However, since the back yard is very flat, drainage isn't great, and the path from the driveway to the back door was often muddy, especially in the winter and fall. This was a serious problem since my wife teaches piano lessons in the basement and uses the back door as the entrance to her studio.
The solution was to install some sort of paved walkway that would allow for drainage and keep visitors out of the mud. We began looking through home improvement books and magazines, and came across an intriguing idea for a walkway that was unusual and interesting. I wasn't crazy about gravel or pavers, and anything fancier than that was too expensive. The idea in the book was a boardwalk - much like the ones you might encounter in a national forest, or hiking trail. We both loved the look, and I set to work making plans to improve upon the basic idea.
The boardwalk in the book used 4X4 runners with 2X6 planks across it. I thought this was boring, so I decided to put in a pattern - 1 2X6 for every 3 2X4 planks. My wife liked the look of leaving the ends of the boards uneven, so the plan was set. It would be easy to trim the ends even with a circular saw if that was desired. I decided to use 4X6 beams as the runners. These were set directly on the ground after clearing away any grass or other vegetation. I realize that they would last longer if they would have been set on a bed of sand or gravel with landscaping fabric, but I didn't want to take the time or go to that expense. All of the wood is green treated, and will last quite a while.
I laid out the beams along a gentle curve I had marked out with marking paint (I don't like straight lines in pathways). To bring the path back down to ground level at each end, I constructed 2' ramp sections using 2X4s for the runners and planks, attaching these to the ends of the 4X6 beams at each end of the boardwalk. The planks were attached with 4" galvanized screws and were spaced 1/2" apart for optimum drainage. I placed mulch between the runners to help prevent weed growth. The 4X6 runners were attached to each other at the ends with galvanized patch panels and screws.
I took care to even out the ground under each runner, but didn't get crazy with detail about the walk being perfectly plumb and square. I kept the distance between the outside edges of the runners at approximately 32", and the final walkway is 36-40" wide, with the varied width of the boards. I kept it close enough to level that it doesn't have any crazy tilt to it, but loose enough that it looks natural.
The final result is a beautiful, functional pathway that is very secure. We added landscaping and low voltage lighting along the path, and it is absolutely gorgeous after dark. It came out far better than I had anticipated.
The finished project!
April 2004 - Update - It's hard to believe, but the boardwalk has been in place almost 3 years, and it's still holding up fine. I do have a couple of boards that have ends that are warped up a bit, but not so bad to make me want to replace them yet. Even with all the snow we had this winter, I didn't have any problem keeping the walkway clear. In fact, after one 11" snowfall, I actually ran the snowblower up the walkway! Otherwise, I just use our big push scoop. The walkway has been the single biggest improvement in the back yard, after the driveway. It's very useful and elegant, and it keeps lots of dirt and mud out of the house, especially important since my wife's piano studio is in the basement. With the accent lights on at night, it really makes quite a statement.
If you are interested in plans of the boardwalk or any other projects, contact me about this or any of the projects you see on this site.