My husband and I bought our house as a foreclosure . In doing so, we knew we were going to have some issues to sort out after we moved in. Actually, there were several issues we had to resolve before we moved in as well. But the item under discussion right now is the brick planter that was located on our back patio. It was flush against the house and looked like it hadn’t had a plant in it for decades. Also, it smelled as if its main function had been as a litter box.
We wanted it gone. First of all, it was set against the house and we didn’t want that much dirt against our wood siding. The area we live in is notorious for subterranean termites and we felt we shouldn’t give them easy access to the house we had just bought. So, we began by getting rid of the dirt in the planter. This process reinforced the idea that the dirt had been used a s a litter box. The smell was horrendous and fungus, mold and bacteria were growing in the dirt. We found more of this the lower we went like someone had tilled the nasty dirt under when it got too bad. This dirt was hauled off as soon as humanly possible.
Th next step was to remove the brick surround. This was fun. If you’ve never had the opportunity to take a sledge hammer to a brick wall, I highly recommend it. It’s therapeutic. We took turns swinging away at the brick wall to remove all the material; and then we chipped away at the mortar at the base of the wall to even things out. Once we had the bulk of the brick and dirt removed from the area, it was time for final prep work.
We removed the metal flashing from the side of the house and assessed the wood siding underneath. It looked pretty well intact so we cleaned it with the pressure washer in preparation for painting the house. Then came the tedious part: leveling the ground. I enlisted my nephew for part of this. He had broken out the last of the bricks, and he wanted to continue helping so why not? I never turn down free labor.
After leveling the ground for a bit, we started thinking about how we wanted to arrange the new bricks. We had salvaged quite a few pieces from the planter that were still mostly intact and not moldy. For these, we had to chip off any remaining mortar. This job went to my husband – he didn’t trust me with a hammer and chisel, though I’d hurt myself. I probably would have, but that’s not the point. We had found a stack of brick on the front porch when we moved in. Undoubtedly, this was from another brick fixture that had been removed, but the brick had never been dealt with. Not ones to waste material, we decided this was perfect for the back patio as it matched what we had taken out. The rest was supplemented from our friends who were remodeling their own foreclosure.We didn’t have a cutter for the brick so we needed to arrange the new pattern so as to be able to lay the bricks in whole while still covering the entire area. After several tries, we found a pattern that worked and set about laying it down. The ground had mostly been leveled, but fine tuning was needed. This was where my husband, the engineer, let his OCD fly. The bricks were uneven, some had chips taken out from when we took apart the wall, and the ground was still lumpy. He sat in the dirt for hours while I handed him bricks to place. He leveled each brick to the surrounding ones individually. He had to make sure they were level to each other while still giving them a very slight slope away from the wall of the house. Very finicky work and his legs were numb by the end of it. But it came out beautiful.
The only tricky part was at the end when we had uneven pieces to fit. The area contained one of the posts holding up the patio roof and we had to work around that. Also, the length did not evenly match up to the brick measurements. As I mentioned before, we didn’t have a brick cutter, so we had to try to chip off the excess length with a hammer and chisel. This took several tries sometimes, but we got lucky and they broke roughly where we needed them to and the patio was finished. We filled in the spaces between the bricks with dirt. Obviously, we did not use what we had taken out, but we had some fresh, fine grain dirt to use. We packed the bricks in, double checked the level, and Voila! We had a new extension to our back patio. It made a nice contrast to the concrete of the patio and then we painted the house an olive green that complimented the red of the brick.