Garden makeover complete – A night and day video walk round the property

Patio at night

These videos show the culmination of 4 months of hard work around the property – from clearing away sheds, greenhouse and decking, digging up old patio and hardcore underneath, to constructing new storm drains, digging a foot down the old grass to try and remove all the weeds, copious amount of soil and rubble removed from the area (all of which was sieved and sorted into top soil and hardcore and used back into the garden), to the filling of 4 x 12 yard skips – that got us to a blank canvas!

Then began the hard slog of putting down a new patio during two heatwaves and one period of torrential rain, grading and levelling the lawn area of the garden and building a framework around the trees on a slope and adding 3 cubic metres of premium bark nuggets – all carted from the front of the house by wheelbarrow !!

During the long days of hauling soil and slabs, it felt like the time of seeding the lawn, planning where to place plants, buying pots and painting accessories was a world away but eventually that time came, the layout planning and details of placing accessories really did feel like the icing on the cake.

Patio at night
Night time view of the patio with deck , and wall lights and patio lanterns under the parasol.

From a very tired and shabby looking garden, to an area that gives the impression of space and yet privacy with a low maintenance patio and decking edged area ideal for entertaining or for just sitting on the bench with a glass of wine watching the birds make themselves at home on their new bird table.

Patio deck lights
Patio deck and terraced border uplights

The videos are shot during the day and evening. The first one highlights the garden lighting at night showing the deck lights used along the patio and in the bottom of the sleeper wall. Whilst illuminating the decking when dark, they are not intrusive, we also used a couple of lanterns to enhance the plants. Low voltage led lights are also used to illuminate the trees at the bottom of the garden. There is also a wall washer used to show off the brickwork. All of the lights are on timers and can also be remotely controlled from a smart phone so no need to remember to switch them on.

Would we do this again? hell yes but with our eyes open wide with the realisation of the amount of work involved, the time commitment but the knowledge that the end was well worth the effort.

Dressing the garden

Garden view from west side

We are now at the stage in our garden renovation of adding plants and garden accessories to pull together all the elements – the fun bit!

By the careful placement of plants and decorations, you can give the impression of stylish, sleek and yet homely.  We used a combination of both new and old plants, new and old pots and new and old accessories, different shades of grey and blue which contrast but still compliment.  For maintenance purposes, all the plants are evergreen (with flowers or colour) for all year round show, but the trough is our seasonal garden splash of colour, this time of the year it is full of stocks, cyclamens and dianthus, in spring we will have daffodils and tulips and then summer bedding plants.

Pernettya mucronata Evergreen Prickly Heath Berry Plant
Pernettya mucronata Evergreen Prickly Heath Berry Plant

Small compact plant with eye catching white berries, placed close to the house so can been seen through french doors but does not obstruct view to other plants.

Pernettya - Purple Berry Miniature Bush
Pernettya – Purple Berry Miniature Bush

This one is the same as above except berries are pink.  It is placed in a higher container diagonally across from white one so eyes travel along the line to encompass both colours.

Ophiopogon japonicus - Pygmaeus
Ophiopogon japonicus – Pygmaeus

On the sleeper wall we have used small grey pots to hold various alpines, the smallest one above.

Sempervivum Vicentai Gaton
Sempervivum Vicentai Gaton

The middle of the three pots on the sleeper wall, yellow flowers will appear in summer on tall stems.

Iberis Fischbeck – Perennial Candytuft
Iberis Fischbeck – Perennial Candytuft

The largest of the three pots on the sleepers, produces masses of small white flowers in spring, ideal for attracting bees into the garden.

Dryopteris Erythrosora – Japanses Rosy Buckler Fern with Vinca Minor - Periwinkle
Dryopteris Erythrosora – Japanses Rosy Buckler Fern with Vinca Minor – Periwinkle

We have placed a tall cylinder planter in the corner of the patio contained two plants, the Japanese fern is ideal to use as foliage contrast with other plants, has coppery triangular fronds when young, turning light green with mature.  To compliment the fern we have added a Periwinkle, this has small inky blue/violet flower in spring and occasionally in autumn winter – we planted ours in late September and it has not stopped flowering!

