Saturday, October 26, 2013

Laying Brick by the seat of my pants, so to speak....

I have never had 'curb appeal', that is when you drive up to a house and are struck speechless by the beauty facing you. You look in wonder at all the lovely plantings and hardscape and think, "Could I do this at my house?" It's when you lust shamelessly after your neighbor's, friend's, complete strangers front entry.

All my work over the years has been in the backyard, when I have had parties I hustle people to the back, "But, what's over..."

"No, there's nothing to see here, come to the back yard, a veritable oasis on a hot day like this."

Maybe on the way back, they will linger and look at the paltry attempt at landscaping the front entrance. And maybe they won't.

Two years ago I was gifted 5 pallets of landscape block, cobblestone and grey brick, just for the disassembling of it. It took me a week to dig out and load, then I enlisted Bruce's aid to haul it home on a flat rack, which blew a tire a half mile up the road. Guess we shouldn't have tried to haul them all at once. But my sweet hubby took it in stride, we left the rack, drove home for tools and a new tire and was able to make it all the way home without any other trouble.

Our neighbor, Jay, came over with his skid loader and pallet forks and removed them from the flat rack and placed them out by the grove. They were tucked out of the way but in sight to remind me I now had to decide what to do with them.

Did you know that most people plan a landscape first, what a novel idea? I kept looking at what I had to work with and how I could fit it into my plan. I bought this cute little dog house for Mollie last year and made a little patio in front out of some of the cobblestone and wanted to expand from there. This is a before picture in front of our house, actually this is after I built a new planter with some of the block. Before there was an ugly old cement block planter, but you get the idea.

Between the big tree off to the right and the big dogs, nothing would grow, well, except for a few scraggly weeds. There was rock, bare dirt and weeds, YUCK!
So after two years of thinking, I decided to take the plunge and lay brick, it took me most of the summer to get started. The ground slopes both to the west, toward the tree and to the south so it was a challenge. I don't have a fancy level like the big guys do so I flew by the seat of my pants.
I used most of the landscaping block to define the bed of bushes and plants that curved around the front of the house.
I made another small planting bed with more block. My goal was to use everything I had! This also gives me places to plant flowers, if I can keep the dogs out.
 My first job was to till and rake as many rocks out as I could, then laid a bed of builders sand to make leveling the bricks easier. I started at the sidewalk and went toward the tree with the cobblestone layer.
I'm not sure why I don't have a picture of just the cobblestone layer, but you can see part of it just to the left of my brick level. I had to drop down the brick because of the slope, but I'm making great progress. Bruce's skid loader is my best friend, it hauls dirt and sand and doesn't complain.
Mollie is always there to lend a helping hand.

The third level had to match up with the little patio I'd already made in front of the dog house and I had to think on that awhile.

I ended up laying a quick line of brick from the edge of the patio to the previous level, another step down to give me a line to work with.

I did find when you lay this many bricks, you get pretty good at leveling, across.....

....and length! First time!

The most fun of the whole job is sweeping the builders sand into all the cracks, it's so satisfying and really sets the bricks. Harvest has taken up some of my bricklaying time and the weather is changing. I knew I needed to wrap up this project and put my tools away. My plan was to use all the brick but that didn't happen, it went further than I thought. So there is always next year.
Today I wrapped it up, finished cutting bricks to fit in the odd places and sweeping in the sand. We've had rain and snow and the sand pile got wet so it didn't sweep very well. I have the dirt raked to the edges and next Spring will do more tilling, leveling and then seed the bare dirt and try to get some grass growing. I have several little planting beds for flowers.
TA-DA!! The finished product!!! First level, approved by collies everywhere!!

Second Level...

....and final level. Next summer I envision this patio full of tubs and buckets of bright colored flowers and I will, at last, have curb appeal!!
It's a good thing I'm done, my gloves are plum worn out! (My back is too.)
So if anyone out there reading this is inspired to lay some brick, I will gladly - - - - offer you my worn out gloves, little bitty level, everything I learned during this marathon session and even provide oversight if you give me a chair and a glass of wine.


  1. wow, what a lot of work Julie, loved the holey gloves!! And the dogs of course, approving of the job well done (loved the one of Mollie right up next to your next course of brick!!) CG

  2. Looks great! I am really impressed and my back is aching in empathy...

  3. Thanks, girls!! I'm really pleased with how it came out, since it was in front, I wanted it to look as professional as I could. When I did the brick work in back, it was pretty amateurish but I think this lived up to my goal. Just wait till next year!!

  4. That looks great! Can't wait to bring Jr to see if he approves too! IT does look professional

  5. WOW!! Your block work and brick patios look great. I see the dogs are enjoying the patios as well.