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bojesphob

COVID Summer project

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So, like everybody else, my family has been cooped up a lot over the summer. Back in March, my wife and I started working from home, and our daughter's school year was cut short. We got to the beginning of May and we were all going a little stir crazy, and I decided I was going to build a patio around our fire pit in the back yard. So, on May 15th, I started planning out and digging around our old fire pit to begin. Coupled with taking a several classes each term online (going for another degree), working full time from home, and having a kindergardener running around, this absolutely helped keep me busy and not the very least out of my wife's hair for a couple hours a day :lol: It's also a reason my painting slowed down quite a bit over the summer too.

 

It took me almost 5 months to complete having worked on it virtually every day during that time for at least 1-2 hours (some days more). I wrapped this project up on October 8th, just in time for the really nice fall weather for having a fire out back! This was, by far, the largest endeavor I've ever undertaken. For some reason, I decided that I was going to do this all in as much of a manual process as I could manage, and not only that, do it completely by myself. This is what our fire pit looked like when we first bought the house a few years back.

1.jpg
http://www.bojesphob.com/Images/projects/1.jpg
 

At one point a couple years back, we replaced the concrete chunks and cinder blocks with retaining wall blocks, but it was only one level high and really didn't look all that fantastic on it's own. After laying out the new fire pit dimensions (approximate) that we wanted, I started digging. There are 4 trees within 30 feet of this fire pit, and I did employ the use of an 80 volt battery powered tiller to get through the roots. This is just the beginning of the digging, and you can see the roots already:

2.jpg
http://www.bojesphob.com/Images/projects/2.jpg


I spent around 2 months digging as I was mainly digging by hand (except when needing the tiller to get through some roots). The digging consisted of going down 7 inches on the lower side and 15 inches on the higher side. The patio base area was now 20 ft in diameter, with an approximate 3.5 ft diameter fire pit footprint in the middle for a patio area of approximately 275 sq ft. Here is that area with the first wheelbarrow of gravel dumped in, and you can see one of the 4 or 5 piles of roots we burned during this process:

FirstLoadofGravel.jpg
http://www.bojesphob.com/Images/projects/FirstLoadofGravel.jpg

 

 

This project took 5.5 tons of gravel, which I also manually moved from our front yard where it was delivered one Gorilla cart load at a time to the patio base about 100 yards from where it was delivered. This was the pile that I started with!

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http://www.bojesphob.com/Images/projects/9.jpg

 

After moving all 5.5 tons (and another half ton for other small areas around the yard we wanted to put gravel down), I hand tamped all of the gravel with an 8"x8" hand tamper.

16.jpg

http://www.bojesphob.com/Images/projects/16.jpg

 

I used plastic garden edging around the outside circle and around the area where the fire pit is going to be. Next up was the basing sand on top of that! That was another 1.5 tons of material that I used that Gorilla cart to move.

SandBaseAndFirstPavers.jpg
http://www.bojesphob.com/Images/projects/SandBaseAndFirstPavers.jpg

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http://www.bojesphob.com/Images/projects/21.jpg


As you can tell in the last picture, this is when I started making pavers. I started with only one mold for the small blocks, but eventually I ordered a second because I realized that making only 12 blocks a day and having nearly 800 to make was going to take well into winter, and that wasn't going to cut it. I hand mixed every batch of concrete using a garden hoe and a wheelbarrow, and then transferred them into the molds. Here is my set up during one of the batches:

transfertomolds.jpg
http://www.bojesphob.com/Images/projects/transfertomolds.jpg


I did have a bit of breakage of the boards, but I was able to reuse the ones I broke for pieces I need to cut to make the circle. It was definitely a learning process, as I had never used concrete molds before! Week by week, I would make progress on it, slowly making a circle patio!