Araucaria Araucana - Monkey Puzzle tree
Araucaria Araucana – Monkey Puzzle tree

The Monkey Puzzle tree we have had for a while but it now stands out as a structural element to the edge of the patio with its sweeping arms contained in a square planter, but do not be fooled, get too close and the spikes really hurt.

Azalea tree
Azalea tree

This Azalea has been lost in the old plants for some time now but placed in a planter it show cases its autumn colours  Although not evergreen, the new buds are already showing (November) with a promise of what’s to come.  In summer a mass of coral flowers can be seen.  To draw the eye to the planter, a small sphere is used.

Planter with Olive tree, Stocks and Cyclamens
Planter with Olive tree, Stocks and Cyclamens

We have recycled our old plants, it was looking a might tired but with new lining and a few coats of “silver birch” grey paint, it looks like new.  An olive tree is placed at the side to give height and structure, the rest of the trough will be planted with seasonal bedding plants to give a splash of all year round interest.

Pittosporum Tenuifolium - Irene Paterson
Pittosporum Tenuifolium – Irene Paterson

A tall square planter is used to showcase the above, it produces dark green leaves speckled with white often tinged pink in winter.  Dark purple flowers are produced in Spring. The height of this plants ensures the eye is drawn to the rest of the garden over the sleeper wall.

Garden project – Seeding the lawn

Patio and lawn east view

With all the structural and hard landscaping complete with our garden project it is now time to tackle the lawn and turning it from a patch of brown mud into a lush green lawn.

Grass seed scattered over soil in third week of October
Grass seed scattered over soil in third week of October

The area to be seeded has been previously graded, tilled, de-stoned and then raked and rollered to form a smooth base for the grass seed to be applied. It is now just after the middle of October so getting pretty late in the year to be putting grass seed down but hopefully a few weeks of reasonably mild weather with temperatures around 7 degrees or above during the day should give the grass seed enough warmth to germinate and start to grow before the really cold winter weather starts to set in.

Two types of seed were scattered over the area to be lawned. One that was fast growing with an inhibitor to help deter the birds from eating the seed and one that would provide strong growth and a dense lawn later on. The two types of seed combined provided for a mixture of perennial ryegrass and fine fescues. Both seeds contained calcium and nitrogen to act as a feed for the lawn to help it grow in the early stages. The seed was well watered for the first few days and then it has been fairly rainy since so no more watering has been required.

Mid November new grass growth 3 weeks after being seeded
Mid November new grass growth 3 weeks after being seeded

After a couple of weeks the seed started to germinate with signs of little green shoots beginning to burst through the soil into the crips late autumn air. The weather has been reasonably kind over the past few weeks in that there have only been a couple of light frosts but nothing too cold which has given the seed a chance to get a foothold before winter. Now in the middle of November there is the beginnings of a green carpet starting to appear.

Finishing the patio and garden

Garden steep bank terracing

With the bulk of the major structural work that had to be undertaken around the property now complete it’s time to look at the parts of the garden in need of some design in order to integrate them into the overall look and feel of the landscaping performed so far.

To this end the steep bank at the bottom of the garden needed some attention to turn it from a steep and fairly dull muddy bank that was a haven for weeds and not a lot else into something that encapsulated the rest of the garden was low maintenance and cost efficient to achieve. The bank contains 5 trees which have previously been planted to give a screening effect for the houses behind. The trees are 2 Photinias’ or Red Robins, 2 Holme Oaks and one Elderberry. They take a large amount of water out of the ground in the surrounding area so nothing really grows.

In one shady corner of the bank we have planted some ferns and over the rest of the bank we have put large chunky nuggets of play bark making sure that it does not contain too many finers ie small bits of chippings and mulch that would break down too quickly. In order to stop the bark from migrating downwards terracing has been placed along the bank using gravel boards screwed to stakes banged into the ground. Be careful around roots of trees when putting stakes in. The large bark nuggets stop it from being blown away in high winds as well as aiding the retention of the bark on the steep bank and stopping it from rolling down.

