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Sideway makeover with low-level decks and paving

Having an Impact
Having an Impact


Merbau low-level decks and mortar pavers surrounded by crushed rocks for a side walkway, with garden beds dressed in Merbau.




The project


At my laundry exit, there was about a 200mm+ drop from the bricks to the ground level, which was not ideal, and it was a little awkward stepping out the sliding door. I found myself stepping out wide from the tiles to the ground to avoid stepping on the sliding door rails. Another problem was that when I was carrying the laundry out, I had to step sideways which was also an issue.




Side view of the area.




The view from directly opposite.




I really wanted to have a nice continuous flow out of the door and to have some firmer footing as I stepped outside. I designed decking that is approximately 2.8sqm in size, anchored from the brick wall. I opted to build bearers and joists in one layer.


laundry deck04.png


With the decking being a freestanding deck, here is my design for the bearers and joists, with the bearers consisting of 2 x 90 x 45mm. The posts are 600mm on centre front to back, and 1500mm on centre left to right.




laundry deck03.png


laundry deck.png


The first image is the completed design. Total decking space is 2.1 x 1.2m.




All designed in Sketchup.




I had no trouble digging five of the six holes but due to the location of the deck, the concrete holding up the garden wall post was in the way. Also, there was a French drain style PVC pipe very much in the middle of the pathway filled with scoria. It was an absolute pain to dig out.


I took the opportunity to build the deck structure in the garage, being a nice flat surface to work on.

I positioned the deck with additional supports and secured the posts to the deck frame so they were floating in the holes and filled them up with cement.



Once completed, I brought it out and did a test fit to check clearances to see if there was any need to adjust. Lucky I did, as I had made a measurement error, but I'm thankful I had an offcut to fix the issue. So far so good. I screwed in a couple of scrap blocks of timber on the garden bed under the bearers to use as a reference and to make sure the deck is level.


Here you can see I had to move the post location however it doesn't compromise the structure.








I decided that the posts of the garden bed needed a 5-10mm trim. That way, I could completely cover them with Merbau for a clean look rather than having to trim the Merbau around the posts. I also decided to remove the step in the garden bed so it's flush with the deck. That was easy enough, as I needed no additional materials to do that.




Although I used high quality fixings for the Merbau that are self-drilling, straight shank, I noticed that if I pre-drilled and countersunk the holes slightly there was next to no fibre tear out around the screws for an even tidier look.




The decking part was fun. Trying to get them dead straight was a slow task but very rewarding. And the final product looks even better than the design. Then I added some steps, one on either side, for a gradual transition into the future paving.








Now with that part completed, I was able to get started on the next part. 




Like the previous deck, I found it really easy and convenient to build the frame in my garage. Then once the ground work was completed, and since the frame wasn't too large and heavy, I could easily bring it outside without having extra stuff in the way.


Using a few scrap pieces of timber, I was able to prop the frame in the desired location and attach the posts to the frame, essentially suspending the deck while the concrete was setting. (I got lucky this time round and found out my friend could score me a post hole digger for a few days, so I went to town. I saved my back and several hours work.) 




The fact I could just unscrew the deck frame from the posts and move it so I could backfill the holes and level out the ground was awesome. It just sped things up a lot.




The ground was covered with weed mat and the deck was treated with a layer of Protectadeck. That was something I overlooked on the previous deck but if I really want to go through the hassle I can always unscrew the Merbau and do the same treatment.




And just like before, I added a step to match. Decking is a slow and steady craft. 






I took as much time as I needed to get every angle perfect.


Sh_arp_Edge (1).png




I may have had a couple of roundabout ways of doing things but for a result that I really want, I am willing to put the time in to make it spot on.


I constructed garden beds while I was clearing the road base out and removing clay and junk back down to the desired level. It was a total construction site for several weeks doing this between work hours.








I had completely relevelled the ground and compacted all of the road base back to the height I needed the ground to be. I went a little over the top on road base but it was only because I had so much there already. I just used most of it up which was great because I didn't have a lot left over.


The form work was the easiest part of the job. The most annoying thing was my batteries would die before I could even cut a whole sheet of plywood into 100mm strips, so it just took longer than I had hoped. But I got it all done, so that's the main part, and I kept all the pieces to reuse when I start the other side.




The concrete pour was by far the most difficult and back-breaking job. Not only was access an issue, but I had to shovel in from the middle out because I didn't want to roll over on the form and damage it or break a peg and mess up my levels. I did put reinforcing mesh inside each paver, too.




Laying down the first paver was exciting. I just put a couple pieces of scrap Merbau underneath to see where it would sit. It turned out to be the correct thickness to raise it to the height of the string line, and with the paver at the finished height, I was able to visualise the end result and see how well my planning went.




The whole path laid down with mortar. It took a couple of days, as I was going through mortar and slurry slowly as to not waste materials. I went back and filled the gaps as best I could afterwards to have no risk of the pavers being broken on the corners due to there not being any mortar supporting underneath.




The two garden beds I built were covered in Merbau before filling the voids. I'm glad I did this because it would have been harder to do it after filling the beds with soil.




I ordered soil from my local supplier, plus surplus for the vegie patch out the back. Wheelbarrowing this stuff was so easy. It was extremely satisfying rolling over the pavers with the wheel not getting stuck or falling between the gaps. I was super thrilled at the sturdiness and the feel of the pavers. My confidence level has definitely gone up.


I purchased the dwarf variety of mondo grass because the regular variety would be too tall and cover the pavers too much, and I want a tidy appearance. In order to save a little bit of money, I split the tubes of grasses up into two or three bunches and spread them out evenly. The result is smaller plantings but in two to three years I hope 80 percent of the space will have filled out nicely.



And finally crushed rocks for filling in the space. I intentionally filled soil to approximately 40mm below the paver height so I could fill the rest with rocks. The choice of landscaping rocks came down to affordability. Had I gone with black river stones the cost would have been absurdly high. Twelve bags of these black crushed rocks were a bargain and when they are wet the colour is so nice. Everything about the selection was right: the colour, the size, and the price.




I put some poly pipe and drip line in the garden beds for when the irrigation gets hooked up with a timer but for now they are just in place and not being used.


Here is the side as of today. I planted some seaside daisies and some other daisies for now, and hopefully they take off and fill out nicely.




Home Improvement Guru

Afternoon @TimGeo 

Now that looks spectacular! It looks like a professional has done the work, Ilove the effort you have gone to with the pavers, seriously it has paid of hugely!

I am sure I remember seeing you ask questions about the project ages ago and then seeing it now :smile: Well done!





Growing in Experience

Looks amazing. great transformation 

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