I’ve been working in the landscaping industry for over 20 years, and I start each new season thinking I’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to our field. There was the in ground pool that heaved about 24″ over the first winter, sending the pavers we’d installed around it down into oblivion. The co-worker that was struck by lightning while working on a truck. The retaining wall blocks with vice grips sticking out of their middle. Me riding at highway speeds on a partially enclosed trailer back to the shop, ducking under a wheelbarrow to hide from the wind, so I could light up a cigarette for the trip. (Thankfully, the days of trailer riding and cigarettes are behind me.)
But every year I get to something that I’ve never seen before, proving that I still haven’t seen it all. This year was no different. One of the first things we wanted to get done this year was to repair a patio we’d built about 20 months ago. It had settled unnaturally, and in a location that puzzled me; at the furthest point away from the house.
The client had contacted me last summer about the issue, and when I’d visited the site then, it looked like about 80 square feet of this paver patio was sliding off a cliff. In a flat yard. There was a jagged fault line across the patio, with all the pavers on one side of that line badly settled and those on the other side, just fine. And the gap in seams along that fault line was big. I could stick the tip of my index finger between the pavers where they diverged.
The house and landscaping were a decade old when we got there, so unsettled fill was ruled out as a cause. And now, roughly 10 months after the client first contacted us about the problem, I was pretty sure the problem was going to look even worse, and possibly involve a larger portion of the patio.
But apparently, our patios are magic. When we arrived and walked to the backyard to begin the repair, the patio was healed! Immediately my heart sank, as I thought our client had either grown impatient with us and did the repairs themselves, or worse, hired someone else to do them. When they stepped outside to greet us, I immediately asked: “Did you guys do some work on the patio?” The client smiled “We didn’t. Yeah, it kinda looks like it fixed itself, doesn’t it.”
Sure enough, if had. I only wish I’d have taken photos when the patio was at it’s worst, so I could show you the difference. But this picture, taken today, should be proof enough. Pretty hard to find the crevasse, isn’t it? Just a few days ago I told a homeowner in our landscaping forums that I know of no pavement that doesn’t degrade in time – and what I’d originally typed and later edited was that I knew of no pavement that improved in time. Yet here I was this morning, standing before a paver patio that had done just that.
It only took a few minutes for my inner Fox Mulder to be challenged by my inner Dana Skulley, hypothesizing that the patio was not reallt magic, but that somewhere beneath our base prep lays a volume of earth that is retaining water and moving materials around with the freeze/thaw cycles or wet/dry cycles. The client also hypothesized that the root mass of a nearby Ash tree might be causing the problem. But I’ve never seen tree roots make pavers move down and then later, back up.
Then again, there may still be a lot of things I’ve never seen before.