A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Hardscaping the Yard, Part 2

Once the dirt digging was done we were ready for our hardscaping materials. After shopping around for red pavers, I knew I didn’t want the more generic concrete pavers, like Unilock. It just wouldn’t look right with our natural flagstone and our old bungalow: too new-looking and too uniform. Of course concrete pavers are cheaper than clay pavers, which are made one by one and have lots of color variations and inconsistencies but in my opinion have much more character. Our landscape designer recommended several different clay brick pavers and luckily we both really liked the cheapest of them, General Shale Phoenix (the photo doesn’t do it justice).

She also recommended “full-range” bluestone which has a wide variation in color from oranges to grays to blues rather than the more uniform (and more expensive) bluestone.

The order was placed and everything was delivered: base gravel, torpedo sand for the brick pavers, pea gravel for the patio, 2 pallets of clay pavers and about 30 2′ x 2′ bluestone slabs. The gravel and sand were dumped onto tarps we placed on the grass in the parkway and the delivery guy was able to move the bluestone to our front lawn and the pavers to the back yard, both with a forklift that he brought on his truck.

Now we had to move wheelbarrow upon wheelbarrow of gravel for the base layer. I don’t know how many trips we had to make but I know we provided lots of entertainment for the neighborhood. No one offered to help though — imagine that!

We rented a vibratory plate compactor from Home Depot to compress the gravel. That was after the pull-cord snapped on the one we rented from House of Rental. Not happy about that but they reimbursed us without a problem.

The base gravel contains a variety of bigger rocks, small pebbles and fine sand so that once it’s compacted it forms a really solid base. The compactor is a heavy machine as it is, but also has a reservoir for water to give it more weight. Sometimes it’s hard to control, especially when making turns, but Pete did most of that and got the hang of it after a little while.

In the first photo below, the gravel patio area is compressed and I’ve started to lay a dry run of pavers from the basement steps.

Next comes the torpedo sand for the paver base which allows for finer adjustments in leveling (with the help of a rubber mallet). Laying the pavers is not difficult but does take some diligence to keep them level. You also need to slope the path away from the house by about 2 degrees to allow for rain runoff. Overall we’re happy with the job we did, but we have a couple areas that we want to fix before we sweep the sand between the pavers. There’s a good how-to for laying pavers on Unilock’s web site (same process applies for both concrete and brick pavers).

This is about where we stand today. Most of the pavers are down and pea gravel is in.

The view from the porch. The spot between the flagstone and gravel patios is for our water fountain. Pete ran a flexible tube made specifically for electrical wiring from our outdoor outlet to this spot that will provide power for the water pump.

And the bluestone path that leads from the flagstone patio to the front lawn (it doesn’t extend to the public sidewalk).

A view of the path from the front of the house. Once we get some plants installed I’ll get some better shots of the beautiful stone.

We’ve been out-of-town the past couple weekends so we’ll be back to work on it this weekend and hopefully start planting shrubs soon after!


  1. Sharon on July 1, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    What beautiful brickwork!

  2. denise on July 15, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Thanks Sharon!

  3. James on August 9, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Looks amazing! You guys did a great job and it looks like it has turned out beautifully! I love it!

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