I declared dislike for concrete pavement. So what was I to do with the concrete pavement that already existed, such as the parkway path? Rip it up and replace it with something that has a better longevity and is more artistic?
That was a very tempting thought, but it came up against my practical inclinations. The best time to replace things is when they start falling apart. The existing parkway path was not at that point – yet.
That left me with the question about what to do with this monolithic gray mass.
How about the “putting lipstick on a pig” approach? I could frame the concrete path with a row of salvaged, old Chicago street pavers, transforming it from monolithic to something the eye can manage.
Unlike the parkway path with the pavers, the monolithic concrete slab did not need a structural constraint around the edges. It was both, constraint and pavement. That allowed me to place the framing pavers on a simple gravel base, instead of a concrete bed.
The pavers will get almost no traffic, and with that almost no stress. People prefer to walk along the centerline of the path, i.e. on the concrete slab. Rarely will anyone need to step on the pavers.
My last thought on this subject went toward deconstruction. At one point, I would like to replace the concrete slab. Removing the paver edge and concrete slab will be a easier with the pavers just sitting on gravel.
I get a kick out of reusing and repurposing salvaged materials, whether it is in the house, the yard, or in this case, our parkway landscape.
We have two gates to our property: the main gate leading up to the front door and the side gate leading into the side yard. It made sense to provide a path crossing through the parkway landscape at each gate.
We already had a path crossing at the main gate, although it needed some additional work. More about that later. But there was no formal path crossing at the side gate. While laying out and installing the parkway knee fence, I made sure to provide a gap for a path to connect to the street.
A material question
No, I will not use poured concrete. Boring! It can be the default pavement choice around the country all day long. That doesn’t mean I have to like it or bow to it. And on top of that, it’s not even that practical. It tends to crack over time. And repairing it always looks like – well – it has been repaired.
I had some beautiful salvaged graystone and clay pavers in my yard that were perfect to craft a path crossing through the parkway. I knew I could repurpose the graystone into a curb flanking the path left and right. The clay pavers are modular, which makes for a much higher quality pavement if installed correctly. It doesn’t crack, because it has cracks already built into it – the joints between each paver. And it is easy to repair, because – well – it’s modular.
Building it up from the base
I put a decent eight inch base down using recycled aggregate and made sure to compact it thoroughly. Integrated into the base were two two-inch PVC pipes. They will hydraulically connect the parkway rain garden to the east and west of the path.
I also had the city water vault and shut-off valve in the path of the parkway path. (Probably not perfect, perhaps even painful, to pitch this many p’s in one phrase. But once I plunge into a pattern of packing p’s I am past picky.)
I had to align the pavement elevation with the valve and vault. The elevation of the valve was set and I couldn’t change it. But I could adjust the elevation of the vault base and I did, so that it matched the path slope determined by the valve.
With the pavement elevations set, I put a concrete base down and set the curb using my salvaged graystone. Most paver installations need a structural constraint around the edges, or otherwise the pavers start migrating over time. That is particularly true if they are adjacent to a downward slope like my planned rain garden – even if it’s only a four or six inch drop. So the curb on a concrete base was a must.
After the concrete had cured for a day, I could bring the gravel base up to the right elevation and start to screed the sand bed (setting layer) for the pavers. Then I set the clay pavers right into the sand bed. There was some fitting involved along the edges and around the vault. To fill the smaller gaps I switched from clay pavers to graystone scraps.
To finish the job, I needed to fill in the paver joints with sand, make sure the pavers sat firmly in the sand bed, and assure the paver surface was even. The sand can be broomed and washed into the joints. To set the pavers firmly I used a two by four and a hammer and whacked the pavers into the sand bed. That process also allowed me to get to an even surface.
We set the knee fence posts along the street a good 12 inches back from the curb. That gave us enough room to install an paver strip that should measure at least 18 inches from the front of the curb to the face of the fence.
This would be enough room for passengers in parked cars on the street to open the door and step out. The fence in turn would prevent passengers from stepping into the parkway landscape or their car doors from swinging into the parkway vegetation.
We will transform the parkway into a rain garden. That means the elevation of the rain garden will be around six inches lower than the current elevation. To help with the transition between the two different elevations, we added a small hard edge along the east and west end, which serves as a curb for the rain garden.
A lot of things can go wrong in an urban environment. Someone could end up driving into the parkway. There is little I can do about that. But I can prepare for other things. For instance, what if someone drives onto the paver strip?
To prepare for this eventuality, we put down a solid six inch aggregate base with recycled material. On top went a setting layer of coarse sand into which I laid the pavers.
The pavers themselves need to have a certain mass to be cut out for the job. Some of the salvaged limestone pieces that I had stored in the yard were perfect for the job. At 12 inches wide and four inches thick they had the weight and soundness I was looking for.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the paver strip ends up being better built than the adjacent road itself.
The porch tear down only generated a limited amount of salvaged lumber, and we recycled the concrete foundation. The old limestone foundation, however, was something I have been salivating over for a while.
There was not a stone to be wasted here! This is priceless garden material. But we first had to disassemble it stone by stone.
Well, the excitement about the limestone was a little muted once we started with the demolition. The material was a lower quality than that of the building foundation. A lot of the larger stones separated along the sediment lines into smaller, thinner slabs. This was particularly prevalent at the location of the old downspout where the hydrostatic pressure had built up.
We found the biggest and best quality stones in the two corners. It was at times a challenge to lift them out of the pit. All of the salvaged stones, large and small, are now waiting for their new garden assignment.