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How to Create a Living Garden Path

Once spring has sprung, it’s time to begin thinking about outdoor projects. With sunny but not too hot weather, longer days, and rain-softened soil, this is the perfect season for improving the yard.

Living garden path is made from concrete pavers designed for planting.

Living garden path is made from concrete pavers designed for planting.

To provide proper footing through your gardens, establish borders, and create a handsome new accent, what could be a more fitting yard improvement to tackle than a garden path?

Garden Path Materials

For garden paths, you can use anything from pea gravel to steppingstones to brick. For this project, we chose a material that is solid underfoot but especially friendly and natural. It’s a flat concrete paving block with a grid of 3 1/2-inch-square holes for grass or groundcover. The result is a “living” path.

Though several similar products are available, the one we used is called Turfstone. It is a 16-by-24-by-3 1/4-inch thick paver originally designed for commercial landscaping and driveways. This and related materials can be ordered through landscape supply outlets or masonry yards.[GARD align=”left”]

Preparing the Path

To simplify the project and eliminate the need for working with mortar, we installed these units on a firm, flat bed of sand. Once all of the pavers were in place, we planted their pockets with Veronica repens, a hearty ground cover that doesn’t need mowing.

Installing the Path

First, stake out the path’s perimeter and then figure the number of blocks required, adding 5 percent to cover waste and breakage. Then figure out how much masonry sand you will need; it takes 1/2 cubic yard of sand for every 30 blocks.

1Wearing work gloves, set two or three blocks in position at each end of your intended pathway. These become reference points for layout stakes, which should then be driven into each corner. Stretch taut mason’s lines between the corner stakes to define the sides of the path. Because the pavers are quite long, making a straight path is simple, but if you want curves, they have to be long and gradual.

2Excavate with a flat-bladed shovel to create a flat-bottomed trench about 4 3/4 inches deep to allow for the 3 1/4-inch thickness of the pavers plus a 1 1/2-inch-deep sand base. Sand provides a firm, stable base that drains well. For poorly draining soil, you might have to add an extra 6 inches of gravel beneath the sand.

3To create a perfectly flat sand base, set up “screeding rails” by digging the trench a little wider than the path’s width to allow for placing 2-by-2 rails along each side. Then stake these rails in place. Working in 3-foot-long sections, shovel sand between the rails and draw a short 2 by 4 across the tops of the rails to level the sand. As voids appeared, add sand and repeat the screeding action. Once you have flattened a 3-foot section, install blocks on it. When you near the ends of the rails, extract them, shift them forward to the next section, and fill their vacated positions with sand.[GARD align=”right”]

4Unless you have a power saw with a diamond blade, you should only cut the blocks where the patterns intersect. Otherwise, more often than not, they will break. If you do use such a saw, be sure to wear protective goggles and follow all of the tool manufacturer’s directions for use. To cut a block, we placed one of the intersections over the edge of a 2 by 4 and, using a brickset and hammer, scored the cutting line. Then you just break off the unwanted piece with sharp blows. Once all the blocks are in place, use a water-filled lawn roller (you can rent one inexpensively) to evenly compact the blocks to keep them from settling over time.

5You are now ready to plant. Fill the cavities to about 1 inch from the top with a 50:50 mixture of sand and potting soil. Then, cut 3 1/2-inch squares of ground cover from flats, using a sharp knife and a 2-by-4 as a guide. Plug the cavities with the greenery, allowing it to mound slightly above the surface, and water. With regular watering, you will have a beautiful “living” garden path.

If you’d like a new pathway but prefer the classic look of brick, see How to Build a Garden Path.

 

Patios, Paths, Pavers & Steps

Concrete Pavers & Paving Stones

Concrete pavers, set in a base of compacted sand, provide a flat, elegant patio surface.©Christina Richards / Shutterstock.com

Concrete pavers, laid in a base of fine gravel or sand, provide a flat, elegant patio surface.

Most people assume that any paving product that looks like brick is, in fact, brick. Not so. Paving brick is made of clay, the traditional source material of brick manufacturers. Concrete pavers, which may appear similar to their clay counterpart on the shelf, are actually very different.

concrete pavers grass

Concrete pavers set in a lawn provide a flat, visually soft outdoor surface that you can actually drive onto in a pinch.

