How to Make Your Front Steps Pop with Cobblestone

If you have bare concrete steps leading up to your front stoop, you may be looking for a way to change the appearance. But, how do you do so without the effort or expense of replacing them altogether? One of the best ways to transform them is with strong and beautiful cobblestone. It’s not difficult to update your home and garden with the following five steps.
  1. Prepare the Doorway

Because you’re adding a new layer to your steps, they’re going to be a bit higher. This means you’ll need to remove the trim board beneath your door to shorten it. Or, you can replace it with a new one entirely. You’ll also need to do the same with any shingles, siding, or trim that reaches all the way down to the current top of the steps. So, trim off the additional height of the veneers, as well as a small margin for mortar.
  1. Create a Rough Surface for the Mortar

Mortar doesn’t adhere well to a smooth or even slightly rough surface. For it to stick, you either need to deeply scarify the current surface or adhere a metal lath, which looks like a narrowly knit grating with a rough surface, to the sides and tops of the steps. Then spread a thick layer of mortar across the material, filling in all the small, rough pockets. Next, use the notched side of the trowel to carve horizontal grooves.
  1. Fit the Cobblestones into Place

Once the mortar has dried, arrange them without mortar or adhesive first to make sure you like the pattern and fit. Cobblestones make a more cohesive pattern without cutting and scoring, so they’re easier for a DIY renovation. As you’re laying out the stones, make sure you keep them a finger’s width apart for the joints. Also, use larger pieces along the edges for greater durability.
  1. Apply the Next Layer of Mortar

Apply a thin layer of adhesive in between the layers of mortar for a stronger hold or move on to mortar directly. Apply a half-inch or slightly thicker layer directly onto the back of the stones. Use the trowel’s notched edge to create horizontal grooves, pressing the stone firmly into place. Make sure to remove any mortar from the exterior-facing surface of the stones so it doesn’t stain or dry. Keep applying the stones from the bottom up. Make sure you always allow for the grout joints. Remember, moving and correcting the stones weakens the grip each time you shift them.
  1. Apply the Grout

Carefully remove large chunks of grout from between the stones before it dries. Give one final check it once the mortar has dried. Then fill a grout bag with the mortar and apply it to all the joints. Start at the bottom and work your way up. Again, be sure you wipe away any unwanted material before it stains or dries. Once the grout has partially dried, depress and form the lines with a striking tool. Doing so will make them look even and professional instead of lumpy.

A Cobblestone Conclusion

Adding a cobblestone finish is a great way to protect the underlying concrete from impact and to increase your home’s curb appeal. Cobblestone is easy to work with since you don’t have to cut or score it, too. In addition, cobblestone is less expensive than other materials, and durable, too. Why settle for boring cement when you can have some elegant cobblestone?

How to Get Started with Butterfly Gardening for Your Children

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A butterfly garden teaches children about life cycles, as well as building an appreciation for the environment. Butterfly gardening is all about creating a natural habitat for wildlife. However, the first step is to stop using dangerous insecticides that kill butterflies, as well as other beneficial insects. Then, you will have a clean slate for growing butterfly host plants, as well as butterfly nectar plants. Children love butterfly gardens because they can spot the eggs the adult female butterflies deposit on the host plants, as well as the caterpillar larvae that form into chrysalises. When the adult butterflies emerge, it’s a spectacular moment for wide-eyed children. Even if you miss the exact moment, it’s fun for kids to frolic in a butterfly garden. They can even learn to identify the different ones. Best of all, butterfly gardening teaches children patience.

Beginning Your Butterfly Gardening: Start the Plants Indoors

It’s somewhat challenging to start some butterfly plants indoors because they are more like weeds. Butterflies also like some bushes and plants. At the same time, you can grow some butterfly attractor plants in tiny pots inside your home during the winter. Some hardy flowers that butterflies love include asters, zinnia, cosmos, purple coneflower and Black-Eyed Susans.

Design a Path Through a Natural Habitat

You can start butterfly gardening with your children in the front or backyard. In fact, it’s best to choose an area for butterflies that love the shade, as well as a sunny area for butterflies that congregate in the sun. Some staple trees or bushes include flowering dogwood, lemon trees, butterfly bush, oak and bay trees. To attract specific butterflies such as monarchs, grow plenty of milkweeds. To attract Zebra Longwing, grow a passion vine. Dod your research to learn about the native butterflies in your area and what they like. In addition to plants, show your children how to create puddles for the butterflies to drink water. Most butterflies like shallow sources of water. Also, it’s fun to make a gravel path leading to a sitting area in the shade.

In Conclusion

Reading in a butterfly garden or just taking time out from a hectic day teaches children how to relax, unwind and handle stress. For more family-friendly home and garden tips, talk to your local native plant nursery or check out books at the local library with your children. Butterfly gardening teaches many important lessons to children, but adults can learn lots, too. And thankfully, you have lots of resources at your fingertips to help. Explore the world of butterflies with your children for an unforgettable experience.

Natural Landscaping: Home and Garden Tips You Can Go Wild Over

Sustainable landscapes, xeriscaping, “naturescaping” and native plant landscaping are different home and garden terms for the natural landscaping movement. Whether you live in Florida, California or anywhere in between, you can create a friendly landscape for local butterflies and other wildlife. Growing a butterfly garden or landscaping with native plants is also a great weekend activity for the kids. If you want to know where to begin, here are some home and garden tips to get you started.

