As per Part 1, now that the big old deck was rotting we thought: Let’s have a patio instead. Which we thought would be simple enough. It wasn’t. We were soon hooked on some attractive natural stone, and the project took on a life of its own. Done just before the snow. And now a daily joy.

Since I was talking about decking in Part 1, no further suspense, here is what we did. We went small, just a platform and steps, and we chose cumaru, a Brazilian hardwood. Yes, it comes from a distance. On the other hand, it will last more than 30 years without chemical treatments, unlike our native cedar. We will give it one treatment with a newish eco-friendly water-based solution. We are taking on faith its nanotechnology claims, because it looks just like diluted milk.

Maybe for future owners it will last fifty years, and they will keep it because of the design that lets you step down in any direction. We can’t know, but it’s nice to imagine, much like picturing the future when you plant a tree. The beautiful reddish brown cumaru will go gray, admittedly a sacrifice for me. It is a peaceful choice, though—we won’t be always fretting, when should we re-stain? and it will blend just as well with the stone.

We were shown concrete pavers and wall blocks, a mix of sizes and colors in a nod to esthetics. We couldn’t get excited. We did use it for small retaining walls at the side of the house as part of re-grading. But for the patio back wall, I quickly added to the con side of the ledger: concrete is not as eco-friendly as stone, and doesn’t last quite a long (go ahead and shake your head, I’m in my sixties, what should I care how long it lasts?).

The main wall we are going to be looking at all the time. When our breath caught in front of Montana Chiefcliff stone, it was true love, and we told ourselves it would be easier to build with than the rounded and jagged rock we have around here, and that rail transport is fuel-efficient. Hmmm, what might go with it for the patio floor? And that was the end of the original budget. We left it far behind. Thank you, Dad, for the funds to do this nicely.

After the deck tear-out came the excavation of an alarmingly deep hole, then the retaining walls, two new drain lines and an electrical conduit. And finally dry-laid flagstone locked in by crushed rock in the gaps. [The polymer and sand products just weren’t going to work for us. We paid a student to dig it back out and went with the crushed rock Tim originally recommended.] Always listen to Tim.

One issue that the original builder had left us was a sidewalk that sits at a wrong elevation compared with the door sill—neither a nice two nor a nice three step height between the two. He had papered it over with multi-level decking and nine inch steps. So it was either re-do the sidewalk or get clever joining the patio up with it. What made all the difference was we had complete confidence in our mason/landscape builder, Tim. We made the stair height short, six inches, and Tim feathered the rest of the difference. I also worried about sweeping vs. blowing, whether chair legs would sink in the gaps, etc etc. I needn’t have worried, Tim made it all turn out wonderfully.

By the calculus of how much longer we may be in our house, and its resale value, the choices we made are. . .well, they don’t “maximize.” But through the glass slider, every day we look out at a gorgeous stone wall, endlessly interesting, and in the rain? Marvelous color depth and high sheen. And the flagstone is pretty sweet, too. It’s all too nice for the house. Maybe the house can learn to live up to our new hardscape—draw itself up to its best posture.

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