Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/7/2018 (549 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Today’s topic for handy homeowners is: building a do-it-yourself patio.
So, you’ve decided to build a patio, have you? Well, let me just say — and this comes from the bottom of my heart — you are an idiot.
Seriously, I can tell from the haphazard manner in which you are reading today’s column that you don’t have the necessary skills and life experience to build the kind of top-notch patio that will make you the envy of the neighbourhood.
Now, let’s review the three main reasons for building a DIY patio, namely:
Reason No. 1 — Your current patio is a major embarrassment because it is overgrown with weeds and the paving stones are so uneven they look as if they have been tossed about by a small earthquake;
Reason No. 2 — You want to increase your property value by enhancing your backyard with a stylish patio on which you and your sophisticated guests can sit and enjoy refreshing beverages;
Reason No. 3 — Your spouse says she will never speak to you again unless you: (a) tear up the "disgraceful excuse for a patio" currently in your backyard; and (b) build the sort of patio she has seen in outdoor landscaping magazines and on those reality TV shows wherein professional designers drone on and on about wall sconces, whatever they are.
For me, it’s mostly that third thing. Which is why I decided to spend a recent wickedly hot Saturday afternoon building a (bad word) patio that would prevent my marriage from disintegrating. This would be a good time for me to point out that my wife, She Who Must Not Be Named, would no more trust me to build a patio on my own than she would trust me to perform a liver transplant on one of our three dogs, or our two children.
This is because, when it comes to home repairs, I am sort of the anti-handyman. If you put me in the same room with a person who was handy, there would be a massive nuclear-level explosion, because it would be like putting matter and anti-matter in the same space.
Which brings us to Rule No. 1 for doing any do-it-yourself project, namely: NEVER do it yourself!
With that rule in mind, my wife assembled a crackerjack patio-building team consisting of: My best friend, Bob, who also happens to be the publisher of this newspaper; Bob’s daughter Astrid, who is visiting from Sweden and happens to be an engineer; and Astrid’s Swedish boyfriend, Emil, who is also an engineer and a rocket scientist in training. Seriously.
The thing you need to know about this crackerjack team is that all three of them are practitioners of the super-trendy fitness regimen known as CrossFit, which involves workouts so intense (rolling tractor tires while simultaneously swinging kettlebells and doing pull-ups) that non-CrossFitters such as myself lose our breakfasts just from watching.
Naturally, I felt it was important to prove to Bob and his crew that I, an overweight newspaper columnist, can pull my own weight. So, before they arrived, I ripped up all 25 of our old patio stones and carefully stacked them in piles on the grass.
In case you are not impressed, each of these stones was roughly the size and weight of an offensive lineman for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. What I did was lift the side of each stone with a crowbar, shove a brick underneath, then hoist it with both hands and waddle like a duck over to where I wanted to pile them.
In mid-waddle, what I typically did was drop each stone and shriek like a little schoolgirl, because the underside of each paver was crawling with extremely disgusting bugs with big googly eyes and more legs than a high school softball team.
The point I am making is that before Bob and his builders arrived, I was already exhausted and sweating like a Butterball turkey on Thanksgiving.
While I sat on a lawn chair perspiring heavily, my buddy and his youthful helpers spread countless wheelbarrows of crushed gravel on the patio site, which, thanks to the ground shifting, sloped towards the house kind of like a ski run wherein you slam into a wall when you reach the bottom.
After levelling the gravel, they put down a layer of landscaping fabric, which is some kind of magical barrier that prevents weeds from sprouting in the middle of your patio. This involved careful measurements and precise cutting, so I personally wasn’t involved.
What happened next was Bob, a renowned perfectionist, frowned intently for several minutes before saying we would have to go to the store to buy some bags of sand, without which the paving stones would never settle evenly, preventing us from having maximum enjoyment from the patio.
When the sand was spread evenly — a process that lasted roughly the time it takes to consume two beers — we had to carefully plop each of the hefty patio stones back in place. And by "we," I mean "Bob and Emil" because they didn’t want me getting in the way.
I don’t wish to brag, but my primary job throughout this whole process involved using a small hairbrush to sweep the icky bugs and dirt off of each stone so that Bob and his team would not become grossed out.
As the safety supervisor, I was also responsible for ensuring no one’s beer level fell low because dehydration is your enemy on a sweltering day.
After about four hours of sweating and groaning and grunting by my friends, I was magically transformed from a normal homeowner to a normal homeowner with a slightly wobbly patio in his backyard.
It is hard, using mere words, to explain the pride I feel now that this do-it-yourself project has been safely completed, but I will give it a try: I am very, very proud! Because, hey, I did it myself.
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.