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Hints for the yard

Make that Flagstone Patio or Walkway Look Great

After trips to the "Home-Depot" experts of every store around (and hearing each of them say, "Gee, I never tried it for that"), I've found something that works for cement work.

Okay, several books have hints on making a flagstone patio or walk. They talk about the gravel and sand foundation, and dropping shovel fulls of concrete onto the sand, and leveling the mixture to about 2 inches thick, and finally laying the flagstone down. But few books talk about "clean up" -- without which, this patio or walk will look sick.

After smoothing all the edges, between the flagstone (with whatever tool you prefer), there are three tricks (they will tell you) to making the finished product look good.

  1. Use a GOOD paintbrush (never to be used to painting) to smooth out the edges -- cheap brushes leave parts of themselves in the concrete. This is not hard to do, and produces an impressive finish.
  2. Use a sponge to get left over bits of concrete off the flagstones themselves -- and keep cleaning the water dish, or with each dip, you'll bring more concrete back from the dish onto the stone. This is a pain to do, but has good results.
  3. Use Muriatic Acid and a special acid brush (like a scrub brush with a broom handle), and brush off the film. This is dangerous, since the acid is bad stuff. You also need gloves and other protective gear, and this stuff rinses off into the grass near the patio or walk -- which it then kills.

The trick they DON'T tell you, is simply wait until it's dried (but not totally cured -- about 2-4 days). Get a small rotary wire brush (the kind designed for removing rust from metal -- use coarse or fine), and use your simple hand drill. The film left on the stone blows away. The edges (made smooth with the paint brush) blend into the stones. And the surface of the flagstone is not marred or scratched in any way by the brush.

The difference is night and day. We built a 5' wide, 36' long flagstone on concrete walk, over 3 weeks (with about 24 man-hrs of build a row, let it dry, build the next, etc.) A few days later, I used the brush on my drill, and in under 3 hrs, the walk went from okay (nice but messy), to spectacular. I thought nothing of it, until two professionals visited, saw it, and asked the secret.

Hope this helps.

Thanks to Steve Calderone for this hint.. posted 7/26/99

Landscaping and Grading

To protect the foundation and prevent leaky basements:
  • Keep water ditches (swales) clear of leaves and debris. Don't change the grade.
  • Maintain slope of earth away from your home.
  • Refill areas that may settle around foundation walls.
  • Plant shrubbery two or three feet from the foundation to allow for root system.
  • Don't allow sprinklers to wet the house or cause puddles to form alongside the foundation.
  • Keep watering of foundation plantings at a minimum.

To protect erosion:

  • Plant ground cover and/or shrubbery on hills and banks. Keep lawns in good shape.
  • Direct water run-off to avoid washouts.
  • If you move your splash blocks, be certain to replace them.

Keep your tools clean

Keep a bucket of dry sand in the tool shed and before you hang up the shovel or hoe drive it into the sand several times and it will remove most of the loose soil from the blade

Our thanks to Roger Ruth for this tip!

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