Salvaged Brick Sidewalk

September 2nd, 2008

This story begins with a nice pile of bricks. A pile of bricks that our family salvaged from an old sidewalk in town which ran in front of my friend Kara’s house. Kara was having a new sidewalk put in and called to let me know that we could take the old bricks out of her sidewalk before the concrete truck arrived –  if we still wanted them.  We did want them and spent the next two weekends digging the bricks out of her old sidewalk, loading them into the back of the pick-up, driving them out to our building site, and unloading them.  

After the immense effort of moving those bricks, I am sorry to tell you that we grew a bit prideful of them. Nevermind the new house, the quaint barn, the view, the pond and the shiny new kitchen cabinets… WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE OUR SALVAGED BRICKS?

Because we salvaged them… 


And this makes us much better than most people on earth. Because WE ARE SALVAGERS…and EVERYONE in AMERICA knows that re-using old building materials is what makes you closest to God these days. 

This is what our sidewalk looked like back when I was having a delirious visit from Beverley Nichols, my favorite garden author.
Over the course of the summer, the only thing that changed in this path was that the weeds got taller and taller and taller.  I am very glad Beverley was not around to see that happen.  
One of the reasons for the delay, was that we needed to pick a pattern in which to lay the bricks.  While on the UC Berkeley campus – we found our inspiration.

In the shadow of a tall clock tower were bricks in a herringbone pattern.   We thought if it was good enough for Berkeley, it was good enough for us.

Back home, the Country Doctor, tilled up the dirt in the sidewalk.

Mixed in some cement.

And then we had to move the pile of bricks from behind the house to beside the pathway.   
I did not help with this step as I had seen a black snake crawl out of this pile of bricks earlier that summer and had no interest whatsoever in seeing him again.

I was further vindicated when the Country Doctor found a snake skin.

The bricks were unloaded in various piles around the pathway.  You can see here the sand and the screed that the Country Doctor built to smooth out the surface evenly before setting the bricks in place.

Here’s the screed again… 
At least I think it is called a screed.
And here is a live snake they found in the brick pile.  

The Country Doctor lined both edges of the pathway with bricks placed end to end, and then he started working on the herringbone pattern.

It was about here that we realized how many bricks we were going to have to cut to make this pattern work.  

And right about here, we realized that we would be cutting bricks to fill in the holes in this pathway for the rest of our lives.

And when I say “we would be cutting bricks” ….

I actually mean “the Country Doctor” would be cutting bricks.
Because my hands started to sweat buckets every time I watched my husband slice one of those bricks in half.  I eventually had to retreat to the porch and sit there helplessly, fanning myself with a wide brimmed straw hat, saying things like “I do declare!” and “Glory be!”  and “Heavens to Betsy!”
Besides, why exactly did I have all these boys, if not to help their father build a brick pathway?

Here is Drew marking chalk lines on the bricks to show their dad where to make a cut.

The thousands and thousands…..

And millions and trillions of precise brick cuts…

Eventually, the Country Doctor wore out the blade on the big saw and for the last twenty odd cuts he used a hand saw.

This is the last brick!

This is the last cut!

But it isn’t over yet.  
I was able to help the Country Doctor spread a fine layer of sand over the sidewalk as there were no snakes and no saw involved.  But I did have to take frequent breaks to drink my coffee, admire my roses, practice some modern dance steps on the sweeping front lawn and oh yeah… take some pictures…. 
The final step involves sweeping the sand into all the cracks and crevices in between the bricks…

And using one of these thingys to… to… Heck I have no idea what that machine does.

Jack gave the new/old sidewalk a test drive.

Here is the Country Doctor standing on his new brick pathway.

Nice job Honey!
Now honey… we have to get that other sidewalk done.


  • Sharon:

    He did an awesome job!

  • Dinah:

    Absolutely beautiful! What a great job you all did.

  • Dodson Family:

    I love it!!!!!!!!

  • foofeee:

    Fantastic work! What is is about Doctors? I think they are all overachievers! He can doctor the community, build a brick sidewalk, take care of showcats, raise boys and be a good husband! I know what is it, he has you!

  • E-Jayjo:

    Wow. I'm mucho impressed. That looks awesome. My hubs & I are do-it-yourselfers, so I can really appreciate all that hard work. It really looks great!

  • Kristin:


  • Cynthia:

    Beautiful.You didn’t mention how long it took. Was it a one day project?

  • Jennifer:

    VERY nice! I’ve been watching the masons cut bricks for our repairs… it’s scary stuff!!

  • Carol:

    Wow, impressive. Your family did a great job.

  • Michele:

    Wow! That is a LONG sweeping walkway! I do declare…that looks like a TON of work. Nice pattern.

  • pedalpower:

    Well, behind every great sidewalk making doctor there is a great woman sitting on the porch right? Besides, I’m with you…you labored bringing all those boys into the world. That’s your contribution to the project! Really beautiful path!

  • Rechelle:

    Cynthia – it took FOREVER!!! No actually, it took about two weeks – working whenever he had time to cut bricks for a few hours…

  • Twinlinebackers:

    Just think, without you and all your hard wprk taking pictures, none of us could appreciate your gorgeous brick path. It’s wonderful!!!

  • sparkly_jules:

    I hate to point this out, but it’s UC Berkeley, as in University of California at Berkeley. USC is the University of Southern California, where I went for two years, and the two are HUGE rivals!!Great house, great garden, fab sidewalk. Love both blogs!!Jules

  • Dawn:

    The pathway looks terrific and of course the boys must be the ones who do the manual labor. that’s a given!

  • Hillary:

    Beautiful path!! The Country Doctor did a fabulous job!!FYI, That “Thingy” is a viberplate and it compacts the bricks and sand so they don’t shift. Sorry my DH does this for a living so I know all the technical stuff. LOL!

  • Kristine:

    Wow what a lot of work. It looks fantastic!

  • Whosyergurl:

    THAT looks GREAT! Isn’t it wonderful to have a HandyMan? You are hilarious! Cheryl (Whosyergurl)


    Beautiful. Word of caution: Never confuse USC with UC Berkeley again. Two completely different beasts.

  • nicrogers:

    Wow! I am seriously impressed! Fantastic job.

  • Sally-Ann:

    Seeing your wonderful new sidewalk has made me want one as well! Every day when I go to pick my daughter up from school I drive by a demolition site. They have stacks and stacks of old bricks. Wonder if they would miss some? Of course, climbing the fence could be a problem and I think they have a very large dog on the premises. Can only fit so many in the back of a mini van

  • Anonymous:

    Wow. Awesome job. Beautiful pathway. Thanks for sharing. Margie

  • Jen:

    It is gorgeous! I love it…so classy.

  • reluctantfarmchik:

    This is beautiful. Your country doctor sounds very much like my country doctor. I’m impressed – he finished the entire job. Like when he started it. My doc would have too (but I wouldn’t have). We moved into our new home in July too. You’re WAY ahead of us in landscaping though. I’m afraid to take pictures of it – it’s that bad. And snakes? Don’t get me started.

  • Egghead:

    Wow! Great job. I find myself singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” Only yours is red.

  • Krissy:

    Wow, that is a gorgeous walkway. I love it! I was going to call that “thingy” a tamper – that’s what my DH calls it. He used one like that when he made our gravel driveway… it basically vibrates really fast to make all the sand/rocks/bricks settle into each other to keep them from shifting. But Hillary already told you that. lol :D