Saturday, January 19, 2008

Unending Backyard Project: Sealant is Done!

Well, we happened to have a pleasant weekend in the midst of our rainy season, and I was able to get outside (two days in a row!) and put the sealant on the walkway and patio. I applied two coats of a lacquer-based wet-look sealant to the whole thing. It's a little difficult to tell from pictures posted online what the difference in color and look is now that the sealant is on, but take a look:

You'll notice that there is a bit of shine to the walkway in the above picture, as it reflects the light of the setting sun. Had I the opportunity to take this picture with full sun on it, the shine would have been really, really obvious.

Here's a close-up picture. Because of the lighting, it's not really obvious, but it does have a bit of a wet look to it. But it's completely dry. To show the difference, I sprayed a little water on it in the picture below. This is what it now looks like when it gets wet:

Prior to the application of the sealant the water would have wet the stones thoroughly, seeping in and darkening the stones until they had dried. They're porous; they're concrete pavers, after all. But now that the sealant has sealed up all the pores, the water is beading up at the surface.

So here are a few random observations of this whole process:
  • The sealant really does bring out the color of the stones. In my previous posts on this topic, I often wet the stones down before taking the pictures that I posted, because it made them look much prettier. Well, now it has that color all the time.
  • In selecting the lacquer sealant, I (knowing nothing of sealant) went with the recommendations of the place that sold the stones. And while it looks like they recommended a good product, it was also very expensive. As I was perusing our local Lowe's today, they didn't have this stuff on their shelves; but the stuff they did have was about a third the price. For the four gallons of this stuff that I used, that was a lot of money. If and when I have to seal or re-seal stones in the future, I'm going to be using something a little less expensive.
  • I probably should have expected this and been prepared for the consequences earlier, but bird-poop is going to be a serious issue with the patio. Turns out there's a privet tree in our front yard with lots of little tiny dark blue-black berries that the birds love. And after they gorge themselves on the privet berries, they land on our neighbor's Chinese Elm (which has lost all its leaves, of course) and poop little blue-black bird poop all over the patio. And that color doesn't wash off easily...
  • Of course, I had to get all that bird poop off before putting the sealant down, unless I wanted to preserve it for all time. So I soaked it with a hose and then sprayed it down under pressure. That seemed to work, but it also removed some of the sand between the cobblestones. So, now one end of the patio has little open gaps between the stones. Oh, well. It still looks good.
  • In looking for rollers at our local Lowe's, I was at first bewildered by the array of choices. There were big fat ones, and thin ones, and spongy ones, all from different brands. C'mon here, I just need a roller! Well, I learned the hard way what the differences are. If you get a thin one, you'll save a little money, but it's only useful if you're not trying to roll your sealant down into the cracks between stones. My first coat didn't penetrate; it only covered the very tops of the stones, and left really obvious gaps where the stones came together. So this morning I got a really, really fluffy one--1 + 1/4" of fluff coming out from the central cylinder on all sides--to do the second coat, and it worked like a champ. Lesson learned!
  • Lacquer sealant is sticky, of course. And there is only loose sand between the stones. So as I'm rolling on the sealant, the roller is picking up sand. That sand is then subjected to some serious centrifugal forces as the roller rolls along. The result is that lacquered sand gets thrown everywhere. I found a fair amount stuck to my pants and the tops of my shoes. There's also a good deal of sand mixed in with the finish on top of the stones. This makes the finish look not quite so shiny, and a little bit dusty; but it has the virtue of making the final, finished stones really non-skid.
Anyway, the project is quickly nearing completion. The only phase that remains is the backfill--bringing the level of the ground up near the top of the stones, so that all those ugly side-barriers are covered up. This job will probably involve raising one of the sprinkler heads. But unlike the task that I finished yesterday and today, it does not require perfect weather. You can't put down sealant in a drizzle; you can shovel mud.

I mentioned in a previous post that I want to have this whole thing finished by the end of February so that Tonya can start her garden on time. It's actually starting to look--thankfully--like that won't be a problem.

No comments: