Archive for the ‘Interlocking brick’ Category

August-September 2013

February 28, 2014

After making my way back from my pilgrimage to Iowa, I decided it was time to convert my piles of interlocking bricks into a nice driveway. So I called in the dirt movers again to grade the driveway properly for drainage and level parking. I also had acquired some free fill from a neighbor building a house, which went into the low spot in the back of the yard where some water was still pooling when big rain or Spring thaw happened. I was on a fairly tight time-line, since I wanted to have the job done before we left for our big trip to Peru on Sept 16.


After the grading, landscaping fabric was laid down a truckload of sand dropped onto it and carefully spread and graded. This was the base for laying the interlocking bricks. By my calculations with the number of bricks in hand I could construct a driveway from garage front to street which was 14 ft wide. So I set about placing the bricks and driving them firmly in place with a 2 lb hammer and a wooden block to keep from cracking bricks. Started at the garage entrance and began to work my way toward the street. I used a brick pattern which although more complex, claims to be better at weight distribution and prevention of surface distortion/disturbance of the bricks. You did have to be thinking all the time to make sure you were following the pattern. When I had to make a bend in the driveway to finish perpendicular(or nearly so) to the street, there was a lot of creativity in cutting and fitting bricks to make the transition. This was a time and muscle/back intensive job, taking a couple weeks to accomplish and drawing lots of onlookers and comments.

In order to keep the bricks from “walking” outward with vehicle movement on the the surface, I decided to install a mini-retaining wall on the edges. I happened to have a pile of slightly damaged cement blocks from the primary construction of the house still setting back by my tool shed. So hauled them up with my lawn tractor and trailer and dug them down around the edges so the tops were just flush with bricks. The strategy then was to fill the cores and the tops of the blocks with vibrated concrete, giving a strong border extending 8 inches below brick tops. I also had enough bricks and blocks to install a brick walkway from edge of driveway to edge of breezeway.

Concrete work continued apace and before I knew it it was approaching travel time again, this time our adventure to Peru. Elena arrived from Newfoundland, had a day of recovery and then we did a lightning trip across the border to do some Bank business, allowing her to have an interac card to get Yankee dollars at ATMs when we were traveling. The driveway brick and retaining edge work was all complete cleanly before the run up to travel. Then the US excursion morning before flight to Peru, that evening we drove to Toronto, staying in an airport hotel, leaving the car in long-term parking and taking a shuttle to the airport. Just over 2 weeks of incredible adventure in Peru, Lima, Macchu Picchu, Cusco, Lake Titicaca, Arequipa and home.

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June-August 2013

February 25, 2014

There wasn’t much left of June by the time I put Elena on the plane back to Newfoundland, and it took a few days before I got back into my rhythm of doing “stuff”. Among first things to get at was finish of the window trim and stain and varnish of the same in the workshop area and the window framing in the garage.


I also set about installing aluminum fascia in the exterior door frames, on the beams and posts of the breezeway and to instal the final set of exterior trim on door frames and the windows in the screen porch. When I got the original Hardie Board cement board trim I could get factory painted battens only if I bought a whole pallet of the same. Unfortunately I needed more than a whole pallet, and so the remainder to finish the trim was just primed and I had to paint it. These jobs were at the top my agenda beginning in late June.

Another project being done in parallel was the final finishing of a table I had acquired at an auction sale in Iowa in 2007. I had stripped the old finish when staying to take care of my mother while my sis and her husband flew off for their daughter’s wedding in Hawaii. Now I finally got round to doing the oil rubbed finish to replace the old varnish which I had removed. It is a lovely simple drop-leaf table made of cherry with three additional leaves that can be inserted to give a length to seat a substantial gathering.

While I was chugging away at these things I had communications from my sis in Iowa that my Mom was having some health issues and was in hospital for a few days to deal with a bout of aspiration pneumonia. After a bit of back and forth and deciding it was time for a visit I scheduled my trip to see Gladys and Paul and my Mom, but also to catch the annual Hoekman family reunuion another day’s drive west from there in Monroe SD. By the time I got to Iowa my Mom was back in the Cresco Senior’s home and again pretty chipper. As usual we played Scrabble. It is pretty sad, my siblings and I brag when we manage to beat our 95 year-old mother at Scrabble; usually she whips us 🙂

So I had a little more than a week away from duties to visit family and trek across the midwest in the States. I must comment that the family reunion, while still a significant gathering is a shadow of its former size. The older generation is disappearing, and the younger generations are much more widely scattered and less connected to the old center of family history.

October-November 2012

February 7, 2014

After bringing the VW van back to Ontario, I had lots of stuff to do on the house with a tight timeline since I was going to be heading back to Newfoundland for the Christmas holidays. My initial activities were split between finishing up the trim on window frames in the main part of the house, and staining and varnishing them. I then alternated to fabricating more patio blocks to surface the area between screen porch platform and the workshop wall.

The first task in preparation for the patio blocks was to cut some of the interlocking bricks down the middle with my wet diamond saw. Putting them together on the boundary gave me a nice straight edge for the transition to the patio blocks. I also was working at installing the plywood frames for the windows in the workshop/garage.

On my agenda was getting the landscaping done with the removal of what Elena called “Hoekman Mountain” in the back yard to make the topsoil grading around the house. This included filling the low spot in the back corner which periodically became “Lake Hoekman”. After discussion with my dirt moving contractor and measurement of the actual grade differences around the lot, and initial plan to install a drainage tile, was replaced with production of a drainage swale which would lead the precipitation runoff to the storm drain at the front of my property.

One of the first tasks when the earth moving equipment arrived was to move the interlocking paving bricks which I had acquired earlier for the driveway, to a location nearer the driveway. These were “walk-on” supplies, A guy drove by one day and asked if I was interested in paving bricks, and I replied if they match the house and the price is right. So he brought me a couple samples, and after a bit of dickering, for $500 I had them and he delivered them to me on pallets.


Then it was on to the big job, distributing the stockpiled topsoil which was in two piles on the south side of the house and garage/workshop. There were two machine at it, and mini digger and a skid steerer. The following gallery shows the progress as they moved dirt to taper the landscape from the house out into the back yard. Some was moved around to the front yard to even out the landscape there tapering to the driveway. The rest went into evening out the low spot in the back corner referred to by some as Lake Hoekman, when there was big rain or big snow melt.

The next day they finished the job and created the drainage swale to take the water away from the low spot in the back to the storm sewer drain in front of the garage. After everything had been leveled out and some rain fallen, I found another bit of archeology, the broken bowl of a clay pipe which I believe was a 19th century artefact.

When this was finished, and I had sung another years version of Messiah with London Pro Musica and Symphony London, it was off to Newfoundland for the holidays on December 7.

June – July 2012

January 31, 2014

After Elena flew back to Newfoundland I settled down to some serious house completion issues.   First was laying the interlocking brick in the path from entry door under the breezeway to the entry door of the workshop.  I had acquired the bricks in early days of construction in trade for a case of Coors Light 🙂  Now they became my walkway.

I then set about completing work on my patio in front of the south-facing windows of the great room dining area. First I had a truck load of fill sand delivered, and when opportunity arose a fellow with a skid-steer working next door delivered the sand into the retaining wall. I then leveled and compacted it with my gandy dancer dirt tamper (You figure that out:) ) Filled the space up to about 1 1/2 inch of top of retaining wall, so the top of patio blocks would be flush with it.

I decided to manufacture my own patio blocks, since I had some portland cement and a pile of cement gravel and reinforcing mesh left from earlier cement work. I was able to borrow a concrete stamp and releasing liquid from my friend Craig Morley so the top of the block was to be stamped with an Italian Slate pattern. It turned out that the small stamp of his set, was 22 inches square, which coincidentally gave me a perfect fit for 4 blocks to reach from retaining wall to house edge. I built forms on sheets of plywood fastened to pallets which had been under concrete blocks delivered to my site. They were structured so I could remove the end piece, and insert a prybar under the edge to lift the block out of the form when it had cured for 24 hours.

In between batches of cement going into the forms, I kept at other bits that needed to be done. Working on getting the plywood liners into the window wells, and geting them stained and varnished. I also decided to run a pex line from my well pump near the edge of my property up to the edge of the house where I was more a more useful water outlet for lawn and garden and for cement mixing. This was another gift from the guys at CPE, left over from a job they did with a sort of non-standard pex size, 5/8″ instead of 1/2 or 3/4. Anyway I dug the trench, laid the pex and underground rated electrical cable and then covered again with dirt and sod about 8 inches below surface. Not deep enough to escape freezing in the winter but out of the way of lawn mower and other landscaping implements.

Supposedly the VW van in Newfoundland was to have the transplant done by a professional mechanic friend of my son-in-law Dean. Unfortunately this fellow lost one of his regular helpers in the shop, and was no longer able to schedule the job. Hence it was to be just Dean and me to do the honors in completing the transplant of manual transmission and accessories. Anyway on July 22, Kenn Cochrane one of my neighbors took me into London where I caught an airport shuttle to Toronto Pearson and flew from there to St John’s. With a bit of delay we were into it but it took while to get job done. Dean had a recurrence of major muscle spasms in his back when we were about 2/3s done so I had a significant bit where I was mostly on my own to get it finished up. I did feel the need put it together and drive it enough with short haul trips to be sure nothing was going to fall apart before hitting the road for the big jump back to Ontario. I am sorry now but did not take extensive pictures of the transplant operation only one set of the two vehicles sitting side by side in mid operation.


My stay in Newfoundland was prolonged by the freak accident my wife had in which her car was totaled. If it had not been for the airbag she would have been uninjured, but the slide up a guard rail triggered the side airbag which cracked two ribs. If not for that she and her cousin would have emerged shaken but with no physical injuries. So I was involved in helping her get a new car and doing the necessaries which the bad ribs made excruciatingly painful for her till she had healed enough to carry on alone. I finally headed back to Ontario on the last ferry of the season departing September 29 from Argentia to North Sydney which saved me from having to drive the 1000 km to the Port au Basque ferry. I did the trans-border route through Maine and on to New York to save gas money and skirted Montreal in the US crossing the Border from New York state at the Thousand Island bridge. Again dropped some stuff off in Toronto for step-daughter and then home to Newbury.