Want to add an impressive seating area to your backyard? Build a stone bench to enhance your outdoor space, by following these easy instructions. In just a few hours, you will have a unique and attractive new backyard feature.
This project measurements reference Stonewall II Concrete Blocks. Other block products may be utilized. Contact your dealer for more information on products that would complement a bench).
PROJECT TIME ESTIMATE: 2-3 hours
Four, 12” stakes
STEP 1, PREPARE THE SITE
Stake out a 2’ x 9’ rectangle. Use one of your stakes as your starting point and hammer it into the ground. Measure 9’ in the long direction and hammer in another stake. Measure 2’ at a 90 degree angle from the two stakes already hammered in the ground. Set both stakes and make sure they are 9’ in between. To check for square, measure diagonally from stake to stake until the two measurements are the same.
STEP 2, CONPACT AND LEVEL
Once you have your area marked out, dig approximately 4” into the soil. Place and compact 3” of 3/4" Minus Gravel as a leveling
pad for the base course of your bench.
STEP 3, SET THE BASE COURSE
To set your base course, lay your first stone 1” below finished grade, and level front to back and side to side. Start with a large and small and large and small, side by side to make a 20” x 20” column base. Measure 5.5" in from one side, and place a large stone, then a small stone, alternating until your bench is 5' 2.25". Then, build another 20" by 20" column base. Fit for alignment and check for level.
STEP 4, STACK THE COURSES
Place a continuous bead of caulking on the blocks below. Stack additional courses, ensuring you have a running bond, so the block lines do not match the lines below. Check for level and adjust as necessary. Stack additional rows on the square to a maximum of five rows high.
Stack additional rows on the bench to a maximum of three rows high.
STEP 5, SECURE THE TOP COURSE
Secure the capstones. Use a generous amount of SRW adhesive to glue the top caps and five bench caps.
Not sure why you need to glue block wall caps? Read about block adhesive here.
Questions about this project? Contact Basalite and we'd be glad to help you with your project.
Build a matching planter box!
Click here for the easy instructions
Featured: Basalite Artisan Slate Pavers in Positano
A paver project, when properly installed, can enhance your property appearance and value. The use of concrete pavers in the United States has become more and more popular due to paver flexibility, looks, durability and DIY capabilities. While this is not a project for everyone, most do-it-yourselfers will find that they can properly install a paver patio, walkway, or driveway, as
long as the correct tools are available.
Most paver projects end before they even begin! You’re probably thinking “what is this guy
talking about?” What I am referring to here is that after you read the “how to lay pavers” instructions and realize that you don’t have all the necessary tools, or don’t quite understand how to compact your paver base, you tell yourself “I can’t do this, it is way too hard”. Fear not, we are here to help your paver installation become a reality!
Tools for Laying Pavers
While you may not have all the necessary tools for laying pavers on hand, you can contact your local equipment rental yard or even your local landscape supply yard, and rent the tools. If you do need to rent tools,plan out your work schedule to ensure you can return them in a timely manner. The following list will help you determine what tools you have/need to rent for your paver project:
Flat blade shovel
Knee pads (optional)
Chisel or Masonry wet saw with Diamond Blade (can be rented)
Chalk Box String Line
Wood or metal stakes
2- 8 foot sticks of 1” pipe or wood
Plate compactor or hand tamper
Choosing the right Concrete Paver for Your DIY Project
Concrete pavers come in a variety of shapes and sizes from a 12 X 12 large to an octagonal shape paver to a paver that looks like a tulip! The paver that meets your needs will depend on your budget and taste. Pavers vary in price based on the colors, texture and sizes.
A few things to consider when selecting your pavers:
1. Do you want a color that will compliment the house color (remember you may change the house color one day) or do you want a color that will contrast with the house? It is better to choose a color that will be neutral to the house and complimentary to the yard.
2. The more colors visible in the paver, the more expensive the paver will be.
3. The more vibrant the paver’s colors, the more costly the paver will be.
Pavers come in a variety of textures. In choosing a texture for your DIY paver project, you have multiple options to choose from:
1. Smooth-topped pavers or Cobblestone pavers: the standard in the industry. You can purchase inexpensive pavers with this texture.
