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DIY block paver driveway apron

The trickiest part of our driveway project was the block paver apron which separates the gravel drive from the footpath. It would have been easier to just gravel all the way up to the footpath, but because we wanted to widen the entrance that wasn’t really an option as it would look rubbish. It took some time and patience, but we got there in the end.


The dig

The photo below shows the front of our house when we moved in. The wee garden to the right looked nice but having such a narrow drive wasn’t ideal. Plus, the broken concrete look wasn’t great. To widen the entrance, we knocked down part of the wall and dug out some of the grass verge that sat in front of it.

We then dug out a generously deep channel where the pavers were going to sit. The width of the opening is around 4.5 metres and the total paver area is 3 square metres.

I used concrete edging as an edge restraint all around the paved area to keep the pavers in place. I dug out to 30cm where these edgings would sit, allowing 10cm for MOT type 1 (sub-base), 5cm for a mortar bed and 15cm for the concrete edging.

For the area below the pavers, I dug out to 25cm, allowing for a generous 15cm sub-base, 5cm mortar bed plus the 5cm thick pavers. With those levels dug to, I laid some permeable membrane down and whackered the sub-base until it sat 20cm below the finished paver level.

The below picture gives a better idea of the fairly awkward shape and levels of the apron area.

Edge restraint

For the mortar bed that the edging sits on, I mixed 1 part cement to 4 parts sharp sand (or what should have been sharp sand, I got sent building sand…) I kept it as a fairly dry mix so that it would just about stay in a ball when squeezed.

I used the bottom of a sledgehammer to compact the bed down before positioning the edging and then added a 45 degree haunch to the front and back to keep the edging in position.

Where possible, I butted the edging up against the footpath as a guide. A rubber mallet is the perfect tool to help bed the edging down to into the mortar to the right level.

Hopefully if you’re doing something similar you’ll have a fairly simple shape and no differing slopes to contend with – this made the job a lot slower for me. I’ve never used a spirit level so many times.

For the rectangular area, I cut a couple of sections of wood to 482mm to use as spacers to make sure that the front and back of the edge restraints sat parallel and wide enough to accommodate 3 courses of pavers. The pavers we went for are Drivesett Tegula in charcoal which are 160mm wide. So 3 courses of 160mm plus an extra mm allowance around the edge equals 482mm. That was a little tight, I should a have allowed closer to 485mm.

As I didn’t add a drainage channel, I included a 1 in 60 fall to allow water to drain off the pavers and into the gravel.

To make the cuts I used an angle grinder. I started by using a stone cutting disc but it was taking forever. I switched it out for a diamond cutting disc which was about 792 times faster.

Eventually, the moat was complete. God knows what the postman thought when he arrived to this scene.

Laying the pavers

With the edging in place, I brought the MOT up to its final level, whackering every now and then. I cut out this wee jig to make it very easy to see when the MOT was 9cm from the top of the edging. This assumed that the 5cm sand and cement bed for the pavers would compact by around 1cm.

Block pavers are usually laid directly on a bed of sand. I decided that due to the beating that the apron was going to get and its fairly modest size that I should add some cement to this mix to really set them in place.

Before laying the mortar bed and the pavers, I did a test run to see how much the pavers would compact after running the whacker plate over them. This is a really important step because otherwise you’d be totally guessing how high to lay the pavers above the edging. I found that the pavers compact by around 1cm, so this meant that the bed would need to be 4cm from the top of the edging. Here’s what the test area looked like after I whackered it.

I started laying the mortar bed, using a piece of timber to screed it to 4cm below the edging.

Then the exciting bit – paver laying. I used 3 different sized pavers that were 24, 16 and 12cm wide. I used a ratio of around 4:4:1 which sounds odd, but based on looking at pics of pavers online this seemed to be a fairly standard sort of ratio. To be honest, the whole point is that they look randomly selected so I guess any ratio would work fine!

It was at this point that I got a bit nervous about the whacker plate compacting the pavers to the right level, which I shouldn’t have as I’d done a test. Instead of waiting for the whacker stage, I started tapping the pavers down into place with a rubber mallet. This did nothing more than give me a bit of confidence that I was laying the mortar bed at the right height so absolutely is not a necessary step.

The rectangular area of the apron was quick and easy – things got more challenging when I got into the triangular bit. This was mainly because of how the footpath that leads down to our drive is quite steep and so effectively there are two gradients meeting. The other difficulty was that I couldn’t use the screeding jig to get the bed to the right levels because of the triangular shape. People usually set poles into the sand to screed along but this wasn’t an option due to the varying levels. So my solution was just to go slow and keep checking levels relentlessly, using a trowel to spread the mortar and already laid pavers for reference. I was very dubious that this would work but fortunately it did.

After a good while, there was no longer space for full blocks and so the cutting began.

First, I positioned a full paver over the area that it needed to fill. I then used chalk and a spirit level to mark where I needed to make the cut.

