Monday, June 9, 2014

Hard labor

We had the big pecan and ginko trees next to our house cut down recently, well within the past few years anyway, and then I had to take up part of the brick walkway on the same side to deal with a drainage issue.  Both trees shaded the walkways, which were lined with untreated lumber, and when they were being cut some of the limbs dropped and broke bricks and parts of the steps that led down to our backyard.  So after the trees were gone and I got to feeling better after my bout last year with bowel cancer, we decided to get bids on replacing the steps and walkway.  The bids came in way over our budget so we decided to do the work ourselves.

The first thing we did was to pull up the rotting railroad ties they used to bridge the walkway to the steps.  Once we got those up and hauled off, thanks to my neighborhood buddy for helping in the hauling off part, we began working on the walkway.

I pulled up the rotting wood that bordered the brick and then we laid some pebbles and then paving sand, then Sparky got to work re-laying the bricks, pictures below.  Once we did that I was pretty convinced we could slowly but surely do the rest of the work.  So over the past month we've been doing just that, mainly on the weekends, because of various things like rain, a death in the extended family, and Sparky not wanting me to do that hard labor unless she's here to semi monitor me.  We started the biggest part of the job on Memorial Day weekend and as we began it I foolishly thought we'd have it all done by that Monday.  Boy was I wrong.

Here's what the steps looked like before I started:

They were built we think in the late 1970's, so they held up pretty well but all that wood you see was rotted and many of the bricks were broken.  

As I worked on them I rebuilt them one step at a time.  On average I built two steps per weekend.  It went so slowly because I had to tear out the old step, and go buy and haul back the materials needed to build the new step.  Working out under the blazing sun and high humidity meant I could only work outside for about 45 minutes to an hour at a time before I had to take a break and get re-hydrated.  I learned my lesson years ago when I got a kidney stone because I let myself get too dehydrated.

Anyway, I built the steps from the top down and secured each step into the previous step, unlike the old ones.  Here's what they look like framed in and nearly done:
 We still need to dump more gravel, some paving sand, and then some kind of paving stone in each one.  I'm nearly done with the hardest part, I've got one final step to finish bolting in, and then we can finish putting the gravel in them.

While I was doing steps, Sparky was re-doing the walkway.  She laid all this brick:
 That area used to be covered with rotting railroad ties that got as slick as glass when it rained, we've slipped many a time on them.  Now, it's cleaner, safer, and much more beautiful.

Here's the rest of the walkway she did:
It's crooked on the right side because of a giant tree root that's too big to dig up.

It's been quite the job, three weekends to rebuild the steps, but we're in the home stretch and since we did the work ourselves, it's much more rewarding.  On the plus side as well. is the knowledge that when the treated timbers I used begin to rot and need replacement, we'll either be dead or in an assisted living facility.


Caffeinated Joe said...

Looking great, Doc! Definitely pluses to do things yourselves. Might not always come out perfect or as near perfect as a professional, but the benefits from saving and learning are enough for me!

Brewella Deville said...

Such nice work! I really miss my garden.

gmb said...

Wow, that was a world o' work. Kudos. Doing it yourself means you know it was a labor of love.