Wednesday, February 4, 2009

OUR PATIO STONES



On the Master Gardeners' tour last spring there was quite a lot of interest in our paving stones. We made all the pavers in our vegetable garden, English garden and Spanish oak garden. Although I had planned to do a post on the "how to" it was not until Central Texas Gardener asked me this week if I had ever done a post on the stones that I actually got round to it.

The pavers in the vegetable garden were made using the above frame, the English garden using the round form and the larger pavers in the Spanish Oak garden were poured in place.
D has provide me with the following.

"First a disclaimer. If you can find the right size and pattern of stepping stone at Home Depot or Lowe's, buy don't make. We could not find an 18" square stone, so we decided to make. We already had a concrete mixer so we were not faced with an initial capital outlay of about $400 to get started. We used the standard concrete formulation: 3 parts gravel, 2 parts masonry sand and one part portland cement. If your project is modest you may want to use concrete premix; our project warranted bulk purchase of the ingredients. For enough to make three 18" square stones (2" thick), we mixed 6 shovels of pea gravel, 4 shovels of masonry sand, 2 shovels of portland cement. To vary the color of the stones we used gray cement and white cement in varying proportions and concrete pigment in varying amounts. We cannot offer precise color formulations; it was very much "trial and error". Since we made almost two hundred stones, we had plenty of scope for color variations; the more the better. We found the best order of mixing to be: water first, gravel next and then sand. As the mix dried out with the addition of sand, we added more water for desired consistency. Experience will guide you on the initial charge of water; I cannot remember. Our technique was quite tolerant of varying consistency of the mix but too thin made for a slow set and a weaker stone; we suffered no broken stones. 

We started with a single mould, increased to a double and ended with a treble. The key to building the mould is screw, don't nail, the sides together. We used 1 7/8 X 3/4 inch wood for the frame and 3 1/2 inch screws to assemble it. The easiest way to release the stones from the mould was by unscrewing the sides and dismantling the mould. We reused the same triple mould about fifty times. We laid the mould on a level bed of sand; it’s important to level the mould. Just prior to pouring the concrete we sprayed WD40 on the inside surfaces for easy release. We emptied the mix into a wheelbarrow and from there we transferred it into the moulds by shovel and garden trowel. We filled each mould half full, leveled it, and laid a pre-cut heavy gauge 2” mesh screen (16” square) onto the concrete as “rebar”. Then we filled the mould to the top. We dragged a 2 X 4 across the surface of the mould to remove excess concrete and form a level stone. Then we inserted a flat 2 inch trowel down the inside surfaces and worked it around the mould to "finish" the sides of the stone. Now came the most important step. When the surface water had disappeared, typically 20-30 minutes, we "finished" the surface to a smooth sheen with a 11 X 4 1/2 inch trowel. Finally, when the surface was firm, we used flat rocks to imprint a pattern on the stone. We then left the stones to cure for 24 hours.

For the large diameter circular stones we used black plastic planters. We filled the planter to within 3” of the top with sand and then followed the same procedure to form the stones. We upended the planters onto a thick cushion to release the stone from the mould; the larger mould was quite a challenge."

It all took a lot of time and effort! Thanks D for a great job.

17 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for posting your "how to". I just fell in love with your pavers when I saw them. I did find some I liked at Lowe's, though...so we will probably end up buying rather than making. We have so many other projects in the queue. (We are very slow getting anything done around here!)

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  2. Retirement is the only answer to that latter sentence!