There are lots of options for how to cut pavers, but I found that using the same diamond cutting disc as I used for the edging was really quick and easy. So much so that I now use the phrase ‘like a diamond cutting disc through a block paver’ instead of ‘like a hot knife through butter’.

I’d managed to avoid having to cut tiny pieces until the very last paver which needed to be hilariously small (see below pic). However, it was incredibly satisfying to tap that baby down into the bed to complete the puzzle.

The cutting didn’t actually take as long as expected.

Kiln dried sand

Like most DIY jobs, the last step is the most satisfying, and this could not be more true than it is with block pavers. The final stage was to spread kiln dried sand in between the gaps and watch it trickle down to fill every nook and cranny. Also called silica sand, this stuff is incredibly fine and by filling up every void it effectively sets the pavers in their final position, giving them zero room to shift around.

Very hard to explain how great this job is without sounding like an oddball, but trust me, it’s bloody great. Haz and I were fighting over who got to do it.

Once the sand had stopped dissipating down the cracks, the whacker plate came out again to help work the sand into the gaps and jiggle the pavers into their final position. Most normal people would use a neoprene mat attached to the whacker to protect the pavers, but we didn’t have this and so used some old underlay.


With the final whacking completed, we were done. This definitely has to be one of the most rewarding DIY jobs I’ve done so far. Sure, there’s a few bits of gear required, but there really aren’t any complicated tasks. If you’re driveway is in need of a revamp, this could be a good place to start.

All in, it cost just shy of £300 for 3 square metres. £200 of that was the pavers plus concrete edging. On top of this, the whacker plate cost £80 to hire to 10 days but I used this for the whole driveway and patio too.

Materials

  • MOT type 1
  • Sharp sand
  • Cement
  • Length of 4×1
  • Concrete edging
  • Block pavers
  • Kiln dried sand

Equipment

  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hired whacker plate (from Brandon hire)
  • Spirit level of varying length
  • Jigsaw
  • Sledgehammer
  • Rubber mallet
  • Trowel
  • Angle grinder and diamond cutting disc
  • Chalk
  • Soft bristle brush
Categories
DIY projects

DIY workshop / shed / mancave

2020 was a year of pretty intense DIYing. As I bought more tools and made more things, it became obvious that we couldn’t use our garage for both storage and as ‘workshop’. All the woodwork was ridiculously messy and we were running out of space. Plus, the relentless power tool usage right next to our house + neighbours wasn’t ideal.

We’re lucky to have a pretty long garden and so once the idea of building my own workshop in a back corner of it popped into my head there was no going back! We were pretty cash-strapped after the extension so keeping costs down was key.

I’ve kept the details quite thin so if you’re planning on doing something similar and have any questions just shout in the comments box at the bottom.


Prepping for the floor

Once upon a time there must have been a wee shed in the back right corner of our garden as there was a small concrete pad when we moved in. This seemed like the obvious place to build the workshop as it’s far from any neighbours and not visible from our house.

The first job was to mark out the exact position. Being a farmer, my Dad was keen to build a barn-sized structure but we settled on 2.4 x 4.8 metres. These are standard sizes for timber so the idea behind this size was minimal cutting and waste.

I nabbed some paving stones for free off a neighbour and laid them on top of a fairly dry grit sand and cement mix to keep them steady.

Getting them all level was a faff but I didn’t fancy a wonky floor.

Half way through this job I realised that I’d definitely used more paving stones than was needed but I guess that’s better than too few. If you plan on doing something similar, you could probably leave out the middle section of paving stones as long as the floor joists are chunky.

Timber floor

Luckily for me, my Pa had some big ol’ joists hanging around as well as some 25mm ply sheets so that was the timber for the floor sorted. After cutting the joists to size, I added joist hangers and used 100mm screws to fix the outer frame to them. Then I used some offcuts as noggins along the middle. Don’t be a fool like me – put weed membrane down BEFORE the floor structure is fixed together.

I spent a while getting the frame square so there wasn’t too much fannying around to get the ply floor positioned properly. I fixed this to the joists with 60mm decking screws.

I left the final joist and ply sheet loose until the wall went up to make sure everything was perfectly flush.

Wall frames

Then, lockdown 2.0 arrived. Luckily, my Dad had planned on building the wall frames on the farm anyway. He made a jig out of steel so that the studwork walls would all be exactly the same dimensions while speeding up the process.

Then it was just a case of piling up the wall sections and waiting for lockdown to end.

As soon as Boris gave us the thumbs up, my Dad arrived with the walls and roof trusses in tow.

I couldn’t believe how quick the walls went up.

After 3 hours the walls were fixed in place, with bolts joining the studs and 100mm screws fixing the frames into the ply floor and joists.

The good progress allowed for a chips and gravy lunch. Yes, those are lagers #lads.