2. Textured pavers: this is the newest trend in pavers- a top that looks and feels like a slate stone. These textures may seem aggressive, but are actually pretty minimal. They will not stop a basketball game, nor a lady walking with high heels. The slate look increases the beauty and color appearance in your paver project. Most people will install multiple sizes to enhance the look and feel. A few tips on sizes:
3. The more sizes you choose, the more difficult the installation will be. When installing 3 or more sizes, you have to remember that your patterns will be more complicated and will require more time, (and potentially more frustration in the beginning).
4. A variety of sizes will showcase your project. Using a small, medium and large paver will break up the lines and give you a random look and feel.
When determining which paver pattern, size, and color, check with your local supplier and ask if you can purchase different sizes and take them home and place them in the area. This will help you in determining if the pavers look good and are esthetically pleasing.
Still not sure how to pick colors? GET OUR FREE TIPS AND TRICKS DOWNLOAD HERE!
Choose a Paver Design
You have selected a paver and the paver color, and now it’s time to choose the design or pattern that you will be laying it in. All pavers can be installed in multiple patterns, from the standard running bond to an elegant Ashlar pattern with a Soldier cours., However, keep in mind that a pattern that requires multiple sizes and multiple pieces will be more difficult to lay, and beginning a pattern is the most difficult part of laying pavers. Practice your pattern a couple of feet away from your work area, leave the pattern there so you can go back and look at it if you need visual assistance. This will save you time and frustration. When you choose your pattern, let the sales representative know, so he can order the correct paver sizes and quantity required. The easiest and fastest pattern to install is the running bond pattern however, if you want beauty and elegance then select a random or Ashlar pattern. (Click here to see sample patterns as featured in Basalite's Italian Renaissance).
Ordering Your Pavers and Calculating the Materials Required
Now that you have chosen your pavers, it’s time to figure out how many of each size you will need. Calculate the width and length of your project, and talk to your local supply yard. They can figure out the square footage based on your selected pattern, and will know what size of each paver will be required. Normally, ordering 5% extra is good insurance. You can also use an online paver square foot calculator to determine this yourself.
Here are the steps required to figuring out the square footage and the pavers required:
Take a piece of graph paper and draw out your project, measuring out the lengths-widths. Figure out the square footage of pavers, cubic yards of base rock, cubic yards of sand and how many bags of 30 mesh sand is required.
Let’s take a look at how you perform these calculations: first, figuring out your pavers-take the length and width of you patio and multiply them together (L X W). Hence, if your project is a patio 10 ft. wide by 15 ft. long; 10 X 15=150 square feet of pavers will be required. Now, let’s
look at the amount of base rock is required. For a patio, your base needs to be between 4-6 inches thick, (for a driveway, it should be 6-8 inches thick). Your paver area is 150 square feet and your depth is 6 inches which is 150 X .6 = 90 cu yards 90/27=3.33 yards, (27 is the amount of material in 1 cubic yard). Your bedding sand requirements are 150 X .08 (1 inch) =12 12/27=.44 yards. For the joint sand, you will need to use clean, dry 30-mesh sand. A 50 lb bag will normally cover 100 to 125 square feet, depending on the size of the paver
1. 150 square feet of pavers
2. 3.33 yards of road base
3. .44 yards of bedding sand
4. two bags of 30 mesh clean, dry, joint sand
Paver Construction Layout/Outline
To establish a layout or outline for your paver project, lay down a garden hose and 2 X 4’s to form an outline of your patio. Now spray paint a line 8 inches outside the outline of the patio, to act as your excavating lines. If your project is a square box or has a right angle, then you can use the *3-4-5 triangle method to determine perpendicular lines; start by marking an outline of your project using a can of line marking spray paint. This mark should be 8 inches outside of your project footprint. If your project is more elaborate and has curves, then the easiest way to lay this out is to use your garden hose and create your design (see image).