Concrete pavers, similar to concrete block, consist of cement and aggregate. Formed in molds, a vibration process provides the combined materials with density. Over time, the units gain strength due to the curing or hardening of the cement. Colors other than gray are achieved by adding pigments to the mixture of cement and aggregate.

Rectangular concrete pavers offer a brick-like appearance.Sevenke / Shutterstock.com

Rectangular concrete pavers offer a brick-like appearance. Here they are being leveled in a bed of sand.

Because it is not inherent to the material, the pigment added to concrete pavers can erode, eventually exposing the color of the aggregate and perhaps resulting in a complete change from the original color of the concrete paver. Dark pigments in particular can fade over time. Unfortunately, once the color has faded, it is impossible to bring the color back to its original appearance without replacing the concrete paver.

Like modern, extruded brick pavers, concrete pavers are manufactured with highly accurate dimensions and are typically available at large home improvement retailers.

Interlocking concrete pavers form a contiguous surface that resists separations, provides visual interest.©The Pixel / Shutterstock.com

Interlocking concrete pavers form a contiguous surface that resists separations and offers visual interest.

Mortarless interlocking pavers are available in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Machine-made, they offer high-strength paving solutions for driveways, walkways, and patio floors. [GARD align=”left”]Assembled without mortar, they are typically installed in a shallow bed of sand, and, to create a solid interlock, sand is vibrated between the paver joints. Material prices of pavers tend to run from about $1 to $2 per square foot.

Patios, Paths, Pavers & Steps

Concrete Pavers & Paving Stones

Concrete pavers, set in a base of compacted sand, provide a flat, elegant patio surface.©Christina Richards / Shutterstock.com

Concrete pavers, laid in a base of fine gravel or sand, provide a flat, elegant patio surface.

Most people assume that any paving product that looks like brick is, in fact, brick. Not so. Paving brick is made of clay, the traditional source material of brick manufacturers. Concrete pavers, which may appear similar to their clay counterpart on the shelf, are actually very different.

concrete pavers grass

Concrete pavers set in a lawn provide a flat, visually soft outdoor surface that you can actually drive onto in a pinch.

Concrete pavers, similar to concrete block, consist of cement and aggregate. Formed in molds, a vibration process provides the combined materials with density. Over time, the units gain strength due to the curing or hardening of the cement. Colors other than gray are achieved by adding pigments to the mixture of cement and aggregate.

Rectangular concrete pavers offer a brick-like appearance.Sevenke / Shutterstock.com

Rectangular concrete pavers offer a brick-like appearance. Here they are being leveled in a bed of sand.

Because it is not inherent to the material, the pigment added to concrete pavers can erode, eventually exposing the color of the aggregate and perhaps resulting in a complete change from the original color of the concrete paver. Dark pigments in particular can fade over time. Unfortunately, once the color has faded, it is impossible to bring the color back to its original appearance without replacing the concrete paver.

Like modern, extruded brick pavers, concrete pavers are manufactured with highly accurate dimensions and are typically available at large home improvement retailers.

Interlocking concrete pavers form a contiguous surface that resists separations, provides visual interest.©The Pixel / Shutterstock.com

Interlocking concrete pavers form a contiguous surface that resists separations and offers visual interest.

Mortarless interlocking pavers are available in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Machine-made, they offer high-strength paving solutions for driveways, walkways, and patio floors. [GARD align=”left”]Assembled without mortar, they are typically installed in a shallow bed of sand, and, to create a solid interlock, sand is vibrated between the paver joints. Material prices of pavers tend to run from about $1 to $2 per square foot.

Patios, Paths, Pavers & Steps

Make a Statement with Brick Pavers

Just as your home makes a statement about who you are and what you value, so do the patios, walkways and driveways that connect your home to the outside world.

Criss-cross brick paver design

They deserve the same attention to detail as does the home itself. Perhaps the most important decision you will make in planning your home’s paved venues is the selection of the right paving product.

