DIY Paver Project: A Backyard Rescue in Action

Curbly A fallen tree left the Bornzstein family with a broken walkway and a lot of work to do. Image:

Follow fellow homeowner and editor Bruno Bornsztein as he, his wife, and his daughter whip up a patio and pave their damaged walkway, with help from HouseLogic.

When we bought our house, it featured a towering American elm tree in the back yard that covered the whole lawn in high, light shade. It was so big a man’s arms couldn’t wrap around it (trust me, I tried). It was, in itself, a reason to go outside and relax.

Then, a tiny insect killed it, ruining our yard in the process. Since the 1960s, the devilish little elm bark beetle has felled hundreds of thousands of trees (infecting them with Dutch elm disease); our giant succumbed almost overnight.

When the mourning was over, the real trouble began. To cut down the tree, the tree-cutter guys (is there a better word for them?) cut a notch in the bottom and literally pushed it over into the yard. Whether that’s standard practice, I don’t know, but it left about a half-dozen beach-ball-sized divots in the ground and ripped up half the walkway, too. We were left with a walkway that was ugly and uneven. Our back yard had a nasty scar in it where the tree had been.

Procrastination, parenthood, and the economy meant things stayed that way for waaaay too long. This year, with the help of, which is funding this project, we’re taking our back yard back. 

Where the tree used to stand, we’re putting in a small patio — a place where my two-year old daughter can hang out and cause trouble. Also, we’re ripping up the old walkway (still in shambles from the cherry-picker truck they drove over it) and replacing it with a brand-new one, made of paver stones.

HouseLogic’s Smart Options: Patio Pavers article offers some great background on different hardscaping options to consider. I’m glad to see a home owner might recover 30% to 60% of patio installation costs when they sell, depending on the area. Although a professionally installed patio can cost $10 to $20 per square foot, I’m hoping to do this project myself (with some help from friends) for way less: around $7 per sqare foot.

We’re going to share the whole process with you in a series of blog posts and videos. I’ll include my tips and material costs so you can get a leg up if you’re planning a similar project. Keep in mind, I’m no landscaping expert, so you’ll be seeing this through the eyes of a novice. Hey, how hard can it be!?

So far, we’ve done some initial research on materials, colors, and process. Next week, we’ll show you our plans (you can help choose colors!), and do some shopping.

Related: Follow the DIY paver project from beginning to end.

Have you installed a patio or walkway in your home? If so, what tips can you share?