The premium play bark was purchased loose from a local merchant and transported in the back of a truck and barrowed into the garden.

2 cubic metres of large chunk bark nuggets
2 cubic metres of large chunk bark nuggets

Having given the slabs a really good clean with Jet wash and then mopped it down with a solution of natural stone grout and cement remover. At this point the slabs still look very like they have a powdery residue and seem to retain dirt and dust quite readily.

Patio slabs before sealing
Patio slabs before sealing

To seal the slabs and enhance the colour bringing out the dark natural tones of the slate an impregnating sealer has been used which will be absorbed into the stone but also protect them from spillages.

Sealed patio slabs
Sealed patio slabs

Add garden lights to your patio

Garden lights installed into decking and sleeper wall

With the patio construction pretty much complete and now laid in the 3 major zones around the perimeter of the house (garage, kitchen/dining room, side return) it’s now time to start building the periphery parts of the hard landscaping.

Decorative stone was used to fill the voids around the guttering down pipes and down the gap between the paving slabs and the boundary fence that borders the side return.

Decorative stone in voids
Decorative stone in voids

With the sleeper wall already built in front of the garage patio area, to act as a retaining wall for the earth which forms the lawn part of the garden, the rest of the kitchen/dining room patio needs a boarder to edge the late slabs. To fulfil this requirement and to enhance the overall look of the garden a scheme was developed that involved laying some decking boards in two rows in front of the slabs on a wooden frame.

Frame for decking board patio edging
Frame for decking board patio edging

The frame for the decking boards was made up of 48mm x 74mm timber screwed to wooden piers that have been laid in concrete over a base of Type 1 and hardcore at 1200mm intervals. All the timber used is pressure treated and then painted with wood protection paint to extend the life of the timber. Flat timber screwed into the decking boards and laid on the patio was used to keep the frame in place while the concrete set around the wooden piers. Once the concrete had set the decking boards were screwed in place using stainless steel deck screws that would not rust and corrode over time with exposure to the elements.

Decking boards laid for patio edging
Decking boards laid for patio edging

Low voltage LED decking lights were installed in the deck boards and at the bottom of the sleeper wall.
It is also planned that spike lights will be installed under the trees at the bottom of the garden. This will help to create an inviting and chilled atmosphere for evening enjoyment in the garden.

GaGarden lights installed in sleeper wallrden lights installed in sleeper wall
Garden lights installed in sleeper wall

Enhance your property by laying a new patio – part #6

Grouting patio joints

One thing you don’t want when you’ve just grouted your patio is to have torrential rain in the next 24 hours which is exactly what we got. The grout had time to harden to a reasonable state but the excessive rain did cause what is known as effervescence where the salts bubble up to the surface and cause white staining on the grout. The grout is supposed to be a charcoal gray colour. We will have to let the grout harden fully for a few weeks and then deal with the discolouration by applying an acid effervescence cleaner to correct the problem.

Salts effervesce from grout
Salts bubble up and effervesce from grout due to heavy rain directly after application

Where the ground level had been graded and lowered below the concrete surrounding the fence posts this was structurally improved using bricks and a cement render made up of 3 parts sharp sand to I part cement and some SBR to aid the mixture sticking to the concrete.

That is the patio at the side of the house pretty much complete except for finishing and now it was time to move onto the patio round the back of the house.

The first job was to sort the frame that fits onto the foul sewer inspection chamber. This will have a slab insert in order to minimise the visual impact of the inspection chamber access cover. The inspection chamber in this instance is a Osma Drain 4D960 inspection chamber and the frame being used is a Clark Drain Recessed cover. The spigot on the Clark Drain allows for different internal diameters of inspection chamber but does not offer much adjustment up and down so the spigot from the old Osma Drain frame cover 4D961 was cut off and the first ring of the spigot from the Clark Drain was also sawn off. This allowed the spigot from the Osma Drain to fit inside the Clark Drain spigot and to be glued using PVC pipe weld adhesive giving a very strong and airtight seal and also allowing some vertical adjustment when setting the frame in place.