Brick pavers, that is genuine clay paving bricks, have a timeless appeal that imparts an image of classic elegance to homes of any style — from traditional to ultra-modern. In fact, many of the finest homes in America are graced with courtyards, terraces, garden paths and drives paved with brick. Kathy Frederick, a Realtor with Northern Virginia Homes, describes the appeal of brick in both aesthetic and practical terms, saying, “Brick presents a quiet but stately elegance, yet is still warm and welcoming. It never goes out of style. Adding a brick walkway or driveway can also add great value to your home. In every way, your return is far greater than your investment.”[GARD align=”left”]

The primal elements of clay, water and fire come together to form brick pavers. They bring a natural harmony to every landscape design because they are the paving material that comes from the earth itself. Comprised of selected blends of clay and shale, paving brick is molded and pressed into shape either by machine or by hand. After a brick has been formed under pressure, it is dried and fired at nearly 2,000 degrees F until the particles fuse together to form a very strong bond. Paving bricks are so strong that many can withstand loads exceeding 12,000 pounds per square inch. Part of their strength is related to the density achieved when manufacturing. It is also this density that makes paving brick impervious to most stains.

The colors of paving bricks tend to be earth tones or blends of muted colors, typically red, brown, greenish gray, tan and even cream. These colors are characteristic of the clays mined from the earth and vary with the source area or region. Darker colors and blends of dark and light brick arise from the process of flashing, which imparts a permanent color into the paving brick. The high temperature at which clay paving brick is fired allows the color to endure forever without fading.

One great advantage of brick pavers is the almost endless number of design options available through patterns created using brick of various sizes, shapes, colors and textures. Within the broad category of genuine clay pavers lies a diversity of products ranging from hand-made, waterstruck brick with their old-fashioned appeal to modern, extruded brick known for their precise look. Featuring colors drawn from a rich palette of natural earth tones, patterns range from simple to intricate and may be laid using mortar or without it.

Brick Paver Patio

The type of brick, the intricacy of the design and the type of installation (mortared or mortarless) you have chosen should all be considered when determining whether your paving project is best suited to a do-it-yourself or professional installation. For example, because antique-style, hand-made brick, by the nature of their design and manufacturing process, will vary in size, they demand more artistry in patterning and should probably be installed by a mason skilled in adjusting for the variability. While this type of paver may not be the right choice for a do-it-yourselfer, it creates a soft, rich look that can’t be duplicated. Hand-mold brick could be a crucial design element in achieving historical accuracy through the use of simple, traditional brick paving patterns.

Many manufacturers have adapted to modern technology brought from Europe and are now producing brick pavers with unprecedented accuracy in dimensions. This more modern paving brick is well-suited to complex designs and patterns which require a high degree of uniformity among the individual paving brick.

Paving brick is available at your local brick distributor’s showroom, your best source of information on paving brick, including do-it-yourself installation tips and names of qualified installers in your area. You can visit the showroom of a brick distributor and select your paving brick just as you would the brick for a home. Because genuine clay pavers are made from the same material as the brick on your house, brick companies can easily provide paving brick to match or complement the brick on an existing or new home. For a distributor near you, visit www.brickinfo.org.

Most people assume that any paving product that looks like brick is, in fact, brick. Not so. Paving brick is made of clay, the traditional source material of brick manufacturers. Concrete pavers, which may appear similar to their clay counterpart on the shelf, are actually a very different product.

Concrete pavers, similar to concrete block, consist of cement and aggregate. Formed in molds, a vibration process provides the combined materials with density. Over time, the units gain strength due to the curing or hardening of the cement. Colors other than gray are achieved by adding pigments to the mixture of cement and aggregate.[GARD align=”left”]

Because it is not inherent to the material, the pigment added to concrete pavers can erode, eventually exposing the color of the aggregate and perhaps resulting in a complete change from the original color of the concrete paver. Dark pigments in particular can fade over time. Unfortunately, once the color has faded, it is impossible to bring the color back to its original appearance without replacing the concrete paver.

Like modern, extruded brick pavers, concrete pavers are manufactured with highly accurate dimensions and are typically available at large home improvement retailers. Retail malls and commercial real estate have done a great job utilizing concrete pavers, but they are used less frequently in upscale residential. “Why,” you might ask? The answers are simple.