Helpful tip! *3-4-5 triangle method: The 3-4-5 triangle method is a way to measure out a right angle. To do this, establish your corner starting point and measure out 3 feet in one direction. At the same starting point at a right angle, measure out 4 feet. Finally, at the end of both lines measure 5 feet between them, adjusting the lines until your reach the 5 feet mark. Once these lines are established, you can extend them out until you reach your desired distances. This can also be done using multiples of 6-8-10 or 9-12-15 or 12-16-20, etc.
Establishing the finished elevation of your project is the next step. Let’s explore a couple of scenarios: 1. If your project is a patio or walkway that is adjacent to a grass or a planting area, you will want your pavers to be level with that area so that your finished elevation would be the same height of the grass or planting area. 2. If your project is a patio that steps up into a house, your finished height would be the same as a lower step into the house, (a step is normally 7-8 inches in height.) Once your heights are established, you will want to calculate the amount of soil you need to remove. From your string/height lines, measure down the thickness of the paver base (4-6 inches), bedding sand thickness (3/4 inch), and paver thickness (2 3/8 inches). If you have good soils in your yard, the base can be 4 inches in thickness. If you have poor or clay soils, you should have a 6-inch thick base. For this exercise we will use a 4-inch base, giving you a total height, (base-sand-paver) of 7 1/8 inches. This will be the distance down from the established paver finished height that you will need to remove (See figure 3). (This will be a picture of a marked line on a house wall and a measuring tape showing 7 1/8 inches. And a string line with a measuring tape showing 7 1/8 inches.)
Helpful tip! Take into consideration that all paver projects should have a slight slope away from a house or other important areas, (pool, garage or barn) of 1 inch per 10 feet of distance. This slope provides drainage away from critical structures or other important areas.
Now that you have established the layout of your project and determined the paver’s elevation, it’s time to start removing soil. Remove soil up to your project’s layout lines and extend past that line by 8 inches.
Helpful tip! Wet down the area you’re removing the night before, to make it easier to remove the soils.
Base and Compaction
Once the soil has been removed down to the depth of 7 1/8 inches, start building your paver sub-base with the ¾ inch road base. Bring the sub-base area up to a height of 3 1/8 inches below the string. The sub-base should be at least 4 inches deep in all places and should extend 8 inches beyond the actual edge of the patio, to provide room for edging. Compact the area with a flat -plate vibratory compactor, running a minimum of 2 times over the complete area. The most important aspects of the sub-base is that it slopes away from the house 1
inch per 10 feet, and that it is flat and level. Any dips, low spots or high spots in the sub-base will show up in your final project.
Helpful tip! The pavers will take on the shape and look of your sub-base, so a poorly compacted, uneven sub-base will give you an undesirable look. This is not a difficult process, but it requires time and patience.
Edging is the glue that holds the paver project together. Place the edge restraint down on the solid base, on top of the bedding sand. This allows the sand to migrate out from under the paver, leading to eventual failure. Without solid edging, your project will drift apart as rain, foot traffic, snow, or frost pound away. To install edging, follow the 4 steps below. You can put your paver edging down before or after laying the pavers.
Helpful tip! Place one side and the bottom edge restraint in place, then lay your paver to your
finished patio size. Then, place the other two edge restraints in place. By following this example, you will reduce or eliminate your cuts.
Place the edge restraints on top of the prepared base material. Restraints should come with pre-drilled holes. Spike through the holes with 10-inch steel spikes.
To join the sections, cut sections of edging connector pipes and insert into the cavities of the edging. Use a twisting motion to join pieces together.
Pound in the 10" x 3/8" diameter steel spikes one by one, only part way, every 4 feet. After final edging placement, pound spikes completely so the spikes are secured into the edging.
For flexible edging, one spike must be used in every support section. For rigid edging, use one spike every 3 feet on patios and sidewalks, 2' for driveways, and every 12" for extreme high traffic areas.
Installing Edge Restraints after Paver Installation
The great thing about edge restraints is that they can also be installed after the paver installation is complete. To do this, first pull away the bedding sand, then using a shovel, cut straight down the side of the pavers to reach the base sand, then pull back all the sand. Place the edge restraint on the base material and push the lip under the pavers and bedding sand.