Spigot sawn off from Osma Inspection Chamber
Spigot sawn off from Osma Inspection Chamber
Osma Drain spogot glued into Clark Drain spigot
Osma Drain spogot glued into Clark Drain spigot

Next the riser for the inspection chamber needed to be cut down to allow for the height of the cover frame. The riser was marked round with tape to the correct height and then cut with an oscillating multitool. The burrs were cleaned up with a coarse emery cloth.
Inspection chamber riser marked ready to be cut
Inspection chamber riser marked ready to be cut

The height around the riser was built up with type 1 and tamped down then mortar was trowelled into place around the riser and the frame set in place to the correct height of the surrounding slabs and with a slight fall matching the rest of the patio. The slabs around the frame were cut using an electric tile cutter which had a water tray for the blade to suppress dust. Also water was dribbled onto the slab while it was being cut. The operators wore face guard, face mask and ear defenders. Type 1 was added around the frame and tamped down and then the slabs were set in place.
Inspection chamber access cover frame set in place
Inspection chamber access cover frame set in place

Enhance your property by laying a new patio – part #5

Slabs laid ready for grouting

With the ground levelled, falls going the right way around the property and the MoT type 1 spread over and compacted with a petrol plate the slab laying is now well under way.

Slab laying well under way
Slab laying well under way

The cement was mixed with a 4 to 1 sand to cement ratio and some plasticizer was added to aid workability and the whole mix was made up in an electric cement mixer.
Cement mixer setup under gazebo in case it rains
Cement mixer setup under gazebo in case it rains

When laying the slabs the mortar bed was built up a couple of centimetres above the height that was needed to allow for the slab to be levelled once put in place.
Cement mortar bed waiting for the slab to be laid
Cement mortar bed waiting for the slab to be laid

The slabs were set a few millimetres above the edge of the channel drain and because the slabs had a waney edge they were set back at least 10 millimetres from the drain itself.
Channel drains taped up ready for grouting
Channel drains taped up ready for grouting

A rubber mallet was used to tap the slabs down in order to level them and a spirit level was used to make sure the slab was level with the surrounding slabs and also that the fall on the slab was going in the right direction. The cement was checked to make sure that there were no voids under the slab. On the smaller slabs to borrow a phrase from the tiling world the slabs were “back buttered” with styrene butadiene copolymer or SBR for short to aid adhesion and stop them from popping up when trodden on although this will be mitigated by the grouting process.
Small slabs back buttered with SBR to aid adhesion
Small slabs back buttered with SBR to aid adhesion

Once the slabs were laid they were allowed to set for a couple of days. It was time to start the grouting process. The channel drains were taped up to protect them from the grouting process. A gunnable cement mortar grout mix was being used. The mortar being used has structural properties to give the overall patio strength once all the bedding mortar and grout have set fully after a few weeks. The mortar was mixed with the right amount of water in a bucket using a mixing paddle.
Mixing gunnable grout mortar using paddle mixer
Mixing gunnable grout mortar using paddle mixer

Once the grout mortar had been mixed properly it was placed into the mortar gun with a grout mortar piping bag having had the nozzle cut off to allow the mixture to flow easier. The mortar grout mixture in this case is fairly runny anyway and flows easily.
Grout piping bag
Using grout piping bag to fill grout gun

The grout was applied into the slab joints after well watering the joints and mopping up any standing water. The grout was allowed to set for a couple of minutes before being struck off with a grout strike. A sponge was used to wipe off the excess from the top of the slabs being careful not to rake out the grout from the joint.

Enhance your property by laying a new patio – part #4

Slate Tiles

With most of the below ground works finished it’s now time to start building the ground back up.
A green led laser level (more easily seen in daylight) was used to mark the highest point of the patio Then allowing for other factors like depth of service pipes below ground, slope of the lawn and distance of the slabs below the damp proof course (DPC) an amount of overall fall was calculated and then marked at the opposite end of the patio. In this case a fall of 40mm over 6 metres was achieved which is a little under the desirable gradient of 1 in 80.

