If I nailed the side boards at a slight angle, I woud have a sloping top, to help shed water off the step. Of course neighbor Mike had some suggestions, and Thomas told me some tricks. I was soon digging and nailing and spreading stone and moving big rocks. I built the form into which I would pour the concrete. Neighbor Mike confirmed what Thomas had told me.
“Bucky, you’ve got to pin it. Look, I’ve got some leftover rebar. Drill this bottom step and you can use some of my rebar to make the pins.” He meant that I had to have pieces of rebar—metal rod—put into the bottom step around which my new concrete would settle. That was supposed to prevent water and ice from moving the top step, in case the seal between the two layers of concrete wasn’t tight. I tried drilling with my old drill, but that was just too slow. I rented a huge special drill, like the one Brother Pete and I used to drill the foundation when he helped me build the deck.That night, I told Loie what I had done, and how well it worked.
“It took me longer to figure out how to put the drill bit in the machine than it did to drill the holes,” I said. Loie laughed.
“You’re making good progress,” she said.
At one point, I was almost stumped. The largest flagstone was just too heavy for me to move. I called Mark and he came over at 9:30 one evening.
“We can roll this,” he said. He meant upright, on its sides, the way I had been moving the smaller stones.
“No we can’t,” I said. “I mean, maybe we could, but wait. I’ve got a System."* On one of my stone inspection visits, the man showing me the various types of flagstones had told me the way to move the biggest stones was on rollers.
“Get yourself some pieces of PVC pipe,” he said. “Lay your stone down on them and you can roll it right along. A fellah who does a lot of stone work told me that trick.” I had three lengths of pipe to hand, just for moving this one really big stone. Mark and I tipped it down onto the pipe, and were amazed to find it gliding over the yard in the starlight. We soon figured out that by angling the pipe as we moved it from the back to the front, we could make the stone turn a wide corner.
“Loie, come look at this,” I said.
“Pushing a rock,” Loie laughed as she watched Mark push the stone while I moved pipes from back to front. “You guys are ready to build us a Stonehenge.” Mark and I demurred, but we had fun pushing one rock so easily.
It took me about two weeks to make our new step and walk. Between Irwin Stone, Lowe’s and the county dump we spent about a thousand dollars. I’m waiting for the free mulch from the landfill to cool off and rot a bit before I plant grass—the weather is probably too hot now for grass to do well anyhow—and I still need to do some work replacing old siding boards that were rotted out behind the junky brick step. Other than that, the project is finished. It looks nice, and is a vast improvement over the mess we had before.
I’m sorry I didn’t think to take any “before” pictures, but I did take some pictures in progress. You may see a photo gallery by clicking the link below. And Loie and I hope you’ll visit soon to see the finished walk!
Front walk in progress
P.S. The scissors landed that way. I never could have puposely done that in a million years. And the paper you see lying around was tracing paper on which I outlined all the different stones so I could plan how they would fit. I couldn’t keep it all in my mind from one day to the next.
P.P.S. The marble is still sitting out there. Anyone have the perfect idea?
* Our mother, Yo, was famous for having precise ways in which she wanted everything to be done. She would often say, “I have a System,” in such a grave voice one could hear the capitalization. So now Having a System is a byword.