Can a curved brick walkway be a DIY project?
Do-It-Yourself Brick Walkways
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Do-It-Yourself Brick Walkways
My wife and I would like to add a curved brick walkway to our front door. We have a source for old bricks but are afraid to get into something that we can't handle. Is it a hard job? Can the average homeowner do it? And, what tools and tricks can make the job easier? Any other advice?
One Critical Consideration
I can't tell exactly how to do it, but the most critical consideration is to make sure you install it so you don't get anything growing between the bricks later. Once this starts, it is a total pain to pull it out all the time!
Doable, But Not Easy
My husband and I, being "do it yourself-ers," laid a brick patio in the back of our new house. After it was done, I confess that I called my parents and thanked them profusely for sending me to college! And I called the landscaper and paid him to do the rest of the brick walkways in the landscape plan. It's not a job I really want to do again.
That said, we got information about how to do it from the brickyard where we bought the pavers. You'll need some kind of edging material to contain the bricks at the edges of your walkway, even if it will abut the lawn. You'll need to excavate the area to perhaps an inch or two deeper than the bottom of the bricks, and fill that space with either sand or road-fill (which is apparently a mixture of sand, pebbles, and clay). It's very important to get the sand or road-fill extremely flat, level, and compacted. You'd do well to rent a device from your local rental center to compress the sand. Preparing the surface is probably the hardest part.
The easy part is laying the pavers. Last, you sweep extra sand in between the pavers. This last step is one we usually repeat every year or two, depending on how much wind we've had in the prior year to blow away the top-most layers of sand between the pavers.
Curves will be much more difficult to manage. Instead of laying the bricks tightly against each other, you'll have to somehow manage the curves and what to put in the space in between the pavers. You can cut pavers with a wet saw (which we rented) to cut straight edges to fill those spaces. I think it might be instructive to find a curved brick walkway in your town to study and see how that one was designed. There will always be a maintenance chore of killing the weeds that will germinate in the sand between the pavers. It happens even between pavers that were laid tightly next to one another; I can only imagine that the problem will be much more of an issue if there are areas of pure sand between pavers that were set slightly askew to accommodate the curves.
You'll also want to think about the slope of your landscape, which will probably slope slightly away from your house to keep your foundation dry. Your walkway will need to slope with the landscape.
You Can Do This!
In fact, you should do this, since you can make changes to the design if you want without paying an upcharge (what a contractor will charge if you change something in your agreed-upon plan). It takes muscle and patience, but is well worth it.
There is a great training how-to at This Old House, which shows you each step. One of the keys to designing your walkway is to make the curves gentle enough that you don't have to do a bunch of cutting and fitting.
Also, try to make as much of your walkway a width that uses whole bricks, facing all one way. Or, if you choose to do a herringbone or parquet-type pattern, make the width such that most of it doesn't need cutting.
Next, fit all the whole brick you can for the entire project. Then you will only need to rent a saw to cut whatever brick you have to finish the edges and adjust for the curves. You can use garden hoses to temporarily outline the design you want. Make sure two people can walk up and back side-by-side. Live with the outlines for a few days, looking at them from your door and the street. Doing this will mean you don't have to re-work everything several times when you find you wish you had done something different.
I also highly recommend using the metal edging specifically designed for stone walkways that flexes. You can find it a large home stores, and it helps you set up permanent boundaries. These stay much better than just cutting out the area.
Lastly, use poly sand, which is also available from the home stores, to fill in the cracks. Regular sand will have you fighting weeds almost from the very beginning. Poly sand is more expensive, but if you mix it one part cement to six parts sand, you will make a filling that is much less accommodating for weeds. Alternately, leave larger openings between your bricks, fill with good topsoil, and plant with a low-growing, spreading groundcover like Thyme. A search online will tell you which groundcovers work in your area. You don't want to have to mow over your pathway.
Lastly, if you do have grass adjacent to your pathway, use bricks or an alternate, complementary stone stacked on edge along each side to provide a track that your mower edges against. You'll have no dented blades from hitting brick or tearing up your metal edging and no need to weed whip up close.
Consider Taking a Class
I have found that Home Depot and Lowe's stores are good sources of just this kind of information. They offer classes and practical help for all sorts of home improvement projects.
Instructional Videos Are Available
I would recommend going on YouTube and type in the project name. It will bring up instructions on what you will need and sometimes they will show you just how to do it. I have done this on several projects that I have done.
Take the Next Step:
- Don't let a tight budget be an excuse for a lackluster lawn and landscape. The TDS Guide to Beautiful Lawns & Landscaping for Less can help you have both a yard and a budget you can be proud of.
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