Stakes were banged into the ground and string run between them to mark the top of the slabs from front to back. Allowing for the thickness of the slab, 40mm for the cement base and 80mm for the MoT type 1 subbase another string was run at the subbase level to show where the type 1 needed to be filled up to or ground shaved off to allow for the 80mm of type 1.

The ground was prepared with pickaxe and shovel to make it the right level for the Mot type 1. Excess spoil removed in the process was sieved through an automatic rotary soil sieve to create a pile of topsoil and another pile of stones which would be used as the first layer below the type 1 subbase. Any difficult areas of the old concrete patio base were broken up with a hex shank electric breaker using a wide flat chisel.

Once the ground was prepared the stones extracted from sieving the spoil were spread over the proposed patio area as far as they would go and then compacted using a petrol compactor plate (wacker plate). Then the rest of the required thickness was made up by the MoT type 1 and compacted using the plate.
The next step was to set the channel drain. This was installed 3mm below where the top of the patio slab would finish and laid in a bed of 4 to 1 sand and cement. End caps were put on at the highest ends using PVC pipe weld cement and the lengths were cut to clip into the 4 way corner unit which joins into the top of the soakaway pipe via the P trap through a double socket coupler joined to a piece of pipe. A gap of 10mm was left between the channel drain and the wall to allow gun injected patio mortar to be applied once the patio had been laid.

Now it was time to lay the first patio slab. The first slab required a cut to make it fit round the base of the concrete fence post. The cut was made with the combination of an angle grinder and an electric tile cutter using wet cut diamond blades. The electric tile cutter has a tray which you fill with water that the blade runs through to aid dust suppression. A facemask, face guard, protective goggles and ear defenders were used to protect the operators. Water was dribbled on to the slab while the slab was being cut to help the dust suppression process even more.

Type 1
Type 1 laid and pounded into flat surface.

Enhance your property by laying a new patio – part #3

New drainage pipe for channel drain

Round by the garage and the back door of the property the wall of the garage is built into the bank of the house next door. The gravel boards of the boundary fence also act as a retaining wall holding the earth back. Rainwater runoff from higher up the road runs into the patio area of the house and makes the external walls wet when it rains hard. There is a Damp Proof Course (DPC) which prevents water penetrating internally.

To alleviate the effects of the surface rainwater run off a channel drain will be installed against the kitchen wall and continued round at the bottom of the patio running parallel with a new retaining wall which will hold back the earth from the garden. The retaining wall is made of new sleepers of lengths 1.2 metres and 1.8 metres and widths 100mm x 150mm. A narrow trench was dug and filled with type 1 with a sand and cement base that the first lot of sleepers were laid on with haunching (cement support) applied to the back of the sleeper wall once the wall was finished.

Type 1 and cement base for sleeper wall
Type 1 and cement base for sleeper wall

The sleepers were staggered to match the height of the earth that would be retained behind the wall. They were cut and offered up dry to start with to make sure they fitted together properly. Holes were drilled in the sleepers to accept 1.2 metre long 20mm steel rods which were passed through the sleepers and hammered into the ground with 2 part polyester resin being used to glue the rods inside the sleepers. The sleepers were also glued in place with a quick setting Silyl Modified Polymer glue.

Sleeper wall partially built
Sleeper wall partially built

Once the wall was complete it was left for 24 hours to allow the adhesives to set properly.

Sleeper wall finished
Sleeper wall finished

The rainwater which comes off the garage roof is carried away by a gutter into a downpipe. An inspection pit was dug following the line of the downpipe from the gutter in order to trace where the water was draining to.

Inspection pit to reveal drainage pipe leading to soakaway
Inspection pit to reveal drainage pipe leading to soakaway. Main main foul water sewer pipe routed above.

The downpipe exited into a 110mm 90 degree bend by means of a flexible reducer pushed over the pvc pipe. The inspection pit revealed that the pipe went under the shared services foul water drainage pipe and continued into a soakaway. A trench was dug to run the pipe which would be teed off and run up to the channel drain.