Choose Native or Non-Invasive Plants

Some people use strictly native plants while others find “friendly” plants that don’t require a lot of water or are not invasive. A great place to start is to talk to your local extension office or plant nursery about which plants are native to your region. When it comes to xeriscaping, use groundcovers that don’t need a lot of watering, especially during a drought. When you choose native plants, they often rely on natural rainfall and the natural flows of the seasons. This is one of the top home and garden tips that saves you money on fertilizer and watering.

Attract Butterflies and Bees

With children, you probably rather attract butterflies than bees. However, bees also require pollen from certain plants and are good for your garden. Most home and garden tips include attracting bees to pollinate plants. So, consider planting bee-attracting plants away from where your children play. Also, grow a butterfly garden for your child’s education and enjoyment. When planting a butterfly garden, opt for a mix of host butterfly plants and nectar plants. Caterpillars consume the host plants to transform into butterflies who then thrive on the nectar plants. Children often enjoy watching the butterfly stages. Although some butterfly plants are actually “weeds,” they help preserve the dwindling butterfly population.

Some Final Home and Garden Tips

Experts say native plants include species that occur naturally in a specific area or habitat before the European settlement. When you resell your home, remember that potential buyers often love the beautiful native plants with deep roots that absorb rainfall. Inside your home, you can grow houseplants that are also native to your area. Houseplants naturally clean the air inside your home. For more home and garden tips regarding native plants, talk to your favorite plant nursery or native plant growers.

How to Build a Brick Bench for Your Yard in 4 Easy Steps

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Segmenting your yard does a lot to improve its appeal. Small lots can look bigger and more functional if you devote key areas for different uses. Even large yards can look amazing if you designate a separate patio and cooking area. Another way to segment your outdoor space is to build a brick bench. Also, a brick bench adds vertical interest and extra seating. Brick is durable and weather-proof, as well.

Why You Should Build a Brick Bench for Your Yard

Most people break up their yards by using different flooring to mark off areas. For example, creating a cement patio for grilling or a cobblestone circle with patio furniture for entertaining. You can set brick pathways through a vegetable garden, too. And while different floors can organize the area, a brick bench separates they play area from the grill or other breakable equipment. In addition, a brick bench is an attractive way to keep balls and toys contained without looking like you’re walling off part of the yard. But a division that’s too tall can make your yard look small, so a bench is just the right height for function and form. DIY builders are increasingly preferring brick over traditional benches of metal and wood because they’re sturdier and have a homier look. Even with consistent maintenance and staining, wood wears away and breaks over time. It also soaks up water, which both damages it further and makes it unusable until it dries out. Metal is also vulnerable if you live in a rainy region because the seams are susceptible to corrosion. Brick, on the other hand, is solid and stays durable for decades, rain or shine.

Step 1: Pick the Style and Dimensions

The first step to build a brick bench is to think about the size and design. Some benches have a back that provides more support. But, a back also makes it appear one-sided or like a low wall. However, a backless bench is generally the preferred style because the bench is low enough so that it doesn’t break up your yard. Also, it is more useful for visitors who want to interact with people on both sides of the area. And, a backless bench style is much easier to brush off. Most benches are approximately 16 inches wide and two feet high, so all you need to do is decide how long you want it to be.

Step Two: Set the Foundational Trench

Because your bench is going to face a lot of traffic, you need to set it in cement instead of just on the ground. When you dig the trench, you’ll need to use a level line as a reference point to check the depth. Here’s how:
  • Place stones at the two ends of the wall for a guide, adding at least one inch on either side.
  • Drive a stake in at each end. String a line level on mason’s line and stretch it between the stakes.
  • To keep the string from slipping, put a notch on each stake and hook the string to each notch instead of tying it. That way you can hook and unhook the string as you dig.
Dig a trench that’s about one foot deep and has an extra inch on each side of the perimeter, so you have plenty of room to work. Next, pour a layer of concrete that fills the trench halfway, or about six inches deep. Let it set, so you have a firm working surface for the brick.

Step Three: Start Laying the Bricks

Here’s how to start laying your bricks:
  • Set a half-inch thick coat of mortar along the foundation where the first row will go.
  • Lay the first brick in the corner. Apply mortar along the side that meets the previous brick until you lay the last brick in the row.
  • Next, move on to the second row. Now two sides of all but the ending bricks will need mortar. Add it to the short side in contact with the progressing row, and then the long side in contact with the previous row.
  • To create the strong, staggered pattern, start the row with half bricks. Just score a brick with a chisel and tap it with a hammer to break it.
  • Lay the remaining brick rows for the bench. Then check with a level to ensure the course is flat.

Step Four: Add Some Finishing Touches

Add more rows of bricks on top of the first until you reach your planned height. For a bench that’s approximately two feet high, you will have six courses of brick. Be sure to alternate the pattern of half bricks for a stronger, interlocking bench. Once you finish the top layer, add a layer of mortar and tile on top. Or, you can add another row of bricks you set side by side decoratively for a neat finish.

In Conclusion

It may seem daunting to build your first outdoor seating, but you can if you follow these steps. Remember, there are lots of YouTube videos on how to build a brick bench, as well. When you add a brick bench to your yard, it will add beauty, charm and functionality for years to come.