Here's a before shot of the patio. This photo was taken after excavation and trenching, laying pipe for french drains and irrigation, and putting in gas, electricity and water lines to the future barbecue site. Believe it or not, this before picture meant huge process for us, as we could finally see where the final patio would actually go when complete.
This next picture better defines the patio shape and size. We started by laying down a hose in the shape that we want the patio to take and adjusted until we had it the way we wanted. It was important to have enough room to walk around the tree (which will eventually be boxed in with a planting bed) on all sides.
After we had our design, we put down weed cloth. This step was most likely overkill, but since overkill is Ryan's middle name, we thought it appropriate.
Here's another shot of the weed cloth, on the opposite side of the deck.
With 10 yards of recycled base rock waiting in our driveway (we got the cheap stuff, around $18 per yard) it was time to get started on the patio base.
Ryan's research noted that we would need six inches of compacted rock as our base. The reason behind the base is that as the earth settles and rain erodes the dirt over time, we want our stone to be sitting on the best foundation possible (sort of like our house). In this instance, compacted base rock is the best way to go. There was some negotiation on my part that bringing in six inches of rock PLUS the one inch of sand the rock would sit in, PLUS the inch and a quarter of stone would leave the final patio height closer to the deck height than the lawn height, so we settled at somewhere between four and five inches of base (depending on slope).
We wheel-barrowed the rock back, then spread it out, hoping to have lifts of one to two inches of compacted base at a time. Yes, every pile in this picture accounts for a wheel barrow load, give or take. Yes, we are crazy.
Here is a picture of the rock after it was spread out. We (and by we I mean Ryan) used a heavy duty landscape rake to get the rock smooth, which is harder than you would think.
We made multiple passes over the rock with our compactor. The rock gets shaken into a nice solid base by the vibrating compaction plate (sort of like how they build asphalt roads, only on a much smaller scale).
You can see below how nice and tight the rock is after it's been run over with the compactor. That solid base is exactly what we were going for.
And here's the quickly diminishing pile of rock in our driveway. After working at it from both sides for the majority of the day, we thought it had a very "half-dome-esque" look to it.
Do you see the resemblance?
Honestly, climbing half dome is a very good metaphor for this project. It seemed totally doable at first, but now that we're in the middle of it we wonder if we're ever going to get there. But, life is about the journey, right? I'm sure someday we'll look back on it fondly.