Forking over the cash for new sidewalks is not my idea of a fun project. Nor is it a DIY project. So… since I had to do it, I figured I’d splurge by adding an extra charming brick paver walkway to my house! I think the results speak for themselves on this one!
A charming brick paver walkway adds tons of curb appeal
Pouring new concrete sidewalks
I’ve been putting off getting new sidewalks poured since I’ve moved in. Now, it’s been 5 years and I decided it’s finally time. But… boy… it’s so expensive and just seems like such a crappy way to throw money. I know it will make a difference and adds curb appeal, but there’s nothing exciting or interesting about pouring concrete sidewalks. So, I decided to seize the opportunity, and while I had the contractor there, I talked to him about some ideas to create a really charming brick walkway to my house.
The concrete pour was really straight forward. I called 3 contractors to get quotes (see below for my tips about working with contractors). I talked to the contractors about how they would pour the concrete. Here’s what we covered:
- pouring as a separate sidewalk and curb or pouring together — they poured them together
- adding rebar to reenforce the concrete
- mixing fiberglass into the concrete for extra strength (he said lots of people opt out of this because you can see the little fiber glass flecks in the concrete. I decided to do it anyway and I’m happy I did — the durability and strength outweighed the cons for me)
- expansion joints and score lines
- addressing the walkway — I wanted to add pavers, but would these be a separate project, laid onto the ground with sand, or laid overtop of a thin concrete layer. I decided to go with the thin layer of concrete so that laying the walkway would be easier, level and (hopefully) last longer through our harsh Northeast PA winters.
- sealing the concrete afterwards
Charming brick paver walkway
The brick paver walkway was the most exciting part of this project for me. I went online and found some photos of what I liked, and was able to show these to the contractor. He picked out the brick and sent me photos of the options. And, since I was home during the install, I was able to give some extra input about the design and how I wanted the bricks to lay out. Just a note, my contractor was super friendly and accommodating — not all are as nice as this and would probably be annoyed if you were hovering over them as they work.
I wanted small bricks or something “cottagy” for the walkway. So I went on Pinterest and found a bunch of photos I liked so I could give the contractor an idea of what I was looking for. Here are the example photos I pulled from the internet.
This was my favorite option, although I didn’t want red. We were able to create a curved look like this, but found brick pavers that were closer to the colors in my walled garden beds.
Here’s a second example of the curved brick walkway style I liked. This one stuck me as more of the shape of my walkway so I thought it was a good option to show the contractor.
After I got the pricing, I picked the best contractor fit for me. And— was immediately put on a waiting list. The 3 week wait-list quickly turned into 7 weeks. But, once they were ready to work it went really quickly. The project was started on a Friday, they worked on Saturday and Tuesday, and finished up on Wednesday. All in all, the entire project was about 20 hours of labor.
Sometimes working with contractors feels really difficult. But if you follow my tips below, you’ll have a much better experience and feel more prepared when it’s time to hire!
Tips for working with contractors
Get 3 quotes
This is always my advice: get 3 quotes on the project. You can get more if you want, but you need at LEAST 3 quotes. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a project quoted to find that the prices were ALL OVER THE MAP. You need to get 3 so that you have some comparison. When I got the first quote, I was baffled by the cost because of the fake crap I read online about this being really cheap. Second quote, baffled again... but I suppose this was a reality check. The third time I was ready for it, although I was hoping that they were going to fall into that $500 range I saw online. Unfortunately, not... on this project all three quotes worked out to be within $100 of each other.
Ask for a line-item estimate
On a side note, I also had four basement windows replaced during this project. When I asked the contractors to line-item the estimate (you should always do this), the pricing was different... some were charging more or less for the basement windows, or more or less for the office cut-down project. If I wanted to be a complete scrooge I could have hired one company for the basement, and another for the cut down. But... it's likely that the contractor would raise the price if I did this, or even not want to take the job because it was too small and not worth their time.
Get a contract
It's important to get some sort of written contract or invoice from the contractor. Make sure that you cover everything. In any home improvement/repair project, you'll want to make sure that the quote covers:
- repairing / replacing any exterior material (like siding or brick), or interior material (like moldings, trim, etc.)
- the finish that you want -- I recommend showing them sample photos of what you want the finished product to look like so that they can give you an appropriate price. Some styles or finishes are more labor-intensive/expensive than others and this can affect the price.
- payment terms -- when do they need payment? I'd recommend giving them half down, and holding the other half until you are completely satisfied with the project. For example, if they are ready to leave, but didn't finish the trim work as specified in your contract, you'll want to make sure you address this before handing over the final payment. This is fair to the contractor as well-- they won't be called back to the job site after the fact to fix something that was just overlooked.
- warranty information -- usually there's different warranty times / coverage for the 1. labor and 2. the actual product installed. So, for example, if your wall starts leaking or the seal breaks on a window, you'll need to refer to the labor warranty. If your window cracks or gets condensation inside, this is likely to be a defect in the window itself, which can be under a different (manufacturer) warranty.
Don't decide just on the bid price
It's easy to think that getting three quotes means that you will automatically pick the cheapest one. But... you really shouldn't. I always judge contractors by the free estimate meetings I have with them. Do they seem like they are interested in your project? Are they able to answer all of your questions? Are they offering you multiple options (cheaper vs. more expensive ways to get the job done). Are you comfortable with them being in your home?
Honestly, I go with my gut when the prices are close. If I liked one contractor's personality over another, I will 9 times out of 10 choose that contractor. So... if there are any contractors reading this... be respectful, personable, friendly, and helpful during the estimate. I am always grateful for that and am always surprised at how many contractors are rude to me because I'm a woman, or because they are tired, or because I don't know the basics about their trade that they somehow "expect" me to know. Customer service is really important to me, and it should be to you as well.
Overall, spending a ton of money on something like concrete can really suck the life out of you. Where I live, our borough does not care for the sidewalks in front of your home, although if it gets very bad, they can actually mandate you to get them repoured. Check your local township/city/borough website for details on pouring sidewalks… you may luck out and they will take care of them for you.
If you are in the same boat as me and have to pour them yourself, you may want to consider adding something special to the project. This always helps me to feel a little better about spending the money. I needed basement windows, so while the contractor was there I had him enlarge a window in my office. I needed sidewalks poured, so while the contractor was there I had him install a cute brick paver walkway to add a little more charm. Doing this helps you to appreciate the project more, and not feel like you are wasting your money on items that don’t bring you joy. You deserve a little joy, and while you have a contractor already coming to do something else, you may as well inquire about those little touches you wouldn’t otherwise do!
As with any project, gather sample photos and make sure that you have a clear idea of what you expect from the contractor. Follow all of the contractor tips in this post to make sure you are picking one that’s a good fit for you and the project you are working on. Most of all, enjoy the process, have fun, and use these types of projects to add a special touch to your home!
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