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Playful -- and permeable -- paving patterns

December 8, 2009 |  8:08 am
Stevegerischer2

Steve Gerischer turned a pile of rubble into this beautifully-patterned (and permeable) driveway.

The owner of Larkspur Garden Design used recycled brick and broken concrete salvaged from job sites to install a floral-inspired tapestry over his 14-by 40-foot drive in Glassell Park.

“The driveway had been gravel for years, but eventually had mostly become just dirt with a little gravel,” he says. 
Instead of paving over it, the designer decided to use what he had on hand – recycled building materials. “I didn’t want all that to go to the landfill.”

Gerischer once heard another designer describe pieces of broken sidewalk or patio concrete as “urbanite.” He won’t take credit for coining the term, but he uses it often when explaining how to repurpose building materials to clients or his design students at the Los Angeles County Arboretum or Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants.

Gerischer’s brick-and-concrete design is completely permeable so that storm water will percolate into the ground rather than spill into the street.

To begin, he excavated 3 to 4 inches of dirt from the driveway and compacted the remaining soil as base. He spread 2 inches of road gravel (a combination of rubble and sand) and then started arranging the pieces of concrete and brick to create a decorative pattern on top.

“I wanted the design to have a flowing feeling with some movement, so I flared out the bricks around the chunks of concrete,” Gerischer says. “It’s a little like what you see on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.”

Here are some of his tricks to make the design sturdy so individual pieces don’t pop up or wiggle under your tires:

  • Turn bricks on edge so they will sink deeper into the gravel. Gerischer hid broken edges or corners, turning up the best edges of brick.
  • Use larger chunks of concrete where driving occurs. “All of my large pieces are in line with where my truck tires will go,” he says.
  • Stabilize pieces by spreading road gravel between openings and spaces. Wet down each section as you work. “When you wet the sandy mixture, you can wiggle the urbanite or brick pieces around until they stop moving. Then fill in spaces with more gravel or brush in more sand,” he says. Gerischer also wedged bits of broken terra-cotta pottery as a stabilizer.
  • Top off the design by brushing fine sand between all remaining cracks and crevices. Gerischer uses play sand or plaster sand. He does not use sand with silica because it is harmful to plants.
  • Leave gravel pockets to encourage wildflowers or volunteers to seed and bloom. 

If you’re on the lookout for broken concrete or raw materials like broken pottery or brick, Gerischer suggests checking Craigslist. Some municipalities or utility districts allow homeowners to pick up ingredients for free from city job sites. Bourget Bros. Building Materials in Santa Monica also sells sorted and sized broken concrete.

Gerischer estimates that he spent $250 (mostly on sand and gravel) to transform his driveway. “It’s a permeable solution,” he says.

It’s also quite an attractive one.
 To contact Gerischer, e-mail him at sglarkspur@aol.com.

-- Debra Prinzing

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