Are you tired of tracking mud from your backyard into your house? Would you like to create a more unified and sophisticated garden? One solution is to build a brick or cut stone path. Even if you have never so much as picked up a brick in your life, you can do this project. It only requires an initial investment in the bricks, a means of transporting them home, a shovel, rake, sand or crushed stone, landscape fabric and depending on your lawn you may also need a drainage pipe.
You will find a wide selection of colours and designs in paving stones at most building material stores. Choose patterns and materials that complement your yard. You may also want to consider using more than one type to create an interesting pattern or a border. Be careful not to go overboard, however, by mixing in too many disparate elements.
A yard which slopes away from the house will cause the least drainage problems. Sand and finely crushed gravel under the brick or stone will be sufficient to maintain proper drainage. However, if your yard is more or less flat and you've noticed particularly muddy patches in the past you should build up any depressions with extra soil before you begin work on your walkway. It will also be necessary to install an underground drainage pipe to carry water off your lawn and into a gutter or drainage system.
Decide on the layout of your walkway. Place on your lawn anything which would normally be there such as furniture or a barbecue. There are a number of ways to mark the pathway. You can use stakes with string tied between them to mark the path. Lime sprinkled around the perimeter works well to create a quick visual guide. You can also try a rope or garden hose but these are too easily knocked out of place.
Once you have decided on the layout you can dig the foundation. Using a shovel remove all the grass and rocks to a depth of 8 cm (3 ½ inches). Rake the bottom flat.
If you have persistent weeds or grass in your lawn you should cover the entire walkway foundation with landscape fabric to inhibit their growth. This fabric blocks out sunlight while allowing water to pass through. It's an inexpensive and effective way to prevent grass and weeds from sprouting up in spaces between the brick.
If you have a flat lawn you will need to put down narrow drainage pipes at this point. Drainage pipe is designed with numerous small holes along its upper length so that water seeps into the pipe then is moved off your lawn. The pipes do not need to be joined but you should use one at least every half metre (18 inches). Use a small amount of sand or crushed stone to create a bit of a rise or pillow at the end opposite the drainage point.
Spread sand or finely crushed stone over the fabric (and pipe if you used it) to a depth of about 6cm (2 ½ inches). Rake it flat.
Decide on the pattern you will use.
(Diagram courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens®.)
Depending on the pattern you've chosen, you may need to cut the bricks to create a straight edge along the walkway. Cutters are available from building material stores or you can mark the brick and have it cut for a fee by the store. (Note: The diagonal herringbone pattern requires you to cut a large number of bricks at a 45-degree angle.)
Set the bricks according to the pattern you've chosen. Using a rubber mallet or a hammer cushioned with a scrap piece of wood, tap the bricks into place. When you are finished all the bricks should be approximately the same height though inevitably after a few weeks you'll find you need to tap some in further.
Enjoy your new walkway!