patio retaining wall project

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Time posted: September 29, 2006

So with the outline established, it was time to dig in, literally. I saved the sod I removed and used it elsewhere in my lawn. In doing so, I dug down quite a bit below the level you otherwise might. In order to keep the blocks on a level, well-drained surface, I backfilled beneath the first course with gravel, then topped it with sand. I leveled each individual brick both front-to-back and side-to-side. And I used a string line to keep the relative height with respect to the patio surface. I made a depth gauge out of a piece of PVC conduit scrap to take measurements quickly as I laid in the first course.

leveling the first course
first course is the toughest
just getting started
working in the shade was critical

By the time I got to the straightaway portion, I had a pretty good technique developed that let me move quickly. I would empty a bag of sand into the trench on top of my base layer of gravel, then mound it up by hand to a height about an inch or two over the desired height of the bottom of the first course of bricks. This lets you set a brick and mash it down to the desired height, which is easier than shoring it up to the desired level.

first course
it got easier in the straight portion
setting stones in sand
mash sand down, don’t shore it up

So once the first course is set and leveled, it gets a lot easier. It’s like working with 20 pound Legos.

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