Helpful tip! If you have curves or radiuses, there are flexible edge restraints available. Flex the edge restraints to match the shape and cut to desired length. Space the supports, leaving one of each end for the joining pieces.
This sand layer will provide the locking structure for the bottom of the pavers. This sand should be one inch thick. The correct way to do this is by using 2-1 inch thick pipes and a 2 X 4 board, place the pipes onto the sub-base then shovel the sand on top of the sub-base. Now screed the sand by placing the 2 X 4 board on top of the pipes and pull towards you, this will leave you with a layer of sand 1 inch deep. When you’re done with the pipes, remove them and fill in the grooves with sand. Screed only as much sand as you will be able to lay pavers in one day.
Helpful tip! Do not compact this sand, nor should you walk, step or lean on this bedding course.
Laying Your Pavers
When starting to install pavers, it is best to snap a true straight chalk line on the surface of the bedding sand, or pull a true straight string line above the surface of the bedding sand, at the finished elevation of the pavers. This will help as a guide for maintaining straight joint lines, and will also allow the installer to make adjustments in the alignment of the pavers.
One of the most widely-used methods for paver installations is hand installation of each paver. The best method is to install a row of pavers along the “true straight line” that you installed above the bedding sand. This will give you a straight and true line to work with. Once this row is established, you can continue to work outward into the field with the rest of the pavers. Always make sure to periodically check your joint lines, to make sure they are true and straight. If not, adjustments to the pavers can be made as you continue installing. Pavers should be installed hand tight. The best method is to place one paver against another paver,
and let it slide down into the bedding sand.
Helpful tip! Do not kick or tap the pavers into place, as this can throw your lines out of true
There are three ways to cut pavers: 1. Use a guillotine splitter. This method is effective, yet leaves a rough split which may leave a large gap. 2. Use a chisel and hammer. This method is effective, but can leave a rough split and large gaps. 3. Use gas or electric cut off or brick saw. This method is the most effective and leaves the cleanest and straightest lines.
Helpful tip! If using a wet saw, keep a clean bucket of water nearby to rinse each paver after
cutting. The dirty water from the saw will stain the pavers.
With the pavers laid and all edge restraints nailed down, compact/lock your pavers into the bedding sand course. With your vibratory plate compactor, make a minimum of two passes over the pavers to compact them into the bedding sand. The pavers will normally sink ¼
Helpful tip! If your pavers have a slate finish on the top, it is recommended that you use a
rubber pad on the bottom of the compactor. If you do not have a rubber pad, then place an old blanket on top of the pavers to reduce or prevent scratches in the pavers.
Sanding your Pavers
Compacting your pavers will lock them in from the bottom. Sweep your dry, 30-mesh sand into the tops of the pavers. Sweep the sand into the paver tops to lock the pavers from the top down. Leave the sand on top, and with your vibratory plate compactor, make a run across the pavers to vibrate the sand fully into the pavers. Once you have finished with your compacting, make one last sweep over the pavers, filling in any voids. Remove the extra sand.
Helpful tip! Make sure the pavers and sand are dry. Wet pavers and sand lead to difficulties
getting the sand into the paver joints.
Sealing pavers has 3 benefits: 1. It enhances the color and texture. 2. It locks the paver joint sand in place. 3. It protects the colors from fading from sun exposure.
Choosing a paver sealer can be confusing and costly. There are numerous sealers on the market today- sealers that will seal the pavers with a natural look, sealers that will give the
pavers a shiny, high-gloss look, sealers that will only lock in the paver joint sand, and sealers that lock in the sand, seal them and give them a high gloss shine. This sealer is the most common sealer. We suggest a product called Seal N’ Lock-Easy Seal. It is easily applied with a “Hudson” or chemical sprayer, (available at home improvement stores).
With your pavers dry and swept clean, take a leaf blower and on low setting, lightly blow the dust off the tops of the pavers. Failure to remove this dust will lead to a white haze after the pavers have been sealed.
Helpful tip! Do not over apply the sealer. Too thick of an application may lead to a slick area
when the pavers get wet.