Inspection pit to reveal drainage pipe leading to soakaway
Inspection pit to reveal drainage pipe leading to soakaway. Main main foul water sewer pipe routed above.

In order to carry away the water from the new channel drain it was proposed that the rainwater drainage pipe for the garage roof gutter would have a tee placed into it and a new trench would be dug for a pipe to be laid and run upto a P trap. The use of a P trap was just to stop any possible gases coming up from the soakaway and exiting into the atmosphere at ground level through the channel drain. The P trap has a downpipe that joins the bottom of the corner joint of the channel drain. Here the pipe is cut to accept the slip coupling and double socket branch.

Pipe cut ready to fit slip coupling
Pipe cut ready to fit slip coupling

Then the slip coupling is inserted with pipe lubricant …

Fitting slip coupling
Fitting slip coupling with joint lubricant to aid movement of coupling up and down pipe.

… and the double socket branch is inserted into the pipe.

Double socket branch tee fitting
Double socket branch tee fitted to facilitate installation of drainage pipe to channel drain.

Then a piece of straight pipe was inserted into the double socket outlet and 90 degree adjustable double socket bend was inserted into that which allowed a long piece of pipe to be run upto a 15 degree bend and into the P trap. The P trap was placed on type 1 and then a piece of broken patio slab to give a firm base. Once the P trap outlet was judged to be in the correct place to accept the channel drain outlet 10mm pea shingle gravel was shovelled into the trench to backfill the space around the pipes.

Trench backfilled with 10mm gravel pea shingle
Trench backfilled with 10mm gravel pea shingle

Enhance your property by laying a new patio – part #2

subbase collapse under patio

This is part 2 of the patio replacement project which we are starting for the summer. We have pulled up the old patio slabs revealing the thin sand base layer that the original house builders put down.

A pickaxe is useful for levering up the old slabs and breaking up the ground while an electric breaker is useful for any concreted areas.

Be careful when pulling up the slabs and using hand tools like a pickaxe or shovel or power tools such as a breaker to remove earth that you do not damage any underground services like water supply or waste pipes. It’s always a good idea to know where the services run and how close to the surface they are when digging out spoil.

Here you can see a drainpipe which is quite close to the surface where it exits the down pipe.

Be aware of existing service pipes
Be aware of existing service pipes

Round by the rear of the garage the slabs had sunken quite badly where they butted up to the garage wall. This was most prominent near the rain gutter down pipe which could highlight that there is a leak in the pipe below ground level which is washing out the substrate causing the slabs to sink.

To investigate this a large trench was dug in order to find out the state of the pipework.  A visual inspection revealed the pipework looked undamaged and pouring some water into the gutter showed that there were no leaks.

What digging down did reveal was that the garage had been built using a block and beam construction and the void under the floor had been left open underneath the outer most precast beam. Because the garage is single skin the wall had been built on top of the beam which meant there was no outer facing brickwork laid down to the concrete foundation footing level and therefore the void was open allowing the collapse of the patio substrate into the void.

Patio sub-base collapsed into block and beam void
Patio sub-base collapsed into block and beam void

In order to remedy this some pressure battens were glued to the brick and block piers and pressure treated gravel boards were screwed onto the battens underneath the outer most beam. This will stop the hardcore and type 1 that we put back into the trench from collapsing into the void underneath the block and beam garage floor.

Shuttering to block and beam void
Shuttering to block and beam void

Then the trench was back filled with pea shingle, hardcore and sharp sand.

Back fill of pea shingle, hardcore and sand put back in service trench
Back fill of pea shingle, hardcore and sand put back in service trench

Once the slabs had been pulled up and removed the next step was to workout how much spoil to remove in order to get the correct fall on the patio. This was done using a long spirit level and some stakes banged into the ground to mark the level of the top of the slab that would allow a fall of between 25mm per metre and 25mm per 2 metres. Then dig out enough of the ground to allow the required 100mm of type 1, 50mm of mortar and then the thickness of the slab.