started taking shape, but was still so barren looking. We had a few mounds, but because they were made from the same rock as the base, you couldn't see them. My neighbor had a bunch of big river rock that he wanted to get rid of, so he let me have it and even helped me load it up & transport it over in wheel barrows.

My other neighbor saw the first one donating some rock, so he weeded out some surplus cactus from his yard and donated them to mine. This photo only shows a few of them, he gave me a bunch more later.

Here are some of the other pull thru driveways within a few blocks of our house.

This neighbor lives right down at the end of our street. Originally we were thinking about having our driveway done with the same red brick pavers. Shelly the sales lady for Home Depot convinced us to go with the pavers we did because the red brick ones have sharp edges, and if there is even the slightest settling or shifting, the corners stick up and look really bad. The rounded corner bricks can move a little bit and you won't notice it, or stub your toe on it.

This is a nice big drive.

This guy went bare minimum, put a border up and just has gravel to drive over.

With this house, I think they used to have a garage and converted it into a room (you can see it to the left of the picture), then put in their drive so they didn't have to park on the street.

Here is a lot in the middle of the street, you can see that they made a half circle. They also do not have a garage, I think it was converted into living space.

Here is another half circle driveway.

We live on the corner of a street and cul-de-sac, so we have a corner faced by 2 streets in our front yard. A lot of houses in this area have "pull through driveways", I think they are also called executive driveways, where part of the yard is converted into a driveway which you can pull stright thru. For lots on the corners, we can just cut across the yard. For the lots in the middle of the street, they have half circle driveways.

Billy, our job supervisor, started the process by using a laser level to mark the slope from pad at our courtyard to the far side of the driveway.

He marked it so we would have 2" of declination to encourage the water to run away from the courtyard, down the driveway to the street.

Then he put in a couple of other stakes to mark the slope towards the sidewalk. Turns out that the sidewalk at the neck of the cul-de-sac is 6" below the entrance to our courtyard, and the street is 18" below.

I asked if he was going to bring out a bobcat or a back-hoe. He smiled and said "we don't need that, just a couple of guys are going to be fine".

Day 1 of the job - sorry, I didn't get any pictures. Just like Billy said, 2 guys showed up to dig out the driveway. As hard as the dirt is (I think it is called coleche), I was figuring they would be done with driveway in about a month. Then they pulled out an electric jack hammer, and started to chop away at the dirt with it. Incredibly they could easily cut chucks of dirt about 12" square and pop them out whole. By the end of the first day, they were 80% done with the digging. The materials showed up too, the sand and gravel / sand mix was dropped off and pallates of paver stones.

Day 2 - The 2 guys from yesterday plus 6 more showed up. They all hustled to get the rest of the driveway dug out. Picks were flying, that jack hammer was running more, and dirt was quickly moving out to the street.

When fully excavated, it looks like they went down 8-12". When getting quotes from other contractors, I was told various depths for how deep they would go, and Home Depot / Barazani were going to dig the deepest. Makes sense too, because after the pavers go on, the roots from the trees and grass that used to be there are all going to rot, and leave a cavity. That cavity might collapse creating a dip or low spot. Removing all of that soil and replacing it with the masonry gravel & sand takes care of the problem up front.

This is the masonry gravel & sand mixture going in.

The rake he is using looks like a 6' wide piece of angle iron - and it doesn't have teeth, just a flat blade.

Going over it with the plate compactor and wetting down. That compacter weighs a couple hundred pounds, but when vibrating it is just a cinch to push around.

I didn't get a picture of it, but hte way they put the sand down is to lay down a couple of pieces of conduit at the right level, then toss sand over top of it. Then they run a board across the conduit to smooth out the sand.

Next it is just a matter of placing the paver bricks down. Notice the string in the sand, it runs from the black stake in the foreground, goes under his legs and to the sidewalk. This seems to be the way he could make the pattern straight.

Now to make the edging. To mark the edge they were going to cut, they used a flexible piece of PVC pipe. Since our edges were longer than the 10' pieces they had, they joined them up with couplers to make long enough sticks.

BBBZZZZZZZZ..... Here come the stone cutting saws.

In some of the tutorial instructions on the internet, they show people cutting the bricks individually with a sliding table cutting saw, a guillotine stone cutter, or breaking them with a stone chisel. But this takes a bunch of time, the pavers would have to be removed one after the other, marked and cut. The way they did it, they just cut thru all of the stones at one time. Sure it is noisy as heck, but makes nice clean cuts that follow the curve.

Finally to lock the pavers in place, they dug a trench around the perimeter, layed in rebar and placed the outer rim of pavers in concrete. They said that others use cheap plastic edging around the outsides, but that edging will loosen with time, and the concrete works so much better.

Done is just 2 days ? Wow, with motivated workers like this, I can start to see how the pyramids in Egypt could have been built.

So that pretty much is the last thing we wanted to do for the front yard.