Paver Clean Up
The final step is to fill in the 8-inch voided areas around the pavers, replacing them with the previously removed sod, bark or rocks. Return all rental equipment and put away your tools.
Now it’s time to grab your favorite chair, a glass of ice tea, and enjoy your new beautiful paver patio!
Want FREE paver tips and tricks? get our FREE TIPS AND TRICKS ARTICLE!
Still have questions? Feel free to contact your local Basalite dealer and ask for some technical assistance. Our team is ready and willing to help!
Mike Blumenstein, Basalite Product Manager
Spring missed us in Northern California. In some areas, temperatures have already hit the 90’s and our grass won’t stay green for long. But the lack of spring weather or reasonable temperatures doesn’t mean we can bypass our spring projects. Many of us will still be building our concrete patios or pouring new concrete walkways.
Working with concrete in high summer temperatures can be a real challenge. Excessive heat coupled with low humidity, direct sunlight and wind is the perfect storm for concrete surface cracking. Shrinkage cracks can occur when the surface moisture evaporates too quickly. Hot weather will also cause concrete to lose slump (consistency of the mix) and overall workability, causing the concrete to set too fast. On average, concrete sets up in approximately 4 hours at 80F. An increase of 10 degrees will reduce the set time almost in half. An increase of 20 degrees will reduce set time over 60%! While it may seem logical to add more water when temperatures climb, adding water can have a negative effect on the ultimate strength of your concrete, and can increase the risk of cracking.
Taking the following steps when pouring concrete in hot weather can greatly reduce shrinkage cracking, and improve workability in hot windy and dry conditions.
Always use cool water
Dampen Substrate with cool water prior to concrete placement
Always store bags of concrete in a shady area
If possible, put up wind breaks and sun shades in work area
Start early in the day when ambient temperatures are cooler
Use a product such as Cure and Seal, to prevent moisture loss
Mix only the amount of concrete that allows for the reduced working time in high temperatures
Need more information on pouring concrete? Check out our friends at Concrete Network.
The weather has been unpredictable lately, cold and foggy in the morning to raining and still snowing in some areas at night. It is during these times that Engineers and Contractors drive around to check the retaining walls they designed and/or built, to make sure they are performing as designed. When designing and installing retaining walls, professionals take into consideration potential hazards. The list of potential hazards is extensive but for now we are going to concentrate on TREES.
So, you moved into your new house and want some shade in your backyard, or you want to add some value and luxury to your existing backyard. A beautiful Maple or fast-growing Fruitless Mulberry are just two of the many trees that do well in Northern California. But how close to the retaining wall can you plant this tree? Take into consideration a trees root system when planning out where to plant your tree. A tree will send down a "tap root", which is a root that extends down as far as it can obtain oxygen. Once it has reached that point, it sends out shooter roots that grow horizontally. The myth out there is that the shooter roots will only grow out as far as the canopy extends. While this may be true for some trees, it is not true for most trees. Your best bet is to contact the tree professional at the nursery you are purchasing your tree from, or contact an arborist and consult with them. This is important because over time- if you plant a tree too close to a retaining wall- the potential for the roots to push the wall over is in direct proportion to the height your tree will grow to.
Now don’t get me wrong- there are trees planted close to retaining walls that have been there for years and will probably be there for years to come. But you should have that tree periodically inspected to make sure it is healthy and not pushing on the retaining wall, potentially turning into a problem.
When planting a new tree near a retaining wall, the tree should be a minimum of 2 feet away from the face of the wall plus the diameter of the root ball, i.e. a tree with a 5 five-foot root ball should be planted a minimum of 7 feet away from the face of the retaining wall. While a tree can bring comfort from its shade and beauty from its structure you need to remember to consult with a tree expert or an engineer before planting your tree.
Mike Blumenstein, Basalite Product Manager
After checking out all of the retaining wall block options, you’ve chosen the product that’s right for you. You’ve measured, calculated…and measured and calculated again. You’ve ordered product and planned for the delivery. You’ve purchased all of your tools, glues, aspirin and Bandaids. It’s time to get building!
