Friday, April 12, 2013

Covington Facade Grant...and a front yard.

So why does a facade grant put things on hold? Well, because you suddenly stop and think, 'this was going to cost a heckofalot of money... if the city is willing to help us financially to do the work, shouldn't we try for it?' and then, unfortunately, you stop thinking about putting your own time and money into a project, when the city just might offer you $5000 to do the project.

I mean, they're not going to reimburse you for what you've already done, so why continue?

Here's why: Because we stopped the project and it's a year later and I just couldn't take the 'front yard' looking like a horrid mess for one more week. We've waited a year for the city to process the grant application.

It's still in process.

So the moral of the story is this: if you're going to do it, just do it. Nothing is free.


Back to the story of the front yard :

So in the Spring of 2012, long before we started whacking away at the slab, or even thinking about cutting into it, we received nine huge blocks of historical limestone. Nine very heavy blocks of limestone from Covington homes, that had been demolished for various reasons, but had the fancy bits (mostly front steps, we believe) saved for posterity. Or in our case, it just saved our posteriors.

It took four trips and four guys to move them.

And maybe a new shock absorber or two along the way for a neighbor's truck. (Thanks, Terry & Daniel!)

Six were stacked on 2x4s, and the other three were lackadaisically strewn about the walkway. (I think we planned on some temporary design, but when we discovered just how hard they were to move, we just left them there to the side.)

Now, you have to realize that although they were all approximately 42" in length and had one side measuring 8" wide, we did have a six footer length one, and they all had varied depths. We easily determined that the 8" side was the commonality, and that would be the width of our limestone boundary. Then it got tricky.

The plan was to dig down around the perimeter of what was the slab about 10", lay down about 6" of gravel, and place the limestone on top. This was to help prevent heaving over time.

The problem was that from the East to the West, the property line next to the sidewalk dropped about 6" over 15 feet. This means we needed to adjust the digging depth so that the tops of the limestone steps were level all the way across the front... after all, we are going to install a wrought iron fence on them (eventually).

Part two of the problem was that, as mentioned previously, the depths of the stones varied from 9", 9.5", 10", 10.5" and up to 13" on the six-footer. So not only did we have to compensate for the slope of the ground, we also had to compensate for the varying depths of the stone.

So I set up a level line based upon a predetermined low point, (which was actually determined for us by being a massive piece of concrete we just couldn't remove) numbered the limestone steps with their measurements, and set a deadline for the stones to be moved.

The deadline was March 30th. Meaning, the stones got moved by 3/30, or DH was dead meat.

The last week of March, the digging had begun. We had .9/ton of gravel delivered for $64 from Ideal Supplies, Inc. in Ludlow, KY. We laid out a tarp on the sidewalk, and the driver nailed it perfectly. We also had six 40# bags of dry concrete mix delivered as well. As a last minute thought, we decided to use concrete mix as a small particulate leveling agent on top of the crushed limestone, which will hopefully also prevent partial heaving and cracking down the road.

BTW: it was way too much gravel. We used about .6/ton and gave the rest away on Craigslist. (and while I'm off on a tangent here..... when someone places an ad on Craigslist for free gravel, you are NOT supposed to then steal the tarp it was sitting on. That was just mean.)

We started with the biggest 6' block, moving the blocks with long orange arm-brace moving straps we'd seen the guys use on 'Ask This Old House'. We started on the far west side of the house and moved around to the front, making sure each varying depth matched the level line at the top of the blocks. We used a 2' level for the long length level, and a 6" level for the side to side leveling.  Each block needed minor adjustments, but it helped to level the gravel and dry concrete mix as much as possible before placement.

Oh, and before we moved the blocks, I marked each one of them to show which side was the top, and marked them each with a North/South or East/West marking so that there was no confusion as to which way the blocks were supposed to be put in place. With blocks this heavy, you don't want to have to figure it out mid-move.

After a few hours and a lot of water being consumed, all of the blocks were in place.

We decided against placing the last two on the east side of the house right now... eventually they should continue across the front of the house once the rest of the breezeway slab is removed... but that's phase two. For now, we dumped the larger of the remaining blocks in front of the steps, seeing as how it looked a little 'off' now that the slab was gone. 

Eventually, we'll level it and set it on bricks to raise up the height a few inches, but for now... it's in place.

I swooned for at least an hour. DH gets to live. Yay!


The following weekend I ordered 2 cu. yards of garden soil/mulch mix delivered from H. Haffner & Sons ( for about $145 delivered. 

Again, I over-ordered, but after moving about seven wheel barrel fulls of soil into the backyard, we were ready to start a garden.

Now I'm looking for a welder to install the hoop and bow wrought iron fence. A facade grant could really come in handy just about now.... hint hint. :-)

BTW:  a/o 4/19/13 -- there's a guy in Clifton (Cincinnati OH) who has dozens of similar pieces of Sandstone. His ad is on Craigslist.

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