DIY #9: HOW WE MADE OUR OWN WALKWAY…

Well here we go! If you’ve been following my blog, (which you SHOULD of course!!! 🙂 ) you know that my family and I had a home built in the North Georgia mountains about 2 years ago. We had an awesome builder, however, he did not include a walkway that led from our driveway to the front door. For a while that had been fine, however, after a very rainy season, and the grass not quite growing in yet, the water began to wash the dirt from the mountain onto our “rock” walkway. Of course, this meant that my kids, my dog and everyone else that came over were dragging mud or dirt ALL over the house!!! Uuuggghhh!!! We immediately contacted our builder who gave us a price ($3000-$3500) to complete the task. Though this seemed to be a bit steep, we set up a budget, a date and were excited to get underway.  Unfortunately, we waited, and waited and waited to no avail. DOUBLE UUUGGGGHHH!!!! Sooooo, I sat with a couple girlfriends one afternoon, and during our “girl talk” (if you could ever imagine) we discussed the idea and the “ease” of using pavers to create a beautiful walkway. “THAT’S IT!!!!!” I thought!!! I could go to Home Depot and price out some super pavers and as always… DO IT MYSELF!!!!

Though Home Depot offered an amazing variety of paver options, I counted up the cost, and it was waaaaaaaay too high. So, after searching on Amazon, I found the Quikrete Brick Walk Maker!!! It was PERFECT!!! Now this was something I could do! Use the molding to create a pathway!!! I ordered the mold for $24.99 and while waiting the couple days it took to get here, I looked on YouTube and studied the materials I needed and created a configuration that would work best for us. Simple right????? UUUMMMM…. NOT QUITE!!! Considering the area we had to cover, this was quite an adventure, and after 3 months, our walkway is finally complete. While we are certainly LOVING the results, I decided to put this blog together to help guide you through our personal process to help avoid the bumps along the way. Here are the 3 steps we took:

  1. The first step was to use the mold to create the bricks. We used a 60lb bag of quikrete. I bought an $8 mixing tub for mixing and an $8 trowel to level the mix and of course kept my hose very close to make the necessary consistency. It would seem you should over fill the mold with mix in order to create a thick/strong brick. That is not true. Fill the mold, but don’t over-stuff it. This will make the top of the brick uneven. Some people rent a concrete mixer for this part. Though that would come in SUPER handy, we did it the old-fashioned way, with a shovel. Let each mixture set for 5-10 minutes and carefully remove the mold. We proceeded to mix the next bag of concrete while the current one was setting. That helped keep the pace going smoothly. Repeat this process for each brick. Be sure to line the mold next to the prior brick in order to accomplish a patterned walk. Don’t be afraid to add curves as long as the distance isn’t too far from the adjoining brick.

2.  Once you have designed your configured path or patio, you can prepare to prime and stain your bricks. I love this part of the project, because there is a super selection of colors and shades you can select from. Go to the paint/stain section of your local Home Depot to choose the color that works best for your space. Many people add dye to the bricks while mixing the concrete. I like staining afterwards because it is MUCH more cost effective and gives you a greater selection. The prime and stain manufacturers advise you to wait 30 days until your concrete has cured before starting this process. We didn’t quite wait the full 30 days, but perhaps at least 15 worked for us. We primed first and stained it a charcoal color one day later. The prime goes on easy. I used a paint brush, but you can use a roller as well. You really can’t mess this part up, so enjoy this opportunity to be creative.

3.  Finally, once the stain is the shade/tint you like, you can add the SAKRETE PermaSand for a “grout” effect. We found this item at Home Depot as well, however, it was quite costly at $20 per container. Because we had so many bricks to fill, I could have easily used 8-10 of these. However, I decided to buy Quikrete sand topping mix for the bottom portion as a filler. I poured the sand in the grooves of the bricks to about half way. And THEN added the Permasand as a sealer on the top portion. I then swept it into the cracks. The directions will tell you to use a leaf blower to remove all excess sand from the surface. We did that and lightly watered the sand and watched it harden. This was a great part of the process because you can see the contrast of the grout and the color of the bricks. It is a great signal that the project is almost complete.

Once the grout has dried, you can enjoy your paver patio/walkway etc… Contrary to my initial plan, this is not an overnight project. It is indeed labor intensive, but I admit that most of the job was done by me and my 14 year old daughter in 90 degree temperatures. If we can do it, surely you can. The key is making sure you take your time. Do not rush this process. Loading the quikrete concrete itself has to be done in stages (depending what car/truck you have) because you don’t want to ruin your struts. Mixing that mix is tough and doing too much in one day, can put undo strain on your back. TAKE IT SLOW. When done well, it will be a super cool project you can enjoy and reflect on for years to come!!!!

#4. DO IT YOURSELF!!!!

Recently, my husband completed our taxes using Turbo Tax. For the last 16+ years, we have always paid different accountants or other tax companies to do it for us.  The last two years, we were disappointed not only with our return, but the lackadaisical manner at which they were completed. Since we moved to a new area, we sought out reputable accountants that could file our returns for us to no avail. So, we decided, why not save a few dollars and headaches and attempt this ourselves? After filing with great ease and success, I was left to wonder, how many other ways do we put our fate in the hands of supposed trusted people, and at what cost? What other skills do we lack simply because we don’t try?

Think about it. Back in the day, I remember people growing their own food in the garden, changing their own oil, building their own sheds, changing their own tires, painting their own nails, washing their cars, dying their hair, booking their vacations, cutting and fertilizing their grass, cooking their food, etc… Today, we have gotten to the place where we can’t leave the house on a sunny afternoon without having someone else cut and paint our toenails for us. YIKES!!! We are quick to complain about the scratch put in our new car’s exterior paint job during the 5-minute automated car wash, yet we are too busy to wash it ourselves. In the meantime, a $10 car wash every week, $7 brow wax, $30 manicure, $90 lawn care, $50 dog grooming begins to add up…

The problem is not seeking out the help to perform tasks that clearly the professionals can do easier or faster than we can. Obviously, we all are super busy. But, at what cost? I find it interesting that we have gotten to the point where we will spend a large portion of our salaries paying for the ability to have many of these tasks performed for us. How much would we save, and not have to work if we simply did them ourselves? What new skills would we learn and be able to pass on to our children if we even tried?  A person who brings home $600 a week in pay, yet has a 1-hour commute, a $200 daycare bill, lunch in the lunchroom/restaurant, gas etc.. is ultimately working to pay for work. The idea of taking our 6-week old child to a daycare facility, depending on a restaurant to supply our nutrition regularly, expecting the local lawn company to keep our lawns looking pristine, not only makes us vulnerable to the level of excellence they CHOOSE to perform, but it costs a ton. When we did our taxes, we certainly put a lot more effort, time and care into the job than anyone else could. We learned a lot and saved a TON of money. You certainly would care for your child much better than the worker earning a minimal wage. And you would take pride in making your lawn look amazing because it is a reflection of you.

I am not suggesting that you drop your busy loads to complete menial jobs around your home. But perhaps we can all be mindful of just how much we spend and how often we put our responsibilities in the hands of others that otherwise are not connected to us in any way. God has given you grace to do all you need to do in your home. Be wise not to turn that authority over to complete strangers whose only motivation is not their service to you, not your best interest, but making a buck or two…

Ps. If you get a second, add some of the ways you save money by “doing it yourself” in the comment section below. Hopefully we can generate various ideas that would help us all…