Back to Front Hardscapes
The Importance of the Sequence of Installation
Alli Rael, LC/DBM
The owners of this residence in Thousand Oaks, Calif., were looking for a change that would expand their useable yard space and tie together their front and back yards. They hired Go Pavers, a Los Angeles-based hardscape contractor, to build an undulating retaining wall that ranges from 18 inches to six feet tall as well as to install new paving, a water feature, planter, and fire pit.
As with every installation, the process began with excavation. The area for the driveway was excavated about nine to 10 inches, and the backyard was excavated six to seven inches. Due to the rocky terrain of Thousand Oaks and the amount of soil to be removed, excavation for the retaining wall took three days.
"Demo and excavation was a lot of work here," said project manager Kobi Dan. The team used air breakers to get the rock into manageable pieces for removal from the site.
Once excavation was complete, installation could begin.
Building From Back to Front
The retaining wall was built first. Stretching 60 feet from the curve around the fire pit to the sidewalk at the front of the house, it was initially constructed 6 feet tall for the entirety of its length.
"We built the wall straight, then drew on the wall how we wanted the curve, then sliced it," explained Dan. "It's much harder than it sounds."
After the concrete masonry units were cut, the wall ranged from an 18-inch seatwall to its original six feet in height. The placement of the wall provided more space between the house and the property line than the original layout, expanding the useable yard.
The backyard pavers were installed next, the fire pit area in 'Mega Lafitte' style pavers and the lower patio in 'Mega Arbel' style. Go Pavers used 4 inches of Class 2 road base underneath an inch of paving sand. The 80 mm pavers were placed on top of the sand, then polymeric sand was placed between the pavers. After compaction, the installation was complete.
The driveway was installed in much the same way, with 'Lafitte' pavers used primarily over 6" of Class 2 road base to withstand vehicular traffic. 'Arbel' pavers provide an accent in the border and decorative diamond.
After the paver installation was complete, the retaining wall was finished with a combination of 'golden honey ledge' and 'golden white' natural stone veneer. A 'Granada' white colored cap was used along the retaining wall.
Going from wall to paving, from backyard to front yard, ensured that the new installation stayed clean while work was ongoing.
In the backyard, a water feature was placed to break up the retaining wall. Its sides are wrapped in travertine, and the front is a mosaic travertine where the water descends. The same white cap that was used on the retaining wall also tops the water feature. The elevated patio in the backyard is home to a fire pit, built out of concrete masonry units with the golden honey veneer.
The front yard is home to a new, oval-shaped planter between the driveway and the steps leading up to the house. "The planter gives some balance between hardscape and landscape," said Dan. It was built in the same manner as the retaining wall, with concrete masonry units cut to the desired height and finished with the natural stone veneer.
A diamond marks the center of the driveway to break up the look of the pavers. The first step to creating the design was calculating where it should go and how big it should be. The diamond was centered to the garage door and centered on the slope of the driveway.
"We paved the entire driveway with the desired pavers, then we marked where exactly we wanted the diamond," Dan explained. "We cut the area then installed the diamond," using different pavers than the rest of the driveway to break the look of the pavers and to tie the front yard to the back.
From planning to completion, the project took about two months, with the installation itself lasting four to five weeks. A crew of up to eight people worked on the 3,000 square foot space during that time.
In areas like Thousand Oaks, Calif., excavation for a job can be complicated by extremely rocky terrain. Go Pavers' project manager Kobi Dan joked about having to use dynamite to break up the rocks at this residence, but in reality, an air breaker was used. Dan described it as a jackhammer powered by an air compressor.
Air powered rock breakers emerged in the mid-1800s as a safer solution to gunpowder rock blasting and a more efficient method than steam powered rock drills. Naturally, pneumatic drills have come a long way in the last 160 years.
Air breakers can run off of compressors as small as 20 cubic feet per minute and go even as high as 120 cfm. Units with smaller compressors weigh less than 10 pounds, while higher-powered models can weigh more than 60 pounds.
They can be used to break concrete, asphalt, or, as demonstrated by the Go Pavers team, rocky terrain to allow installation of retaining wall footing.