Helen's Garden Renovation Project

Thursday 10 January 2013

Cold weather stops play

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 1:28 pm

I have taken advantage of the not-very-wet and not-very-cold weather to lay two more stepping stones. This is the result:

Three of the four stepping stones in place

Three of the four stepping stones in place

This is quite a flattering photograph, but I am afraid that this installation will add character to the garden, rather than beauty. The slab nearest you is lower than the other two. This is deliberate, and I did it because the greenhouse base is lower than the lawn edging, so the stepping stones need to go up. I will be aiming to get the last three slabs the same height.

With experience, I have modified my technique. With the first paving slab, I mixed water into the mortar. With the second two, I used the mortar dry, acting on the theory that it would absorb water from the soil around it and harden anyway, without me having to add any water. This saves labour, and also means that it’s not so messy trying to get the foundation level. With the first and second paving slabs, I buried some assorted rubble and tamped it down with a thick wooden post. With the third, I just dug out the soil to a depth of 4 cm and jumped on it to make it flat.

I also used a different system of levelling with the third slab. I discovered that my short spirit level was pretty much exactly the same thickness as a paving slab. So I hammered in some pegs that were at the right height for the top of the slab when the short spirit level was on top. Then I laid the mortar to make it level with the pegs. Then I watered the back of the paving slab and laid it. It wasn’t at the right height so I took it up, moved the mortar about, and watered it again. After I had done this several times, there was probably quite a lot of water in the mortar.

I have discovered that it is not necessary to make the bed exactly the same size as the paving slab because once it is in position, you can shove leftover mortar underneath the edges. I have also discovered that tapping the paving slab with a mallet seems to have no effect on anything. I think maybe it is just a ritual you do so that your neighbours know you are laying paving slabs.

Tonight freezing weather is forecast, so I have put some bubble wrap over the paving slab I have just laid. And I think it is unlikely I will be able to lay the fourth slab until the cold spell is over. That’s a shame.

As a result of my work, I have concluded two things: (1) I am pretty confident that I will be able to lay the round log-style stepping stones competently enough, as they will be so easy after doing the big square ones; (2) If at all possible, I should get a professional in to lay the last six paving slabs, as they will look terrible if they are wonky.

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