About a year ago my wife and I downsized our house from a suburban half-acre with a pair of garages to an urban 0.17 acre duplex with an ancient one-car. So making space for our seven cars and a travel trailer was already going to be difficult, but then I went and bought an ambulance. You know, like a dummy.
Rather than be the dirtbags of the neighborhood just cramming more cars in and street parking the rest, I’ve resigned myself to offloading at least one of these cars and building respectable places to park the rest. This little back alley between our neighbors fence and our fenced-in back courtyard was ripe for the renovation. So now it’s a parking lot. We did it ourselves, and we saved a boat load of money in the process.
From the moment we moved in, I’ve wanted to do something with this weird unused space. It’s not fenced in, so it never really felt like part of the backyard, and rather than being groomed it was just a weird dirt patch with some shitty woodchips and stone chucked in to make it look worse. Because I tend to jump into projects head-first, I don’t have any proper before pictures, so just use your imagination.
In a project that ultimately took us two months and around 40 hours of labor, plus the help of a couple friends to finish, I’m proud to have finally finished this deal. We probably could have gone with a concrete pour, but I’ve seen quotes out there between four and eight dollars per square foot, and we managed to finish this whole thing off for just $3.18 per square foot. It was still mightily expensive at $1937.97 all-in, but I think this looks better than concrete, won’t hold in the heat, and will still let what little rain water we get in Reno down into the soil. Considering our neighbors have a pair of century-old redwoods in their front yard and the roots surely stretch under this pad, that was important to me.
Anyway, here’s how it went.
Day one of the project was clearing much of the big stone and trying to level out the lot as much as we could. It wasn’t a perfect job, but nothing is. Perfection is the enemy of good, and if we tried to be perfect it would never get done. Moving on! Once it was imperfectly leveled, we laid some weed barrier fabric, because I hate picking weeds out of stone, and if any did come up, it would look like ass. Of course we didn’t buy enough, so that was another trip to the local Lowe’s.
While there we picked up about $120 worth of bagged sand, because I’m a child who has no understanding of the math of area, and figured that would be plenty to cover 608 square feet. Of course it was not. You can see in the below picture that the sand we had spread was barely a dusting over such a large area. That’s 13 bags of the shit! So my lovely wife called some pros to drop off a couple more yards. Yeah, that’ll work. Should have just done that in the first place and we’d have saved even more money.
Once the sand was spread out, we did actual adult math to figure out how many boxes of pavers we would need for this job. Each box of Gravalock permeable pavers covers 40 square feet, so we ordered 13 boxes. It ended up being the perfect coverage for the space, and that rules. Unfortunately these were the biggest part of the expense of this project, running about one hundred American dollars per box.
At this point I must say that I am eternally grateful to Jalopnik reader VBinNV who dropped by to help lay pavers. That dude is properly cool, and I couldn’t have done it without him. I mean, I guess I could have, but it would have taken longer and made me sweatier. It was nice to have a pal help with the project. Thanks again, Van!
Once the pavers were down it was a mostly solid place to park again and I was able to get a couple of my cars out of the street. Awwwwwww yeah!
Now that we have this area cleared and paved, it looks like there is plenty of room for at least another car and maybe a motorcycle or two. No, shouldn’t think like that. Downsize. Fewer problems. Less stress. I’ll have to self-flagellate later tonight to help dissuade those thoughts returning.
After a few weeks of leaving the pavers empty with cars parked on them, thanks to the scheduling mess that was late June and early July, we finally removed the cars and had the same company deliver a few yards of crushed rock.
At that point I realized that my wheelbarrow was a pile of shit, so I went out and treated myself to a new two-wheeled joint I’ve always wanted. I didn’t realize how expensive wheelbarrows had gotten! The metal version of this one was like $170! Being a little bit of a cheapskate, I picked up the plastic one for under a hundred. Still seems like a lot. I’ve bought whole cars for less than that!
With a flat-nosed shovel I was able to spread around the stone (again with help from a friend, this time my pal Annie who lives a couple blocks over came down and helped out for an evening). Once it was all spread around, I was able to use the flat nose to noisily scrape the excess stone from the top of the pavers.
And we have a bit of extra rock. You know, for whatever you use rock for. I’m sure I’ll come up with something. For now, I don’t want to think about doing any more projects. Maybe some other time.
So how did the expense break down?
Weed barrier - We had some on hand, but purchased another $80.87 worth.
Sand - $114.88 in bagged sand from Lowe’s plus $119.85 in delivered bulk sand.
Pavers - $1377.72 for 13 boxes of Gravalock “22 in. x 22 in. x 1 in. Black Slim Grid Plastic Pavers”
Rock - $139.65 for way too much.
Wheelbarrow - $105.00 after tax.
Considering a concrete pad probably would have run as much as four grand, I still think we did alright. As long as you don’t consider any of our labor worth anything, and I really don’t.