But there’s still one more step you need to take to ensure your retaining wall project is safe and successful. You must call 811 before you dig!
Whether you are planning to do it yourself or hire a professional, smart digging means calling 811 before each job. Homeowners often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked, but every digging job requires a call. Knowing where underground utility lines are buried before each digging project begins helps to prevent injury, expense and penalties. The depth of utility lines may vary, and multiple utility lines may exist in one area. Simple digging jobs can damage utility lines and can disrupt vital services to an entire neighborhood, harm those who dig, and result in expensive fines and repair costs. Marked lines show those who dig the approximate location of underground lines and help prevent undesired consequences.
Call 811 from anywhere in the country a few days prior to digging, and your call will be routed to your local One Call Center. Tell the operator where you're planning to dig, what type of work you will be doing and your affected local utilities companies will be notified about your intent to dig. In a few days, they'll send a locator to mark the approximate location of your underground lines, pipes and cables, so you'll know what's below - and be able to dig safely. This is FREE service that could save you a lot of money and headache!
What happens if I don’t call?
Digging without calling can lead to severe consequences including injury to those who dig, costly damages to underground infrastructure (a cut fiber optic cable can cost thousands to repair), utility service disruptions, and embarrassing explanations to your neighbors when they lose their power because you cut a power line!
Remember- always call 811 before you start any digging project. You'll avoid injury, expense, embarrassment - and a very inconvenient day in the dark.
Area specific info regarding FREE 811 service can be found at: http://www.call811.com/state-specific.aspx. If you'd like more information regarding the safety of your retaining wall project, call Basalite at 800-776-6690 or email Basalite.
How many of us have heard the story about the Dad that stayed up until 2:30 in the morning on Christmas Eve putting together all those new toys for his kids? Frustrated and tired, he slowly sulks off to bed only to be woken up 3 hours later by screaming kids excited to play with their NEW Toys. Can you imagine if he tried to build those toys without directions?
It’s similar with building a retaining wall. Would you attempt to build a wall without some direction? Where would you start, what block would you use, do you need geogrid or not, is this going to be a terraced wall? First, take the time to evaluate whether or not you need an Engineer to help you. Let’s look at some pointers to help:
How tall is your wall?
Most municipalities require a building permit and
a design from a Licensed Engineer if your wall is taller than 4 feet high (measured from the bottom of the first block to the top of the last block).
Will your retaining wall be terraced?
A terraced wall can be tricky to build. There are a set of rules to follow. A general rule of thumb- if your two walls when constructed are taller than 4 feet, you should contact a Licensed Engineer for his advice and a design.
Will you be parking cars, motor homes, trailers or other vehicles on the top?
If the chance exist that you might be parking a heavy object on top of the wall, it is a good idea that you consult with a Licensed Engineer and get his recommendations, vehicle-parking, slabs-snow loads place a large strain on a retaining wall. Wall problems may not show up until the wet season starts, so consulting with a Licensed Engineer will help put a plan together to reduce your chance of problems.
Will there be a slope at the top of the retaining wall?
If there is a slope at the top of the wall (California’s maximum is 2:1), then you will need the assistance of a Licensed Engineer. They will evaluate the surcharge that will be placed on the retaining wall, and verify if a design is necessary.
While this list is not 100% complete it is meant to help you in deciding whether or not you need to consult with a Licensed Engineer. When designed and constructed according to the plans, your retaining wall will be a thing of beauty, increase your useable property, and become the envy of the neighborhood.
There is nothing more romantic or relaxing than sitting in your private backyard oasis in front of a crackling fire. The latest trend in backyard retreats now includes a fireplace or fire pit
to enhance your outdoor experience. These fireplaces can be ostentatious or simple; they can range from a small stone or concrete circle, to a grand tower with glass doors and a place to stack fire wood. The type and style you choose depends on your backyard size, you’re budget and your personal preferences.
While there are numerous backyard fireplaces and fire pits available for you to choose from, the most common is a fire pit built on level ground. These are normally constructed from stones, metal or from pre-manufactured retaining wall block. There are other styles of free-standing fireplaces that incorporate the use of a firebox insert and metal flues, however, these are more difficult to construct and require a level of skill that the average homeowner typically does not have.