Post-grub, the roof trusses went in – another J. Leaf Snr. creation. The two middle roof trusses are made out of angle iron to add rigidity and the purlins that support the roof sheets are simply lengths of the same studwork used to build the walls. We were careful when planning this baby to keep the overall height to below 2.5 metres to avoid needing planning permission.

The next day was pretty stressful as we rushed to get the roof on before crap weather arrived. This led to a hurried and not particularly good job. Fortunately, only birds will see it. The roof is made mainly out of corrugated bitumen roof sheets with a couple of clear polycarbonate sheets to let in more light. I would not recommend using either of these – more on this later in the post…

We also fitted the windows that I’d found for free on FB marketplace.

To temporarily waterproof her, we tacked some membrane in place. Is it just me or from this point on does it start looking a bit cross-eyed?

Cladding

I liked how the cladding turned out on our garage so decided to use feather edge for the workshop too. After fixing the trim in place, I roped in some more support crew for this so while I cut the boards to length, Will and my Dad nailed them in place. The wee jig you can see in the below photo made getting the spacing even really quick and easy.

The cross-eyed look didn’t get any better! Thankfully you’d need to be at the very back of the garden to witness this deformed face.

After that it was just a case of cladding the other three sides, including adding some 150 x 25mm boards and a wee diamondy thing to finish things off. I dipped all freshly cut ends in wood preserver.

Doors

I used the same half-lap method that I used on our driveway gate for the workshop doors, allowing a 5mm gap all around the frame.

I clad the doors, being careful to align this with the cladding that was already on the front walls. Feather edge isn’t ideal to fix hinges and other hardware to due to the fact that it’s angled, so I switched out the feather edge with some 100 x 25mm timber where the hinges are mounted.

For extra security, I added some long bolts to some of the hinge mounting holes so that the hinges can’t be unscrewed from the outside. After this, it was a case of adding hardware including bolts to the inside and a hasp and staple on the front.

Roof dramas

At this point, I couldn’t ignore the fact that the roof sheets were dripping water all over the floor any longer…

The problem was particularly bad in the morning when it had been really cold the night before. The humid and warmer air in the workshop would rise and hit the cold roof sheets, leading to condensation which ran down the roof sheets, onto the purlins and then onto the ground.

This was really frustrating and annoying because I couldn’t move in until the problem was sorted. ‘Roofing Megastore’, who sold me the roof sheets, said that the condensation was ‘an environmental factor’ and so not an issue with the sheets themselves. I suggested that the point of a roof is to deal with ‘environmental factors’ but surprisingly, my sarcasm got me nowhere.

ANYWAY, after some research I decided to insulate the roof, hoping that this would separate the warmer, humid air from the cold roof sheets. I cut up some second-hand polystyrene and pushed it up into the gaps between the purlins. I left a small gap between the roof sheets and insulation to help ventilation.

I sealed up all the joins with aluminium tape.

The last step was to fix 9mm OSB to the underside of the purlins which looked neat and added an extra layer of insulating material.

Touch wood, I’ve had no condensation issues since doing this.

I put down some second-hand laminate flooring to help protect the floor. This would also help stop damp rising up through the floor and into the workshop.

Ramp

Up until this point, I’d been using a crate as a step. Not really a long-term solution, and in the summer I may want to wheel my workbench outside. I dug out an area in front of the door to build a ramp into.

The whole thing is made out of scaffold boards. First, I cut out identical joists and a header. I fixed the joists into the header and then the header into the workshop front joist. I sat the bottom of the joists on some paving flags to help spread the load.

Next, I added some noggins from scrap wood.

Then it was just a case of cutting the top scaffold boards to length and screwing them in place. This ramp won’t last forever as it’s not pressure treated, but I did give all the wood 2 coats of preserver.

Inside

With the outside done, I turned my attention inside. The first job was to make a new workbench. There are a 967 videos on YouTube of DIY workbenches so I watched them all, twice, and decided that this was the best one.

Apparently you’re supposed to be able to make it in under an hour. It took me 6… A bit of a Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals situation, if you know what I mean.

But still, 6 hours is pretty good for a really sturdy workbench that will hopefully last decades. I put some locking castors on the bottom so I can wheel it around which has already proven super handy.

I’ve started moving my french cleat tool wall from the garage into the workshop.

Too many jobs on the to-do list at the moment so I’ll have to finish off the french cleats and sheathing the rest of the workshop walls at a later date. The only other jobs still to do are paint the outside & put in a permanent electric supply as I’m currently making do with a humongous extension lead.


It’s fair to say that I am in love with my new workshop/shed/mancave. Having a dedicated space to make stuff is absolutely dreamy. I get the workshop, Haz gets the house, everyone’s happy!

Cost-wise, the build came to around £1,200. It would have been a lot more if the joists, floor, windows and laminate weren’t free. As per most of these projects, it cost more than I was expecting. This one I justify with the dozens of hours I spend in there every week!