The Agony And Ecstacy Of Patio-Making



I should have been suspicious when no patios made with the Walk Maker showed up on the local garden tours. But by that time, I had already invested in the Walk Maker mold, country stone pattern, three bags of Quickrete concrete mix and two bottles of Quickrete cement terra cotta colorant.

These items, totaling about $60, languished in my garage for a year while I wrested my unlandscaped back yard from the virgin forest. However, my backyard vision, while grand, is not well-capitalized. A Tim Allen wannabe, I constantly haunt the home-improvement stores looking for bargains and cool do-it-yourself projects. Naturally, the Walk Maker caught my eye.

The brochure read, "Walk Maker is an exciting new product, allowing homeowners to build their own pathways and patios for the price of a few bags of concrete and the one-time cost of a single form. Practical and economical." I was sucked into the black hole of unwary homeowners in a heartbeat.

With the arrival of cooler weather, I was finally ready to make my patio. The preliminary ground preparation was done. All I needed now was 24 bags of Quickrete. I checked with the local building supply store. They didn't have it. At least, what they had wouldn't set up in 10 minutes, they said. The trick to Walk Maker, see, is that you use the same mold over and over, so it has to set up fast. I didn't trust the substitute.

I drove to a Valley home-improvement center and picked up 10 bags of Quickrete plus more colorant and sealer for finishing. The bill was $101. I was starting to feel a little queasy. I would have to go back for another 14 bags (another $100) as I didn't want to add a damaged suspension on my car to the project's cost.

A die-hard optimist, I'm like the kid who's sure there's a pony somewhere in the manure pile. So today, I hauled 50-pound bags, mixed and filled the mold, over and over. After four hours of back-breaking toil, I had repeated the cobblestone pattern a mere eight times, covering a 4-by 6-foot area. All the while, I whistled a merry tune and exulted in the primitive joy of playing in the mud.

But nagging me in some far corner of my brain was the nasty thought that I could have bought some nice bricks and laid them in sand for less money and much less labor.

When I had finished washing down the wheel barrow that I'd used for mixing concrete, and cleaned the hoe, trowel and the mold, I dragged my aching body into the house, peeled off grimy jeans and soaked in a hot bubble bath for half an hour. As I soaked, I did the math for the bricks.

I could have covered the same area with 120 bricks at 35 cents each for $42 and a few bags of sand. And all the materials are right here in Payson. Now I understood why the Walk Maker stuff isn't carried locally. There's no repeat business. For an awful moment, I felt like sliding beneath the bubbles and ending it all.

Later, still chafing, I went out to survey my creation. Not bad, I thought with surprise. Varying the color and doing some careful trowel work gave the concrete a natural look, almost like real stone. Once the mortar's in the cracks, it'll look great. The pride of craftsmanship swept over me.

Who would want an ordinary old brick patio anyway?

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