The type of fuel used in your outdoor fireplace will depend on your preference, availability, and local ordinances. Most people prefer a crackling wood fire. The heat that the wood gives off and the moving flames can make for a magical evening. However, you may not want to deal with purchasing wood, stacking it on the side of the house and dealing with the insects or creatures that can take up residence in wood piles. I know my wife and kids won’t pull wood out of a wood pile. If that’s your situation, then a natural gas or propane fireplace might be a better choice. These fireplaces are easy to maintain, easy to light, and best of all, extinguishing them is as simple as turning an on/off knob. One area you need to check prior to selecting your fuel type is your local ordinance. Some municipalities do not allow wood to be burned in an outdoor fireplace. Wood may be allowed, however you might want to check the number of “No Burn Nights” that were in your community last year. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to have an outdoor night with the family, only to discover that a no burn ban is in effect.
Most local ordinances have building codes that address backyard fireplaces, the location and proximity to your house, and other important structural regulations. The proximity to your neighbor or placement to you well or septic tank may become an issue. Prior to starting any major construction project at your home, you should always call the local building official and consult with him. In the United States, fireplaces are a major cause of house fires. When dreaming, designing and building your fireplace or fire pit, make sure that you have taken all safety precautions and consider checking with your local fire department for additional safety tips.
There are other things to consider outside of these regulations. For example, ensure that your new fireplace won’t end up blocking a view. If you build it too close to a pool, it could get drenched when the kids are swimming. Looking at your location from multiple spots in your backyard is easier than tearing it down and moving it later.
Still not sure what fireplace or fire pit would be best? Click here to get our e-booklet "How to Choose an Outdoor Fire Feature for Your Backyard". Includes a chart on the pros and cons of different fire features, and helpful tips on making the right choice for you. Happy Building!
Pavers and “The Sand”
I comfortably sit and watch as the sun sets on the land. It casts a shadow over my newly installed paver patio, set in sand. The colors of the pavers look so beautiful when reflected on the horizon.
Oh how I love my pavers set in sand, oh how I love my pavers set in sand. The sand that holds the project together forever and ever and….
So you’re probably laughing right now thinking, “what
is going on? Why is Sand so important that I'm writing
a poem about it?”
Well, what most people don’t realize is that sand is the glue that holds pavers tightly together. Whether constructing a patio with pavers or a driveway, it is important to construct a paver base. This paver base should be a minimum of 4 inches of a class 2 road base (available at a landscape yard), compacted to 95% Standard Proctor Density (or compacted until you are not able to make a dent in the road base with the back of your foot).
After you have compacted your road base sufficiently, you will place a one inch layer of sand on top of the road base, then place the pavers on top of the sand layer. Once the entire project is completed, you will compact the pavers into the sand. This will force the sand up into the grooves between the pavers and “lock” the pavers into place from the bottom side. Once you have completed that step, it is important to finish off the project by sweeping sand into the top grooves of the pavers, completely locking them into place from the top side. Properly constructing your pavers and placing the correct sand into the groves will give you a paver patio, walkway or driveway that will last a lifetime.
Basalite recommends a product called “Seal n Lock”. This material, when applied correctly, will seal the pavers with a natural or high gloss sheen, and will also seal the paver sand into the joints, preventing the sand from migrating out when it rains or when you wash down the patio. You can also use a polymeric sand, however, it is highly recommended that you follow the manufacturer’s recommended installation procedures. Failure to do so could result in a haze over the top of your pavers.
Mike Blumenstein, Basalite Product Manager
Click the image to see Basalite on Yard Crashers!
The addition of a planter box or raised bed container in your garden can add beauty, definition and additional planting opportunities to your landscape, especially in those areas where you'd like to do some gardening but are faced with soil or landscape challenges. Adding a concrete block planter box can be an easy DIY garden project, but there are a few things to consider before forging ahead. Here is a Q&A which will help you with your container gardening project:
Where should I place my planter box?
