Follow the red brick sidewalk

One of the things that we adore about the neighborhood we live in is the many historic touches. Parts of the streets are cobblestone (usually the parking lanes, while the center is paved, which I secretly like, because driving on cobblestones kind of makes my hands go numb) and the housing stock, while newer and less grand than our neighbors in Victorian Village a few blocks to the East, is a delightful mix of turn-of-the-century buildings, with some newer construction thrown in. One of the things we enjoyed about our house was a brick sidewalk running the width of our lot, one of two houses on our block where the old brick still existed. What we did not love about the sidewalk, however, was that it wasn’t in the greatest shape. Slightly undulating due to settling and an occasional tree root, it had some tough little weeds growing up between the bricks that we could never quite get rid of. There is tons of foot traffic in our neighborhood, so we had slight concerns about uneven bricks being a tripping hazard, but it wasn’t bad enough for us to deal with right away. We put “re-lay brick sidewalk” on our list of outdoor projects, along with “reconfigure brick patio,” “plant awesome-sauce garden in back yard,” and “figure out how to make a walkway from garage door to house.” (Speaking of undulating, our back yard has tons of little pits and hills. I am a giant klutz, so walking through it when the ground is frozen is like asking very politely to snap an ankle when I’m caught off-guard by an uneven part.)

After finishing the laundry room, we were pondering which project to take on next. We’d spent some time this summer doing some landscaping both in the front and the back of the house, so our brains were definitely thinking “outdoor.” (Also, we had pretty much decided on a plan of action for the front bedroom, which did NOT include ripping out plaster walls in the sticky heat of July.) The idea of the sidewalk came up, which we were originally planning to do ourselves. Just for comparison’s sake, Tim decided to get bids from a few different contractors. This is when we learned that the way our street is designated in the zoning, we’d need to put a bed of concrete down below the brick for it to be to code. (It’s weird, while our street is wider than some of the surrounding streets, we don’t even have a light at the end to get onto the East-West avenues to our north, nor does it really connect to anything major to the south. No idea why it’s zoned that way!) Re-laying bricks is something we could probably handle (we plan on doing the patio ourselves), but messing with concrete…we were happy to leave that to experienced professionals to get it right and to code.

The bids came in and it was…more than we had expected. The cost of putting the brick sidewalk back in over just laying down a new concrete sidewalk was also a tiny bit staggering. We took a week or two to muse it over. On the negative side, on our block, it’s just us and our neighbor with brick sidewalks left. (There are some stretches on surrounding blocks as well, but getting rid of it wasn’t going to, like, ruin the character of our block.) On the plus side, Tim mentioned that the brick will be extremely long-lasting and low maintenance, easier to care for in the winter, and it was a nod to the historic nature of the house. We’d intentionally not purchased a home in a subdivision in the suburbs (where, frankly, lots of homes don’t even have sidewalks), because we love the character of the urban neighborhoods and older homes. The guy with the most competitive bid even assured us he could reuse the brick from the existing sidewalk so it wouldn’t be, like, brand-spanking-new red brick. After lots of discussion, we decided to honor the history of our house and have the sidewalk re-laid with the brick.

We, of course, forgot to take a picture of the sidewalk before it got ripped up, but here’s a little pictorial of the construction and finished product. We could not be more in love with it!

The ripped-up stage. You can see our neighbor’s concrete sidewalk was a little crumbled where it met our bricks.

Ripped up from the other direction. This neighbor’s brick sidewalk is VERY similar to how ours used to look, though ours was a touch bumpier.

View from the house. As you can see, our lot isn’t super-wide (but it’s perfect for us!).

Concrete pad laid down! We were so nervous about stepping on this at all at first, so we kind of hopped over it when we had to go out the front door.

Concrete running up to the side of the brick. Also, the grass between the street and the sidewalk is well and truly done-for at this point.

To give the brick a nice flat surface to connect to, our contractor redid the edge of our neighbor’s concrete sidewalk. It looked so good!

As you can see, it joins up nicely! Also, this is a few weeks after-the-fact, and Tim put a lot of effort into fixing up the landscaping at this point. That grass really is that hilariously green. New grass is awfully pretty!

Really, reusing the brick was the best part of this project. (We had some old pavers in the garage that the previous owner left, which the contractor mixed as necessary, since some of the old bricks had crumbled or broken.) It just has so much character to have the mix of colors and conditions. Also, since there is literally concrete and that special sand stuff under the bricks, we expect not to have a problem with stray weeds finding their way into our sidewalk anymore!

Another angle. The old sidewalk was also a herringbone pattern, though it was slightly off in some areas (someone might have had to dig it up for some reason and wasn’t very particular about how they made the bricks fit back in). Between the gorgeous grass and the new sidewalk, can you say curb appeal? (If you ignore the dead bits of grass in other areas. We’re planning on re-seeding the lawn next year, Tim just wanted to plant up the bad bits along the sidewalk now.)

Since grass seems to have a hard time around trees, Tim just mulched this part instead. He has learned a thing or two from the This Old House guys and avoided the “mulch volcano.”

The contractor worked hard to weave the existing and new sidewalks together nicely, but had to split a few bricks to make it meet in some places.

Yes, another angle. We’re obsessed!

Where our front walk meets the sidewalk. It’s pretty awesome to run out the door to the bus and be greeted with this lovely piece of work every day!

There you go! We’re pretty pleased with how it turned out. Given the amount of cutting that had to be done (for the bricks to meet the sides and to meet our neighbor’s walk), we’re glad we hired a person skilled in brickwork. We’ll just hone our brick laying skills for the next project!


6 comments on “Follow the red brick sidewalk

  1. chiclygreen says:

    The herringbone is gorgeous! Your contractor did some excellent work.

  2. kari says:

    Kate-this is so beautiful! You guys made a great decision keeping the brick.

  3. […] weekend and we made more progress on the yard than ever before. Between new landscaping and the brick sidewalk, the look of our house from the outside has grown in leaps and bounds in just a single season! It […]

  4. […] this year. We put in a laundry room, added a TV to the kitchen, hired someone to re-lay our brick walk for us, and did some […]

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