I have never been afraid to take on any home improvement project. Over the past couple of years, my backyard has suffered as I’ve worked on projects while using it as a storage area. I recently decided to extend the patio out 40 inches x 20 feet.

My initial plan was to use cement paver molds. I diligently dug up and removed all the grass from the area, but upon doing my detailed research, one bag of concrete mix would fill up two molds. My basic estimate would be that I would need at least 10 bags of concrete mix. I quickly lost the desire to have to mix up that much concrete, even if I was doing it one bag at a time.

My next idea was to get a contractor to pour the concrete. I reached out to a couple of different people and they pretty much both gave me the same price. Around $1,700. In my mind since the area had already been dug up, I thought I would have seen something a little cheaper. But their price is their price. Plus the concrete would need to be cured and that would delay my being able to move furniture on it. So I went down my checklist to my next option.

Two years ago, I got tired of mowing the little grassy area between my front sidewalk and my neighbor’s gangway. I had some free paver bricks and decided to put them down.  It worked out well, even though the number of pavers I had wasn’t enough for that small area. But I managed to use regular solid bricks to supplement the pavers. 

My next decision was what kind of pavers to use. The bigger 18 x 18-inch pavers weigh about 40 pounds. Plus they were pricy. I’ve been a major advocate of recycling building materials. Thankfully I found a lady online who had about 200 paver bricks and she was offering them at 3 for a dollar. It took me two trips over two days, but I got the 200 bricks moved from her backyard to mine. 

Although I had removed all the grass from the area, I now had to dig down several inches. I ended up moving all the extra dirt to different areas of my backyard. I needed 12 fifty-pound bags of paver base and 12 bags of sand. Thankfully, people at the store helped load the stuff into my car. But I had to unload it by myself. I began working on it last Tuesday, and by Wednesday I was laying down bricks. As the pile of stored bricks got smaller, I noticed I was barely halfway done with the area. Oh snap, I was short about a hundred bricks.

I began to scour the internet for people selling bricks who were not too far away. Finally I found someone in Romeoville who had about a hundred bricks for the best price of all — free. Although the bricks were green, they were the exact same as the ones I was using. Plus he had a bunch of scalloped cement-edgers. Once home, I began a process of switching out some of the lighter bricks with the green ones.

My goal was to be completely done on Friday. But because of the delay in my running out of bricks, I ended up finishing on Saturday.

Here’s a photo of the finished project.

Arlene Jones, a resident of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, writes a weekly column for the Austin Weekly News, a Growing Community Media publication.

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