Widening the Front Steps

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

For the past couple of years we have spent all of our time and energy working on projects inside the house.  Andrew has tried every spring so far to convince me that we should hire a lawn care company to help turn our pathetic patchy weed-scape into a luscious green lawn worthy of being seen in the same neighborhood as those of the beauties that surround us.  We're talking real first-world lawn envy.  Every year, I have said "next year."  

So.... he finally held me to it.

While hubby was having his lawn envy, I had a wishlist of other curb appeal projects.  Since some of our landscaping dreams for the front of the house included hardscape items that would tear up the lawn, we decided to get those out of the way first.  

The front yard had a few trouble spots that we wanted to fix: the entry, the garden design, a depressed area in the center of the lawn, and the absence of a tree.

We planted a tree a few weeks ago, which crossed one thing off our list.  It's a Pink Flowering Dogwood and I am so excited for this baby to bloom!  It should blend into the Bradford Pears that fill the front lawns of our neighborhood in terms of size (eventually), but I'm so excited to see the pink flowers against all the white in the neighborhood.

As far as the steps, we wanted to make them wider so they would match the width of the existing landing, which is about 6'.  As it is, most people don't like using our front door because of how narrow the original steps are, and these awful bushes on either side encroach into the already narrow space, making it a tight squeeze.  Besides that, the builder slapped them in without much prep work and the angle is terrible.  It feels like you are walking up a huge incline even though the ground barely slopes here.  If we leveled the area, we would actually have space for two steps versus the original one, making the entry even more spacious and comfortable.

Researching our options for new stairs was rather overwhelming and unfortunately we realized that most stone options were not easy to come by in our area, especially in the 6' width we were dreaming of.  We also considered repouring the steps from concrete and covering them with brick or veneer, but that proved to be just as overwhelming and eventually led us to settle on the fact that increasing the size and opening the area up would be amazing regardless of the material we used.  Plus, making the concession to do plain poured concrete steps lowered the cost of the project and made it easier for me to convince Andrew to recreate the sidewalk with pavers!

Thankfully, my dad is a pretty handy guy and a super hard worker, so between him and our oldest, AJ, the bushes came out and the old steps and sidewalk got busted up in about an hour.

Then the real work began.  In order to lay the pavers we had to dig the entire area (plus about 6" on each side to allow space to work and place the edging) to a depth of about 7".  This was the most labor intensive part of the whole process and please take me seriously when I say it was a lot of hard work.  If it wasn't for my dear old dad, we never would have gotten past this point.

The silver lining was that it also created a lot of dirt.  Since the dirt had to go somewhere, we decided to dump it into "the hole".  This large sunken area right in the middle of our front yard was another item on our wish list to fix.  Since the opportunity presented itself, we decided to use what we had and fix two problems at once.  In the end, we had more than enough dirt to fill in the hole, another area that had needed filling, backfill around the pavers, and we still had a couple wheelbarrows to dump elsewhere.  It never ceases to amaze me how much dirt fits in such a tiny space.  Of course, we realize that we will need to add more dirt to this area once this settles, but I intend to purchase some nice topsoil for this later in the year once the fill dirt settles a bit on it's own.  I have had enough tamping for now, thanks, nature can just take it's course and we will deal with the half-brown lawn for a few months.

You can really see what a mess we had in our yard during this process!  It definitely motivated us to keep the project going and finish it up as quickly as possible.  Hubby built our form and my dad filled it in and did the finishing work on the concrete.  Because the day we poured was so sunny and hot, my dad was convinced he needed to build a shade to block the sun and prevent the steps from drying too quickly... I'm not sure that's a thing, but he's a quirky guy and I'm not one to look at free help too critically!

Once the steps were poured, we laid in paver base, tamped like crazy, added leveling sand and finally the pavers.  After the digging was done and the steps were poured, which took four partial days of work, Andrew and I spent about 10 hours in one day on the pavers themselves, but that included some downtime for dinner and kid stuff.  (We hired the older kids to babysit the littles so that we could make this happen, normally we wouldn't have had so much time for both of us to work!)

We absolutely love the transformation!!

Of course, pulling out the ugly bushes and piling a bunch of dirt in the middle of the yard left us with a whole lot of brown and barren-ness, so the garden will be the next thing to tackle from our list.  We need some color!  We definitely have more work to do for our curb appeal, but this was a huge stride towards our goal and probably the biggest thing on our list.  Now we have the focal point with which to build everything else around!  


  1. Are you going to install a fancy railing for your old fart friends?

  2. No railing for my beautiful young friends!!! We really talked about adding a railing, but decided against it for now. We have had several people ask us, though so it might be something that we consider again in the future ;)

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