This is by far the most important item to consider. Determining what will be planted in your raised bed planter box. Will the plants need full sun, partial sun or shade? Choose a location that can meet the needs of your plants. Also consider a spot close to water or, if available, place an existing drip irrigation line through the bottom of the box for automatic watering.
How should I construct the planter box?
Constructing the planter box will start with your location and size. Most planter boxes that are built on flat, level ground are easier to build. If your site is on a hill, then you’re going to have to consider building a terraced planter box from multiple small boxes. A terraced planter box, when done correctly, can be attractive and spacious (check your local building department for maximum wall heights).
What type of material should I backfill my Planter Box with?
Start by placing clean pebbles/rocks or broken planter pots on the bottom of your planter to promote drainage. A good quality organic top soil, purchased from you local landscape yard will help grow large vegetables or beautiful flowers. Fill the planter box almost to the top rim with the top soil, keeping it about 1-2 inches below the rim of the planter box. This will prevent soil from spilling over the top when watering.
What if I have a pest problem, how can I prevent the pests from destroying my work?
If you have gophers or moles, install a wire mesh screen such as chicken wire, on the bottom of the box. this will help keep those pesky critters out. But if your problem is more on the flying side, use a piece of PVC piping and stretch it in a semi circle from one side to the other, to create a frame for bird netting.
What retaining wall block should I use?
Raised bed planter boxes can be constructed using concrete retaining wall blocks, which come in a variety of colors and faces. First, establish the height of your planter box, then look at the maximum heights of the block you've selected. This should be the same height or lower. Basalite offers StoneWall II, Bayfield Series or Artisan Series retaining wall blocks, any of which will accommodate a 2 -3 ft. tall planter box.
Basalite planter boxes are featured on HGTV "Yard Crashers"! Are you ready to build your own planter box? Click here to check out the Yard Crashers video and get step-by-step instructions!
How do I select a qualified contractor?
So, you want to install a concrete retaining wall or paver walkway-patio in your backyard, but you don’t have the knowledge or expertise to be able to do it yourself. It’s easier to hire a contractor than go through the stress and hassle of doing the installation incorrectly and having to look at your mistake every time you go outside to BBQ!
It’s important to interview contractors to find the right person for your paver or retaining wall job. We’ve put together a ten-point check list to help you in the interview process.
1. Check to see if the contractor has a license. It needs to be on the contractor’s website, business card or vehicle placard. In California, the California License Board requires contractors to place their contractor’s number in all advertisements. You should also call 800-321-CSLB (2752). Hire only a State Licensed Contractor.
2. Make sure you get bids from 3 or more contractors. Bids can vary greatly from one contractor to another. Never sign the paperwork until you have researched your options.
3. Ask the contractors to bring with them their portfolio of completed jobs, especially those that are similar to your retaining wall or paver project. Ask the contractor if you can contact any of the owners to see if the job went smoothly and on-time.
4. Make sure all of your expectations are in writing, and only sign when you feel comfortable and understand the contract. Remember if it’s not in writing, your chance of getting it done later may be difficult.
5. Ask for a detailed drawing of the project. Accepting a hand-scratched rough of your patio or retaining wall on a cocktail napkin is way too vague and subject to too many variations. What you want and what the contractor is hearing can often be two different things.
6. Ask the contractor for his proof of Workers Compensation Insurance and a copy of his liability insurance. You don’t want to experience the nightmare that can happen if an employee (independent contractor) gets hurt on your property.
7. You are only required to put down a deposit of 10% or $1000.00. If you are asked for more, it’s a first sign of trouble- don’t do it!
8. Don’t let you payments get ahead of the work. You don’t pay your car mechanic for an oil change before it’s been done- the same applies here. Arrange to make payments after certain project goals have been reached. Do this before work begins.
9. Put together a job file with all of the paperwork. Keep this handy at all times, so that you can refer to it if a question arises.
10. Do not make your final payment until you’re SATISFIED with the job. You can always call the State’s Contractors license board for help.
Have more questions about hiring a contractor for your concrete project? Basalite experts are here to help! click here to access our "contact us" form. Or, use the button below to find available contractors.