Monday, June 15, 2009

Do-It-Yourself: Heights Home Improvement

Matt and I are not the house-fixer-upper types. When we bought our house back in July, we intentionally bought a "flipped" house because it had a new roof, updated electrical/plumbing systems, new hardwood floors, fresh paint, and new cabinets and granite counter tops. We just moved our boxes in and unpacked. Easy-peasy.

But now I find myself seeking out Do-It-Yourself projects that will beautify our little bungalow. I like the idea of putting time and muscle into projects that we will benefit from for years.

I decided my first project would be redoing our front walkway.

Now, please understand. I know nothing about redoing a walkway. I have no tools that would help me redo a walkway. I just decided that it needed to be redone. The front walkway was comprised of uneven and jagged flagstone embedded in sand. Although I liked the flagstone well enough, I didn't like that the sand constantly washed up over the top of the flagstone. Also, our grass was starting to grow up through the sand and flagstone.

Here's what I did to take the project from start to finish:

Step One: Decide on the Vision
  • I decided that I wanted to minimize the cost of this project by reusing the flagstone. I then visited San Jacinto Stone on Yale Street just south of I-10 to get some ideas about what to put in between the flagstone. While scouting out everything they had to offer, I came across some 1/2" to 1" moonstones that I thought would look nice next to the flagstone. Also, I thought they would be heavy enough to sit tight and not get washed about during hurricane season.
Step Two: Make a Plan
  • I talked to the staff at San Jacinto Stone about how exactly to do the project. They told me I should dig everything up, lay down about two inches of crushed granite, pack everything down with a hand tamper, lay the flagstone, and fill it in with the rocks. I gave them the precise measurements of the path, and they were able to tell me exactly how much granite and how many rocks to buy.
Step Three: Get Started
  • I slathered on the sunscreen, donned a sun hat, and got to work. I dug out each of the flagstone pieces (using a shovel borrowed from our neighbors). I then dug into the sand to loosen it, so I could start digging out piles and piles of it.

Step Four: Ask for Help
  • Luckily, I have befriended a very handy (and extremely helpful) neighbor. He gave me the idea to shovel the old sand into our trashcan and then roll it to the backyard to fill in low spots. He also volunteered to pick up the very heavy crushed granite and rocks in his pick-up truck. He helped me shovel all the granite into the hole I had created.

Step Five: Keep Going
  • I had to set aside several hours to work on this project, which required pounds of sunscreen and water. I smoothed the granite into the hole, and then rented a hand tamper from Home Depot to pack down the granite. I also learned that you can rent pick-up trucks from Home Depot for $20 the first hour and $10 each additional hour. Next time, I won't have to bug my neighbor.
  • Once the granite was packed down, I placed the flagstone back into the path, and moved it around until I had achieved a pattern I liked. I then tried to even them out and stabilize them as much as I could by scraping out some of the granite. Next, I used some of the remaining granite to fill in some of the space between the flagstone. Finally, I placed the moonstones in between the flagstone.
What a huge accomplishment! No, it's not perfectly level or smooth, but it is the culmination of my own persistence and determination. I have immense pride for being able to take a project from vision to completion. I'll continue to feel that pride for years to come!

Now Matt is saying he wants to use the leftover granite to make a Bocce Ball court in our backyard! We'll see...

What home improvement projects do you want to take on?


  1. beautiful work! thank goodness for helpful and handy neighbors :)

  2. I didn't like that the sand constantly washed up over the top of the flagstone. Also, our grass was starting to grow up through the sand and flagstone.roofing contractor sudbury ma