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Home Improvement | ON THE HOUSE

Concrete Is Key to an Inexpensive 'Brick' Path

November 24, 1996|JAMES CAREY and MORRIS CAREY | FOR AP NEWSFEATURES

Crossing one's back yard often means negotiating weeds, rocky soil or a muddy mess. Stepping stones can make things a bit easier, but really don't offer the safety and convenience of a continuous brick path. Aside from the practical advantages, a brick path can be quite attractive.

We find that many folks don't install brick paths, patios and terraces because they perceive such installations as expensive or as something beyond their "do-it-yourself" capabilities.

You'll be happy to know that you can have the rich look of brick at about half its cost. And it's a project that you can tackle on your own, using prepackaged concrete mix and easy-to-use concrete molds.

In contrast to pouring large sections of concrete that might require lots of professional help, the concrete molds are small and allow the installer to fabricate a 2-foot-by-2-foot section at a time.

Besides eliminating the need for expensive help, it alleviates the worry of the concrete setting up too fast.

For example, you might want to create a path connecting the side yard to the back yard. Let's say that the total length of the path will be in the neighborhood of 40 feet.

You can easily install 20 feet during one weekend and return the following weekend to complete the job.

To get started, you'll need the following tools and material: one 80-pound sack of premixed concrete for each 2-by-2-foot section, one heavy duty plastic concrete mold, a wheelbarrow or plastic mixing tub in which to mix the concrete, a square shovel, a wood concrete float and a metal concrete finishing trowel.

If you want the look of real brick, you'll also want some powdered pigment to add to the mix.

Begin by making sure that the area where the path is to be located is free of all weeds and debris and is reasonably level. The soil should be thoroughly tamped to minimize future movement. Soaking the area with water the day before will help.

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Lay the plastic mold directly on the ground where you plan to begin. Use a 2-foot level to be confident that the mold is level in both directions. Voids at the perimeter of the base of the mold should be packed with dirt to avoid concrete escaping during the pour.

Empty one 80-pound sack of premixed dry concrete into a wheelbarrow or mixing tub and add enough fresh water to produce a workable consistency--along the lines of a bowl of oatmeal.

Avoid using too much water as it will cause the concrete to set up too slowly and may result in an uneven finish. Use a square shovel to mix the contents.

If you want something other than "concrete gray," add some concrete color at this time. Follow the manufacturers directions remembering that the more powder you add, the darker the finished product.

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Fill the cavities of the mold with the concrete. Don't be afraid to heap the concrete. What appears to be too much will quickly disappear as you tamp the concrete into the nooks and crannies of the mold to eliminate voids and air pockets. A small stick will serve as a good tamping device.

A wooden concrete float will help to pack the concrete and assist in removing any excess material. Use a metal concrete finish trowel to smooth the surface on all edges.

Allow the concrete to set up for a few minutes and remove the mold while the mix is still wet. Place the mold adjacent to the section just completed and repeat the process until the path is complete.

To create a more genuine look, rotate the mold one-quarter turn each time. Once the entire walkway is complete and the concrete has hardened, finish the job by sweeping mortar mix or sand between the "bricks."

The result is a path resembling professionally laid brick--one that enhances the appearance of and improves access to any outdoor area.

In addition to pathways, this system can be used to build patios, courtyards, barbecue and picnic areas, terraces and other lawn and garden areas.

Each 2-foot-by-2-foot section requires one 80-pound bag of premix concrete and takes only a few minutes to pour and finish.

Thus, a 10-foot path can be completed in a short time for the cost of five bags of concrete and a one-time investment in the plastic mold.

For more information on this technique and where to purchase the plastic mold, contact the QUIKRETE Corp. at (800) 282-5828.

In addition to the brick pattern, Quikrete offers a Country Stone plastic pattern as well. Each product retails for about $30 dollars.

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Create an Easy Brick Path

You can create your own brick walk-way easily with pre-packed concrete mix for half the cost of traditional brick with easy-to-use concrete molds.

1. Add water to concrete mix and mix thoroughly. Place the concrete mold level on the ground. Fill the cavities of the mold with the concrete.

2. Use a trowel to smooth surface and pack the cement in to corners.

3. Remove the mold while mix is still wet. Place the mold adjacent to the section just completed and repeat the process until the path is completed.

4. When the entire walkway is completed and the concrete has hardened, sweep sand between the bricks.

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Notes: Each two-foot square section requires one 80-pound bag of pre-mix concrete. Start walk on tamped surface.

Use square shove for best results.

Source: Quikcete

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Reader questions can be mailed to "On the House," AP Newsfeatures, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, N.Y. 10020. Letters may be used in future columns, but cannot be answered individually.

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