Clay, like all quality materials, keeps looking better and better over time. It ages well and wears well. Brick, on a house or on the ground, conveys a sense of permanency–it just says “home.” Brick is loved for its natural origins, its rich tonalities and its uniqueness. Like snowflakes, no two bricks are alike. Be aware of the statement your home is making. Genuine clay pavers provide a warm welcome that will endure, and even improve, after years of enjoyment.

Copyright: The Brick Industry Association

Patios, Paths, Pavers & Steps

Properties of Brick Paving

If you’re considering the use of brick paving as part of your landscaping plan, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of the material. Here we look at the properties of brick paving.

Size of Brick Paving

Clay paving bricks usually come in face sizes of 4 by 8 inches, but other sizes are available. Face sizes are also available in both 3 5/8 by 7 5/8 inches and 3 by 7 inches. Thickness can vary between 1 1/4 inches and 2 1/4 inches, the latter being the most popular.

Color

Clay paving brick comes in a variety of colors, including reds, browns, pinks, and buffs. Other earth tone colors are available, and practically any combination can be found. When taking the time to choose the perfect color for your project, it is reassuring to know that the color of the clay paving brick chosen will never change. Cleaning, when necessary, is easily accomplished with the use of a hose and a little detergent.

Durability and Strength

To ensure the durability of the product, it is important that all clay paving brick meet ASTM C 902 standards. The standards used to test brick used for walls and brick used for paving are different.

Brick used for walls is not made to endure pedestrian traffic or light vehicle traffic. If you install a brick that does not pass this test, it is quite possible that the brick will crack and/or disintegrate after a few years.

Brick paving is very durable and beautiful.

Various colors of paving bricks can be mixed to create stunning patterns.

ASTM C 902 testing standards, which are specific to paving brick, ensure that paving bricks are able to withstand higher levels of moisture, foot traffic, and light vehicular traffic. This standard also accounts for the tremendous strength of clay paving bricks, which usually surpass the minimum weight requirement of 8,000 pounds per square inch.

Stain Resistance

Clay paving bricks resist most stains, with the exception of efflorescence, a white powdery substance that sometimes appears and washes away over time. To avoid efflorescence, calcium-chloride deicers should not be used.

Cost of Pavers

The cost of both clay pavers and concrete pavers are more than asphalt or concrete; however, long-term durability and aesthetic appeal must be factored into an assessment of the cost effectiveness of any paving option. Most segmental paver installers lay both clay and concrete pavers for the same price.

Patios, Paths, Pavers & Steps

Repairing Concrete Patios & Steps

If your concrete patio, pavers, or steps need a good cleaning, scrub them with a stiff push broom and soapy water. For a very large area, you can ease the job by renting a power washer. To protect the surface, you can coat it with a translucent masonry sealer.

Repairing Concrete Cracks

For hairline cracks in the surface of concrete, equip a caulking gun with a tube of concrete-patching compound. Before applying the compound, sweep the cracks free of dust and debris.

Use a cold chisel to slightly widen the crack, then remove loose material.

If a crack is wider than 1/4 inch, widen it a bit more with a mason’s hammer and cold chisel. Wear protective gloves and safety glasses. Again, sweep away debris and rubble.

Use a trowel to pack the crack with concrete.

Then use a trowel to apply concrete-patching compound.

When the patching compound begins to set, use a wet trowel to smooth over the patch so it is even with the surrounding concrete.

Allow the surface to dry, but moisten the patch throughout the week to ensure that the concrete cures properly.

Concrete Spalling

In regions where freeze-thaw cycles are severe, concrete surfaces may show damage of flaking and chipping, known as spalling. For all but the most experienced home improvers, the best strategy for repairing this is to hire a concrete contractor or mason to break away and patch the damaged area.[GARD align=”right”]

Repair Broken Concrete Step Edges

To repair the broken leading edge of a concrete step, first brush away any loose concrete and dirt. Fasten a length of scrap lumber along the front, flush with the top of the step. To attach the scrap, use a 1/4-inch masonry bit to drill a hole through each end and into the concrete riser. Drive two 16-d nails into each hole, forming a wedge, to hold the board. Fill the broken area with patching concrete, allow it to set up slightly, and then remove the board, fill the nail holes, and trowel smooth.

 

Patios, Paths, Pavers & Steps

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