How To Clean Up a Backyard Walkway and Concrete Steps

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    One of our friends asks about their backyard. Its spring and they recently purchased their home and they want to clean up the backyard and make it more usable. One of the projects they have in mind is an area around some concrete steps that are in disrepair and they want to connect the area between the steps and the patio so they aren’t walking on dirt to get into the backyard.

    This is a pretty easy project that should take a weekend to accomplish. The first thing you want to do is decide on the area between the steps and the patio. Do you want to put in pavers or bricks or would you like to pour a concrete pad?

    The easiest thing to do since they won’t be really invested in this project and want to keep the price down is to install some square concrete pavers. They come in 1 foot square however if you see another pattern that you like you may find some that are 1 foot x 2 foot. It will depend on what you want.

    Measure the area that you want to fill and draw it out on a piece of paper. Using a ruler convert feet into inches and your 1foot pavers will be 1×1 inches on the paper. Count how many you will want to use to fill the area and it will give you a good idea of what to expect and how many to buy.


    The first thing you want to do is remove the grass in that area far enough down that the paver and at least an inch of sand can fit under the height of the patio. The completed project should be level with the patio.

    Now get a bunch of bags of play sand at the home store. You will need more for repairing / cementing the wall so don’t worry about overbuying sand. I would say for that area get 5 bags.

    Level the area with the sand and using a garden grass rake which is the steel rake with 3inch tines that don’t bend compact the sand and dirt. Install your square pavers by starting at the corner where the wall contacts the patio. Use a level and a 2×4 piece of wood to make sure the line of pavers are all the same height and slightly leaning away from the wall so water will shed onto the grass.

    That is pretty much it for that area. Keep an eye on it and if after it rains the pavers get out of level due to settling add some more sand.

    Repairing a concrete retaining wall

    There is a small retaining wall that seperates the patio from the backyard. Removing it is an option however if you want to keep it the first thing you need to do is clean it. Using a garden sprayer fill the container with a 50% bleach mixture. If you have a gallon sprayer fill it half way with bleach. Now spray the wall and make sure that it remains wet for the next 20 minutes at least. You may see immediate improvement of the mold and moss growing but you probably will have to apply a second or third spraying and then use a broom or brush to get off all the dirt and remaining debris.

    Once the wall is clean you can then check for any loose concrete.

    Our mission will be to apply about 1/2 inch of a mortar cement to the wall and fill in any holes or lose spots.

    To mix the mortar you will need 1 bag of portland cement and a couple bags of play sand. You should have some left over from the pavers.

    Mix the mortar with 2 shovels of Cement to 5 shovels of sand. It doesn’t have to be a perfect measurement but try to get close.

    Mix the two parts with a little bit of water. You want it very thick and not runny. It might actually seem a bit too dry but you will be forcing it onto the wall with a trawl and the pressure will make the surface smooth. Using a corner trawl get the top corners of the wall to make them rounded. Work slow but in a constant way so that you can complete the whole project from beginning to end in the same day or few hours.

    Although it is assumed that you just washed your wall before beginning the mortaring if you waited a day or two you want to wet the wall with your garden hose so that the water in the mortar isn’t sucked out by the dry wall.


    Final Note

    Making a repair of this type could last you one season or maybe five but don’t expect it to last forever. It is more than likely that you will have to make additional repairs or change your mind about the whole design due to deterioration over the winter months that can be harsh on concrete.

    Whatever you do you will be improving your home and that is always a good thing.



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