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http://www.bojesphob.com/Images/projects/29.jpg


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At the end of the week before October 8th, I completed the making of the blocks, cutting, and placing them!  Aside from the tiller to help with the roots, the angle grinder with diamond blade and a leaf blower for the polymeric sand process were the only power tools I used this entire project!


cutandplaced.jpg
http://www.bojesphob.com/Images/projects/cutandplaced.jpg


Wednesday and Thursday. Oct 7th and 8th, I stained, sealed, and then put down the polymeric sand between the blocks!

Complete.jpg
http://www.bojesphob.com/Images/projects/Complete.jpg

We've had a couple fires already, so it's broken in. Now we have to figure out what we want to do for furniture.

PatioAndFallLeaves.jpg


In all, I made nearly 800 of the post blocks from the 2 small block molds, and more than 70 blocks from the board mold! I did lose track of exactly how many I ended up making, due to breakage and a couple of bad batches of concrete, but I know for certain that I used well over 4300 lbs of dry cement to make them! The molds I used were awesome, and I might be using them again next year if we end up working from home next summer to build a walkway from the house to the patio. Of course, I won't be doing it all by hand LOL I will probably rent some digging equipment and buy a cement mixer... I did lose around 25-30 lbs, which was awesome! 

 

Edited by bojesphob
minor edits to update wording for the dates, wording fixes
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10 minutes ago, Glitterwolf said:

Absolutely awesome!

 

Thanks! It was quite the job, that's for sure! I first told my wife about wanting to do it all manually, and she said I was nuts :lol: It was tough slogging through the digging and hauling of gravel and sand, as there wasn't any progress that gave me a sense that I was making progress, and shoveling 3-400 lbs of gravel/sand per load then pulling it into the backyard was exceptionally tiring... But, once i hit the point I was making blocks and laying them down as they were cured, it made it a LOT easier! I had actually thought I'd still be working on this into next year due to bad weather from winter and not having the energy or will power to finish it off, but I surprised even myself getting it done in the amount of time that I did considering how much other stuff we had going on. Now I need to figure out a project IN the house for the winter, cause our state is already starting to surge again with the virus, and we're anticipating we'll not be getting out and doing very much for a few more months :/

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Just now, bojesphob said:

 

Thanks! It was quite the job, that's for sure! I first told my wife about wanting to do it all manually, and she said I was nuts :lol: It was tough slogging through the digging and hauling of gravel and sand, as there wasn't any progress that gave me a sense that I was making progress, and shoveling 3-400 lbs of gravel/sand per load then pulling it into the backyard was exceptionally tiring... But, once i hit the point I was making blocks and laying them down as they were cured, it made it a LOT easier! I had actually thought I'd still be working on this into next year due to bad weather from winter and not having the energy or will power to finish it off, but I surprised even myself getting it done in the amount of time that I did considering how much other stuff we had going on. Now I need to figure out a project IN the house for the winter, cause our state is already starting to surge again with the virus, and we're anticipating we'll not be getting out and doing very much for a few more months :/

 

A good way to spend the time at home, making improvements all around!

And you get to keep in shape when doing work like this!

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My hat is off to you!  I helped my Dad with his patio, but he bought pallets of bricks so I only had to help tamp and lay then out (and cut them on a wet saw).  I was young and unbroken back then, I shudder to think how my body would rebel if I tried it now.

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16 hours ago, Dilvish the Deliverer said:

My hat is off to you!  I helped my Dad with his patio, but he bought pallets of bricks so I only had to help tamp and lay then out (and cut them on a wet saw).  I was young and unbroken back then, I shudder to think how my body would rebel if I tried it now.

 

I certainly didn't know how well my body would handle it, that's for sure. I'm in my early 40's, and haven't been in decent shape for... far too long :lol: I've tried a lot of things to try and get into shape over the past decade or so, and nothing ever really stuck, but this kicked my rear end enough that I have been riding a stationary bike now that I finished the patio to try to keep my metabolism burn going! Aside from a couple finger injuries from using a rubber mallet trying to level the blocks and a sore lower back that lasted about a week after getting done, I've actually fared a lot better than I was anticipating! 

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