Over the years I have jumped into many a DIY project with little or no experience. I figure that unless it involves plumbing or electricity, there isn’t much that I can permanently damage. Right?
Right. I have a saw, so I cut stuff up. I have a drill, so I put holes in things. Ta-da! Most of the stuff turns out crooked (no measuring skills), wobbly (no construction knowledge), or messy (no patience). This does not stop me.
But over the years, concrete has stopped me. Any project that involved a “dig hole and add cement mix…” step meant that the game was over and I was no longer involved. But a few weekends ago I was hanging out with my sister, who casually mentioned that she had been using concrete to fix a few things in her basement. Then my dad mentioned that he was ripping out concrete with Grandpa’s old maul.
I figured that if my baby sister could handle the stuff and my dad had the tool to remove it in case of disaster, I was ready. Enter the Quikrete Walk Maker, a lovely little tool that makes walk ways and patios and what-not out of many bags of cement.
Many, many bags of cement. And by many, I mean 12. “Bah!” you are thinking. “12 isn’t that many.” Let me assure you that a dozen bags are plenty. It felt like a billion, as heavy as the stinkers are. Plus it’s dirty and ponderous (which is just another way to say heavy, but it bears repeating).
A word of caution, ladies. There is a good reason you don’t see many female masons. The women’s liberation movement is all well and good, but unless that movement gave you some manly muscles, you’re going to want a man involved somewhere to heft that stuff for you. Or, at the very least, find your burliest female friend and have her help you.
(You might want to leave out the use of the word burly when you ask her for help, though. That might not go so well.)
This post should not be taken as a tutorial on how to make your own patio. Merciful heavens, no. There are actual directions and websites out there with better directions, like the one above. Take this post as encouragement if you’re not sure you can do it. You can totally do it.
You’ll need to have a clear spot, and all your bags of cement mix ready. As for tools, I used a Rubbermaid container (as a bowl), a shovel (as a wooden spoon), and a little garden spade (as the butter knife that smooths out the frosting). It all worked just fine, except the spade’s handle kept falling off and it drove me crazy. But other than that, it was cheap and fun.
Once you get the cement mix into your mixing container, add some water until it’s a little less runny than pancake batter but not as thick as cookie dough. I found it easier to work with a 1/2 bag at a time, because mixing 80 pounds at once is HARD. Then you scoop it out with the shovel and into the concrete form. Use a trowel or spade to smooth out the top, then lift off the form and presto! You have a smushy patio stone. You’ll want to smooth out the tops again, then move right along to the next stone.
When it dries (the next day or so), add a few bags of paver sand between the cracks. Add patio furniture and enough wood chips to cover all mistakes, and then sit back and admire your hard work.
Those of you who know me are reading this and shaking your heads. You’re wondering if it will last the summer. You’re wondering if it’s even. You’re wondering if it’s square to the house.
Your concerns are justified, because I really don’t know if it will last, either. And no, it’s not even. The table wobbles like a drunken sailor. And no, it’s not square to the house because I eyeballed it.
But we shall not speak of these things. We shall not speak of them. Just tell me it’s beautiful and get me something to prop up the west leg of the table, please.