Summer Project 1: Patio Installation
The one major deficiency that my house had was it's lack of a livable back yard. The grass was still recovering from two years of dogs being dogs, and you stepped out through the sliding glass doors and down onto a singular stepping stone.
Something needed to be done.
In April of 2003, I designed a new layout for my backyard - a wide swath of patio, a pathway, and a lower, smaller patio, and a fish pond (its location outlined in orange, above and below). I got an estimate from 3 different companies for how much it would cost to get a patio that spanned the length of my house, a lower patio, and a path to connect the two.
I got my neighbors' signoff that they had been told of my plans, and submitted my plans to the HOA Architectural Review board for review and approval. They approved it. It continued to rain almost every day for months, and I watched my date of install slip, slip, and slip. A project I thought would begin in the middle of June ended up happening in the middle of August.
My mom came up to supervise the progress and to call me at work and give me updates of the events each day.
A team of 8-9 workers came and dug up the area for my patio, put down forms, gravel, rebar, and metal fencing. The head of the company was there, and he tweaked my design. "If it doesn't rain tomorrow," they told my mom, they'd be back to do the filling.
A different crew of 4 guys showed up around noon, did some final touches, and waited for the cement truck (which was off unloading concrete at other houses in the area). They were still waiting when I got home at 4:00, and it finally arrived around 5:30. They wheelbarrowed concrete from the truck outside my fence inside to the patio surprisingly efficiently. There was one guy standing in the pool of concrete who was responsible for tamping it down and doing the initial smoothing. Once all the forms were filled, they smoothed the top, making sure there was a faint slant away from the house.They set up a balance beam on two coolers to allow them to get in and out of the backyard. One guy went on a food run, they ate dinner, and the team's leader started watching the sky.
The clouds looked like stormclouds. Rain would not be good for the drying or the consistancy of the concrete. My mom and I started watching the weather channel and providing updates. The team started sprinkling out the blue and grey dyes onto the top of the concrete, and then smoothed the concrete again, massaging the colors down into the concrete.
The storm travelled a quarter of a mile to the east of us - not one drop of rain fell here, and by 9:00, the they asked me if I had a light they could use that would be OK to get a little dirty. At 9:30, they started laying the forms on top of the concrete, 3 or 4 fitted together at a time.
One guy was responsible for making sure the forms were laying an even impression, another guy for placing the next interlocking form down, yet another for taking up the form, a fourth guy etched the stone around the edges and in the corners where the form could not lay flat to the edge, and the last guy did the smaller patio. The forms could lock together in several different ways, and they were careful to make sure there was some sense of randomness there.
They were done by 11 that night. The next morning, we peered out the windows, and walked around to the gate into the back yard:
I chose a pattern called Ashler Slate, which was designed to look like slate:
That day, the Big Boss came back and cleaned off the dust and grime, cut 2 expansion joints (the patio is so wide that cuts needed to be added to support the weather-driven concrete expansion) and sealed the surface, which brought out the color beautifully: