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Back to Front Hardscapes
The Importance of the Sequence of Installation

Alli Rael, LC/DBM


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Go Pavers, a paving contractor based in the Los Angeles area, was hired for the complete renovation of this home's hardscapes in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Led by project manager Kobi Dan, the crew of up to 8 workers designed and installed 3,000 square feet of paving plus a retaining wall, water feature and fire pit over the course of two months.


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The pavers for the backyard were installed first, over a bed of Class 2 road base and paving sand. "We started in the back and paved our way forward," said Dan. "It doesn't make sense to pave the driveway and create a new front yard, then have workers going over that brand new area." On this elevated patio, a fire pit was installed using the same natural stone veneer found on the retaining wall.


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.

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The retaining wall starts in the backyard beyond the fire pit and undulates its way to the sidewalk in the front of the house, stretching nearly 60 feet total. After building a flat wall of concrete masonry units, the team drew a line across the wall to indicate the fluctuations in height, going from six feet tall to just 18 inches. Once drawn, the line served as a guide to slice the top off. After the cuts were made, the masonry units were veneered with a combination of 'golden honey ledge' and 'golden white' natural stone veneer, and topped with a 'Granada white' colored cap.


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A water feature marks the center of the retaining wall. While it is topped with the same cap as the wall, the sides are wrapped with travertine. Water goes down over mosaic travertine on the front.


"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.

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At the homeowner's request, different pavers were used in the front and back, though accents from each yard are placed within the other. The oval planter serves two purposes. "The planter is giving some balance between hardscape and landscape," explained Dan. "It's also a divider between the stairs and the driveway."


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The driveway was excavated a few inches deeper than the backyard, and has 6 inches of road base to accommodate vehicular traffic. A diamond made from the same style pavers found in the backyard is its centerpiece. "The customer wanted to bring something from the back to the front so everything ties together," said Dan. The diamond is positioned to the center of the garage door and the center of the upward slope. "We first paved the driveway with the desired pavers, then we marked where we wanted the diamond," he continued. "We cut the area, then installed it."


Special Features
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.

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In addition to retaining the slope, the wall served the purpose of expanding the side yard. "We created more space between the house and the property line," explained Dan. The biggest challenge they encountered for this project was the excavation for the retaining wall, which took three days. "Thousand Oaks has a lot of areas that are very rocky," he said, so they used air breakers to get the rocks into manageable pieces for removal.


"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.

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Rock drills and paving breakers are available in hydraulic, gas, or pneumatic (air-powered) models. This rock drill, Skidril's HD20, is hydraulic powered and equivalent to a 55 pound air drill.


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.







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June 22, 2017, 11:59 pm PDT

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Last Updated 06-19-17