As we've settled in here, we've come up with a loooong list of things we'd like to accomplish. Some are necessary, others are just fun. This one was pretty high on the Need to Do list.
The driveway just isn't wide enough. One step backward to get around the open car door puts you in the dirt. This isn't so bad right now (more of an annoyance), but the yard will be a muddy pit of insanity a month from now when the rain kicks in, so we have a problem.
Our solution: stone pavers. We went to our local stone/paver dealer for help. They've got a great display area there, with all the different types of stone and pavers they carry installed in a sort of outdoor showroom. We thought we knew what we wanted, but, after seeing the displays, we changed our minds on both the style, color, and installation pattern we were after. They helped us figure out how much of everything we'd need and were nice enough to deliver all 5,500 pounds of materials a couple days before we really tackled the project.
Mark off the area you want to pave--ours was 4'x22'--and start digging. We had to go 7" deep to accommodate the gravel and sand base, along with the pavers we chose (Appian pavers in Walnut Blend).
If you're lucky, the guys that built your house will be working on another house down the street and you can cash in on the graceful patience you exhibited when delays occurred around closing time on your own house. Jackpot!
Once you've got the area dug out, start laying down gravel. We needed a 4" gravel base. That's the compactor we rented in there in the front ($55 for 24 hours). We used it to compact the gravel, thereby providing a very solid base for the stone. When you lay the gravel, make sure you go out about 6" past the planned edge of the project. This will provide some extra support for your pavers and keep them from rolling off the base over time.
Compact the gravel to create a level surface for your sand and pavers.
Realize they only gave you about half the gravel you need and go buy more. Repeat the gravel spreading and compacting process while talking about the usefulness of mathematics in your adult life.
Install the Snap Edge (it's along the left side of the walkway there) along any portions of the project that aren't already bordered by something solid--like concrete. If we were doing a walkway through the middle of the yard, we'd have the Snap Edge on both sides, but the driveway and sidewalk are holding things together for us here. Installation is sooo easy. Just measure your space to figure out where the edge of the walkway will be, lay down the Snap Edge and drive in the spikes. Presto! When you've got your edging installed, spread out the sand. We had an inch of sand across the entire area.
Abandon your original layout plan when you realize you'll need a wet saw (and don't have one) and entertain suggestions from anyone present. In the end, we laid out a 4'x4' pattern on the driveway and wiggled things around until we found a pattern that worked without any cutting, looked nice, and didn't require buying more pavers (again with the math...). Because our design was 4'x4', we were able to simply repeat the pattern five time to span the length of the area we were paving. To install them, we just laid them gently into the sand base, making sure to keep them level the whole time by adding or removing sand from underneath the pavers. We made sure they were a little higher than the final desired height--they're going to be compacted, so they'll sink about about 1/4-1/2-inch. You want a slight slope away from the driveway, too, so they need to be both level and slightly sloping. It sounds more complicated than it actually is--the slope keeps water from pooling on the pavers when it rains and that keeps ice from forming when it snows. The slope is about 1/2" down over the 4-foot width of the project.
Once you've got your pavers in place (again, sorry about the lack of pictures on these steps), put a piece of plywood down over the pavers (our was MDF and it was 4'x6'--I got it for 51 cents in the scrap section of Home Depot) and run the compactor over the pavers to really set them in place. The wood provides a buffer between the compactor and the pavers and helps keep the perfectly placed pavers from breaking. When it's all compacted, spread sand over the top of the entire space and sweep it from different angles to work it into the gaps between the pavers.
When you're done with that, take off your boots, go inside, sit on the couch and threaten to sleep there because your muscles are just too tired to be of any use in moving you to your bed. On a night like this, a hot bath with epsom salts works wonders.
Get up the next morning, grab a couple slurps of coffee and head outside to gaze upon the glory of your most recent accomplishment:
Even the pavers are thrilled :)
In the end, we spent right around $500 for the whole project and completed it in about six hours. The extra gravel and sand we had to buy were more a nuisance--had to stop working to go get them--than a budget breaker. If we would have had everything we needed, we could have been done in about 4 hours. Over the next month or two, we'll sweep more sand into the cracks to really solidify the whole thing.
Now we just have to figure out what to do with the rest of the yard...