Jake and Karen's house...
...the progress

front view first year photos; serviceberry tree; construction photos; front yard interlock

After 5 years in the house, 2 years of dirt, 3 years of battling weeds, dead grass and crabgrass, we decided it was time to do some serious landscaping. After working on the patio the previous summer, we felt confident to tackle a big front yard interlock project.

The project took about a month to plan. Came up with a sketch, drew detailed drawings, calculated materials and ordered materials. We had to reconfirm the budget which we went over, but not too much (DIY saves major $s). We also had to contact our utilities to get pipes, lines and wires marked. .

Some photos are dated (but aren't necessarily in chronological order) to give you an idea of the timeline. Keeping in mind that all work was done on weekends and evenings, though some very hot, wet, cold weather...during the day and often at night. Our neighbours thought we were crazy and brave. We got to know everyone that took Sunday walks and afternoon dog runs. Being in the front, the progress very publicly tracked! Our work was interrupted by a family wedding, a long weekend in New York City and a week in the Mayan Riviera!

The project had several distinct areas:

  • south side of house between neighbour, we removed the grass, graded it and added round stone
  • front yard, we interlocked the whole area, integrating large planters
  • front porch, interlocked
  • north side of house between neighbour, interlocked down the centre and connected with the patio in the backyard
  • driveway edging, interlocked a strip on the sides and top of the driveway to give a crisp edge
  • circle around city tree

The big project began during the August long weekend. We rented a bobcat and went to work.

Rough design marked out. Sanity check. The orange lines are gas or cable. July 29

Delivery of interlock and HPB (High Performance Bedding). The interlock choice was easy, we used the same product and colour as the patio in the backyard. July 31

The HPB takes up room for 2 cars.

Bobcat delivered (lower left) and disposal bin arrives. August 2, 8am

South side of house. Dead grass, mossy. This area will be river-rocked.

Odie checking out the bobcat at work.

Grass and top layer scraped off and graded.

Loading up the bin... hmm... that bin looks small.

Landscape fabric layed out to stop the dirt and river rock from mixing.

Much faster than by wheelbarrow. Worth the money to rent the bobcat.

Getting there, raking it level is very had work.

Bin's getting full already.

Beside porch is excavated and HPB is layed down, separate from the river rock between the houses. August 3

North side of house. This area will be interlocked, connecting to the neighbour's patio (behind the closed gate) and our patio (to the right).

Starting digging. Some hand digging is required to get clean edges and for working in tight corners.

Digging out the north side for HPB and interlock.

All dug out and HPB dumped in. August 3

Front yard time. Plants had to be nurseried, Japanese maple moved from beside the porch and given a temporary home beside the serviceberry. Hope it makes it. Note the bin is now full and a little dirt pile has started on the driveway. August 4.

Digging the front yard. Note the summery planters on the porch, million bells and canna lilies.

Attended a family wedding. Didn't do any work August 7, 8, or 9.

Started filling in HPB in the front yard. Landscape fabric is below the HPB to stop it from mixing with the dirt and sinking over time. August 12

Good dent in the HPB, half a driveway free.

The dirt pile is much bigger, blocking the road a bit. Oops. The bin was full and already picked up. What will we do with this dirt?!

Wet weather is a nuisance. August 2008 was extremely wet.

Things taking shape. Note the orange cones and rock on the road. That's our too, the river rock down the side of the yard. Thanks to Sam's (local dog) owner for lending us those professional cones.

Cutting the edge of the driveway. A chalk line and professional strength circular saw does the trick. August 16

Where the driveway meets the garage, clean edge there as well for a row of interlock. Running shoe is my brother, thanks for the help! August 17

Cutting all the way around the other side of driveway. Diagonal detail at top of driveway. August 24

Leveling front yard that meets the sidewalk. The planter will not start right at the sidewalk, there will be a row of interlock. This is to make sure the sidewalk plow doesn't damage the wall. August 17

Sidewalk row done.

First row of wall pieces outline the planter. There will be three rows plus the caps. Note there are wires in this planter. Low voltage wire was run for landscape lighting, as well as a 110V outlet for Christmas lights. August 24

The first pillar is placed. The cannas on the porch are huge. August 24

Later that day, the walls are higher, 3 layers. August 24

Where did the dirt go?! I asked the construction workers building the school down the street to please help us cart it away. They gave us a great price. So a second pile begins. August 24

Work begins beside the porch. Evening time. This area connects with the river rock area from earlier. August 26

Leveled beside the porch and working to meet the big planter in the front. August 31

Two planters, one beside the porch and another one in front. The one in front will be the new home of the Japanese maple. This area will also be a step down from the main front area. The grading was very complicated and had to be done in stages. September 1

Square planter done. Note the big blocks to the right of the square planter, this is the step down. This had to be done first to contain the top level HPB for leveling. September 1

Took off to NYC for Sept 5, 6, 7, 8, so no work that weekend

Planters completed except for the caps. Note the wire for landscape lighting in both planters. Unfortunately we ran out of warm weather, the lights will be connected next year. September 21

Installed metal edging as we went along. We then filled in the gap with soil and seeded. September 20

The next step, is the step. The outline for the single step is done as well as the first row of interlock. September 14

Closer look at how the step connects with the planter and the house. It's now fall, the summer flowers are removed from the planters on the porch.

