The backyard project 2016-2017

In a previous post I shared some work on the front yard landscaping. As a consequence of reducing the level of the lawn, the backyard become a complete mess with a lot of extra dirt to deal with. So its on to the backyard project...

The demolition

So I have a giant mound of dirt, old garden borders, and a failed paver patio. The first step is to remove every brick, concrete border, and paver.

Rescuing bricks

Although I am removing all of the old patio pavers, I plan save save as many as possible, and to re-use them in a new (and level) patio.

The trick to saving the pavers is to knock the old mortar off with the blunt end of a small pick-axe. Some pavers had already disintegrated, some broke while trying to clean, but I ended up with a substantial pile.

Concrete removal

Most of the borders where actually deeply burred concrete walls that were decorated with bricks. I tried to rescue these bricks as well using the above method, which was more difficult. As for the concrete, the method of choice was to hit it with a hammer until it shattered.

Here is the rubble pile. About half of which was re-used inside of a new wall.

New concrete pads

The next step is to pour concrete pads along the building structures. This completes the walkways around the house and controls the flow of rain water away from the property (something I had a problem with during the rainy season).

House pad

This is a smaller pad near the house. Its about 4 inches deep, and you can see the use of rubble as a base beneath the concrete. And old window bar acts as reinforcement. Cardboard is used to isolate the concrete from the foundation and existing concrete pads. This allows freedom of movement and prevents damage to existing structures.

A broom finish is applied to the first half.

The second half is poured and finished.

Garage pad

The garage gets a 5 foot wide pad poured along the entire length of its side. First I extend the width of the existing pad for my first pour.

The remaining section was divided up into 3 separate pours. I used extra back roofing paper to isolate the sections from the foundation and themselves. Each section used about eight 90 lb bags of concrete mix.

The retaining wall

Now I have to do something to hold back all of that extra dirt. The new yard is getting a short retaining wall made out of poured concrete.

Side retaining wall

I created a wooden form for pouring the concrete wall. The form is 6-inches wide by 2 feet long by 18 inches high. The form is meant to rest on the concrete pads so that it will be about 7 inches high on the side of the concrete.

Here is what the wall looks like after several pours. I threw in extra rubble from the demolition inside of the form, and embedded an old cut-up bed frame for structural support. The rubble made it hard to get a good finish on the sides, so each section got a stucco base coat after the form was removed.

Patio retaining wall

To pour the patio section of the wall, I didn't have an existing concrete pad to work from. So I created a larger form out of some old press-wood furniture that the neighbours threw away. Getting this form in the hole took a lot of excavation, plumbing, and levelling.

Here it is, filled to the brim with concrete.

And now with the form removed and the sides stuccoed. I was afraid that the wall would topple when I removed the forms without the trench being filled back in with dirt. But its over 1000 lbs of concrete, it didn't even budge.

The curved wall

Connecting the two walls is a curved section. While the previous two walls were poured deep into the ground, this connecting section actually rests partially on top of an older concrete pad. To make the form, I created curved form walls out of cardboard and coated them in packing tape. I used concrete blocks and bricks to keep the form in place while it was filled with concrete.

Sorry, I didn't actually get a picture of this form. But the picture of the poured wall is below.

To complement the curved wall, I wanted to put in a matching brick border to surround the fig tree. I was doubtful that the bricks would be very stable, so I created a underlying concrete pad for the bricks. Again, I used cardboard, this time to create a trough. And there is rebar in there too.

And here is the completed border with the bricks jointed, the bed is planted up and mulched.

The paver patio

And while pouring the walls, I was also installing the new paver patio. The area to cover was about 10 by 16 feet, and it took approximately 300 bricks. I came up a bit short on rescue bricks and I had to buy an additional 80 bricks and mix them into the design.

The base was already compacted in most places due to the previous patio. I just removed a few inches of sand. In my opinion part of the reason the old patio failed was that it was sitting on a thick layer of sand. You really want an inch for leveling purposes. Too much makes it unstable (plus there was a tree).

I leveled the new pavers on top of a bed of compacted dirt, sand, and crushed gravel. I mixed a few hand-fulls of portland (dry) into every wheelbarrow of sand to harden up and stabilize the soil.

And here is the complete patio up against the new wall. The joints are not yet filled.

The reveal

And here is the finished product in early spring. Not all of the beds along the wall have been planted yet. And the entire area is very dingy and dirty from all of the work.

And again after spring has arrived. The fig trees have grown their leaves in, the grass and clovers have appeared, and the rosemary, irises, and geraniums have all filled in. I also planted several succulent beds along-side the fence.

Final thoughts

Concrete cracks

I didn't create any expansion joints for the retaining wall. So the wall actually developed cracks along the seams between form sections. The cracks are very small and appear vertically through the stucco. Since you cant really have concrete without some amount of movement, I consider these unintentional joints to be a success.

Flood management

Rain water management was a consideration throughout this project. I had flooding problems every year, and so every surface concrete or patio is sloped towards the back of the garage. I dug a pit and filled it with crushed rock. The pit actually handled the small rains, but it could not keep up with the big ones. Although there was still flooding, the elevated section kept the waters relegated to the channel between the wall and the garage while it slowly drained.

Last edited: Tue, May 23 2017 - 06:21AM