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  3. Hiya,

    When are you going to build your next house? After this, you can do anything I would have thought. :-)

    Last year we bought twohundred 2-foot square paving stones with granite chips from Harwell, the AERE, when they remodelled and for a lot less than your concrete mixer. I trust government funded concrete rather better than any of our own efforts would ever produce. I envy you the success of hands-on projects. The round ones especially stand out. Do you need to put landscape fabric under the gravel or are you not plagued with many ingrained weeds?
    jo

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  4. Fortunately we already had the concrete mixer because we built several retaining walls so the cost of our stones was minimum. We don't have attractive pavers over here. In England we saw beautiful manufactured stones that just looked like slate. This is what we tried to create by imprinting the surface. Now when we look back it is hard to imagine we ever did this project and all the others. It has been a good retirement project and keeps us busy. You were lucky to find your stones for such a good price. We also bought our edging bricks at the Habitat for Humanity restore. This is a place where builders and home owners donate unwanted materials. The bricks were a bargain and we used them to edge the patio. The field stones were from our lot. There is no landscape fabric under the gravel. My biggest weed is the bluebonnet. A lovely spring plant but it does like to take over. I usually try to remove the plants before the seeds are thrown but they still show up.

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  5. No wonder they looked so wonderful last spring, Lancashire Jenny - lots of hard work in combination with great design. I think my husband will enjoy this post! Thanks for sharing the technique.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    PS Love the photo with the watermelon!

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  6. I love your patio stones! I've been wanting to make my own, but don't have the time. What I'd really like to do is find a riverbed and haul some rocks home.

    PS) Love your watermelon picture too! Your gardening is INSPIRING!

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  7. Thanks for showing us how you did it. Now I know that this project will never be in my future. Ha. Well, maybe in retirement one day.

    You and your husband are inspiring, Jenny. So much sweat equity has gone into your garden, and it all is so creative and personal. I learn so much about good design from your garden.

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  8. Hiya Jenny,
    One of your readers mentions taking rocks from a river bed and bringing them home.
    Are you (still) allowed to do so in the US? I often covet a slab of something when I am not on private land, but wouldn't dare to remove it, for fear of being had up.
    BTW, I have a picture up of the fast dwindling pile of AERE paving slabs in the snow.And do we have snow!

    We haven't been able to get to the shops for about a week now and my pantry is empty. I've almost dropped a dress size and am getting heartily sick of tuna on ryevita. It will be -12C (=10F) tonight. A foot of snow yesterday in our area and more after the weekend. Any nice houses going in your neck of the woods ;-)
    jo

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  9. I am quite aware of how the limestone paving in England was pillaged in the past for landscaping projects and is now protected. I am not aware of a law here which prohibits removal of stone except from National Parks. Many private ranches here sell their stone but it is quite expensive. Must check out your snow. We have friends from Worcester staying with us. They were delayed getting here by bad weather but I don't think it was snow. Lots of house bargains over here!

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  10. Great info. I really like how your stepping stones are laid out. I've never made any stepping stones, but now I know how!
    Aiyana

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  11. Jenny, so glad you posted this how-to. Very impressive project -- beautiful AND functional. I'd love to try making my own pavers someday -- maybe when (if) I retire.

    renee

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  12. Jenny, what a great post. There is so much trial and error sometimes but it is well worth it to get it right sometimes. When I saw your garden in person, I couldn't believe it when you told me your pavers were all "hand made".

    Someday when I'm retired...

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

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  13. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this how-to! I was one of those people obsessed with your pavers at the Master Gardeners tour, and am contemplating doing something similar in my yard. I just had no idea where to start!

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  14. Jenny, thank you so much!! Can't wait to try it. Linda

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  15. Thanks for this - it was very helpful! (and boy, are some of the images just lovely, with the combination of flowers and pavers...I need to think a bit about this!)

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  16. Hi. I'm a fellow Austin garderner and loved this "how to" post. I was going to ask if you set the concrete stepping stones in the soil first, then added the gravel; or placed the pavers on top of the gravel. We had several cubic yards of pea gravel from an old playscape area. We made a pea gravel path, but quickly found out how difficult it was to walk on, so now we are wondering if pavers can be stable on top of pea gravel. Thanks in advance for your advice. I enjoy your blog.
    Wendy

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  17. Hi Wendy- Thanks for your comment and for reading my blog. The stones in the veg. garden were set in sand, but the round ones int he English garden were added after the gravel was laid. I don't see any problem in setting them directly into the pea gravel as long as the gravel is well tamped. Then just fill in around them with more gravel. Good luck.

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