A full view of the front area. In the foreground is the pillar, to the right, the large L shaped planter. Close to the house is the step, the square planter, then the step down to the side of the porch and the long narrow planter. September 14

Leveling the front in the dark. September 15

The front is leveled. The large interlock are on their side so hopefully no visitors or paper boys step in the leveled area. September 18

Centre of the large circle in the middle. Evening work. September 18

Suzy watching the progress. September 18

Circle completed. Now filling in the areas around the circle to connect with the walls, step, etc. Mums are now in the porch planters. A sure sign of fall and cooler temperatures. September 20

Square cut out for city water access.

Note the water access just in front of the pillar. Progress at September 20

More area filled in. September 21

Looking towards the street. Slowly skids of interlock are being emptied. A lot of cuts are required around the circle. September 21

Corner just below the step. September 21

Lots of cuts to connect driveway diagonal cut and step. September 24

Lots of cuts around the circle. The circle comes pre-cut though.

Connecting the circle to the flat are and the driveway soldier course. September 24

A bit of greenery to put back in the front.

Planters filled, mums in bloom on the porch and Japanese maple in the square planter. September 27

Large planter filled with soil. September 28

The other pillar is positioned. Construction adhesive holds everything together. September 28

Completed pillar.

Boxwoods planted. Caps being installed on planters. September 29

Detail of cap installation. At least 18 tubes of construction adhesive was used on the project. September 29

Connecting the driveway to the north pathway down the side of the house. Leveling and beginning driveway soldier course. September 27

Overall view of what the project looks like. Of course still lots to go. October 1

Joined the front to the side. October 9

Time to work down the North side of the house. September 28

Leveling in stages. October 2

Beginning of circle near the gates. October 2

Almost all the way down. View towards backyards. October 5

Close up of circle. View towards the street standing by the gates. Once more, lots of cuts are required. October 5

Connecting to the patio. View towards patio. October 9

Spent a week in the Mayan Riviera, no work from October 11-19.. but lots beach and sand and R&R.

All done, connects to both patios. The neighbour's patio is right at the gate on the left and ours further back by the hose on the right. All the edging is in and the landscape fabric trimmed neatly. November 1

Stairs almost complete. October 9

Close up of stairs. A few cuts to go. October 9

Tamping everything level. November 1

Sweeping in polymeric sand. Polymeric sand hardens when wet to a stiff rubbery texture. It 4-5 times as expensive as regular jointing sand but it inhibits weeds and ants. November 1

Lots and lots of sweeping. Aching arms for days. Tamp, sweep polymeric sand, repeat 3 times. November 1

Misting down the joints to set the polymeric sand. November 1

Tamping and sanding down the side. Note the jacket and gloves, it was freezing. November 2

Semi-after shot. The step is done, the mums are blooming and the leaves are falling. Better 'after' shots will be done in the spring, it got too cold, dark and gloomy. Any suggestions for plants for the rest of the planter? November 1

Completed down the north side. Transplanted ornamental grasses. November 8

Cutting down the bottom of the driveway for the soldier course. A chalk line, laser level and circular saw. October 25

Digging out the bottom driveway soldier course. A friend helps. The pile of dirt is big again. It took extra convincing and much more than a case of beer to get rid of that pile in early December. Note to self, do better disposal estimates. November 2

Filling the bottom with HPB and leveling it. Pile of HPB from the driveway is almost gone. We had a little extra which we freecycled and gave extra river rock to a neighbour for around his shed. November 2

Soldier course at bottom of driveway completed. November 2

Other soldier course is completed. Lines up nicely with the top of the driveway. November 2

Cleaning up the city tree with a small, low circle. Almost all of the interlock is gone. We had 4 extra pieces of pavers, talk about an exact estimate. We did have extra wall pieces which was returned at a 50% restocking fee. Oh well. November 8

City tree circle coming along. Notice how trashed the grass is. Hopefully it comes back next year. November 8

Tree circle completed and filled with soil. What shall I plant there next year? November 9

Leveling limestone screening on the porch. We removed the railings altogether. The edges are the planter caps, glued down. November 6

The porch is leveled and ready to be covered with pavers. We decided to do this to tie it in, instead of trying to stain/paint/cover it with a different material. November 8

Porch in progress. November 8

More cutting as the porch wasn't quite at a right angle to the house. November 9

Porch almost there. How to handle the pillars? November 9

As done as can be for this year. The weather got too cold. Note the green bits in the planter, that's irish moss, could cover the entire base of the Japanese maple. November 9

Circles for the pillars. Temporary caulking. Next year it will be sanded and weatherproofed. We ran out of time. November 30

Porch after. Still needs to be sanded, need new mats too. Next year. November 30

Porch looking towards the square planter with the Japanese maple.

Check back next summer, we'll have better, prettier after photos once the plants are in and there's more greenery.

To do next year: polymeric sand on porch, plantings, connect landscape lighting.