Lauren and I were married in the summer of 2002. We bought our first house that fall. The house was a fixer-upper (which when said has the same syllables and cadence as mother-f@%ker). Our first anniversary we decided that instead of doing something/getting gifts, we would build a brick paver-patio off the back of our house. We figured we would get years of use out of a patio, grilling and hosting parties and having fun that it would be worth giving up any type of vacation/anniversary gift. To keep costs down we decided we would do the work ourselves.
The weekend before our anniversary/vacation my friend Bob helped me dig out the 17 by 10 foot area that would become our back patio. I am not a rocket surgeon and Bob (although very smart) is not a brain scientist. It took us the better part of the weekend to figure out how to level the ground that was on a 20 degree pitch.
That Monday, July 14th, was the start of my vacation. I had a few palettes of brick pavers, a few yards of sand and five cubic yards of modified stone (gravel) delivered to my house. All three components of the patio sat on a driveway which I shared with our neighbor. I was determined to have the driveway cleared that day so my neighbors could park their car. Monday July 14th I set out at 8:30 am to clear the driveway. Anyone who has done a paver patio knows that you need to fill the area with modified stone, tamp it down, add sand and then put the bricks into place. Let me tell you, moving five cubic yards of stone, by shovel and wheel barrow, is an incredibly difficult physical feat for a person who is not used to doing that kind of labor.
By 1PM, that Monday afternoon Lauren found me, whimpering, curled up in a semi-fetal position against the garage. She asked me what was wrong and if she could help. A week before we had just found out she was pregnant and I did not want her to exert herself, so of course I said no. She did help with building the patio but all the heavy lifting was done by me. My bones and muscles ached. I was covered in sweat and dirt. My hands were covered in blisters. The mini mountain of five cubic yards of modified stone, that I spent 5 hours moving, still looked like four and half cubic yards on my driveway. I was dehydrated and tired. I felt defeated and I may have started to cry. Lauren said she would get me a sandwich and beer.
When I finished my lunch I set out to finish the project. By that Friday the 18th of July I was done. It was the single most difficult home improvement task I have ever tried. I promised myself I would never do a paver project again. We only got to enjoy the patio for one full summer because the very next year we moved to Florida. I never got a chance to fully appreciate the hard labor, sweat and tears that were put into that project.
A few years, and two houses, later we moved into our current home that needed some serious work on the back patio. The screened-in porch was all rotted and falling apart. The posts that supported the roof were water damaged and rotting. From a safety standpoint we needed to fix it. The concrete slab was uneven and cracked from years of settling. It seemed kind of silly to build a new patio just as we go into winter but it needed to get done before the ground froze. Lauren and I weighed all of the possibilities of doing it ourselves. I started to have flashbacks to the last time we worked on a patio. Tears may have formed in the corner of my eyes and I may have started to involuntarily twitch. I remembered my promise to myself.
Long story short, we hired my brother's neighbor Mike. It took Mike about a week to do the whole thing. He knocked out the old porch, replaced the support posts and did a paver patio. Mike did an excellent job. If you live in the Philly suburbs and are looking to get a patio done, email me and I will get you his number.
The best part of Mike's work is that he did not cry once.
Neither did I.