Dear Jim: What do you think of building a decorative patio and walkway, with gecko-style concrete pavers, on the south side of my house to absorb the sun's heat? What construction options do I have for this?
-- Rick T.
Dear Rick: First of all, your concept of laying a concrete (high thermal mass) paver patio on the south side of your house is excellent. The concrete will absorb some of the sun's heat during the day and reflect some of it up toward your house for greater heat gain during the winter.
At night, the stored heat will slowly radiate upward to create a warm thermal buffer area against your house. This reduces the rate of indoor heat loss through the walls and windows and makes you more comfortable.
During the summer, with the sun's position higher in the sky, the roof overhang or a small awning will shade the concrete from the sun's direct rays. With summer breezes being typically from the southwest, any warm air created by the sun's indirect rays on the patio is blown away.
There are many options and do-it-yourself products for building a unique-looking, attractive concrete patio or walkway. To create the gecko design that you referred to, purchase reusable plastic forms to make your own pavers. The forms create the interlocking pavers and unique surface textures.
For a country stone pattern, place a different type of reusable plastic form on the ground. Mix the concrete and shovel it into the form. Tap it down, smooth the surface with a trowel and lift out the plastic form. This leaves deep grooves in the concrete for the appearance of individual stones.
Place the same form down adjacent to the completed section, shovel in more concrete and repeat this process until the walkway or patio is completed. Forms for various patterns are available, as are colorants for the concrete.
If you prefer to buy finished paver bricks locally, place a plastic paver-laying guide tray on the ground first. This levels the pavers and positions them for perfect spacing. Guides are available for various sizes of pavers.
Use an edging kit for a crisp, professional-looking edge. Several designs use flexible, tough, black plastic with built-in support stakes for perfect, neat curves. Another edging method uses plastic bricks with low-voltage wiring inside. Place special lighted bricks periodically along the edge.
Another efficient and simple patio option is colorful gravel. You can install large plastic forms consisting of one-inch-high tubes connected by webs. This is placed on the ground and then covered with gravel. It is so strong that you can park a car on it and the gravel stays in place.
Write to James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, Ohio 45244 (or instantly download at www.dulley.com) for Update Bulletin No. 715, the buyer's guide of 13 manufacturers of unique pavers, molds, lights, edging, accessories, building instruction and a list (by state) of 55 local concrete paver suppliers. Include $3 and a business-size self-addressed stamped envelope.