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New Product to Protect DG

I received an email recently from Tony Damico with Wheeler Zamaroni about a new product to use with Decomposed Granite paths and patios. This is a sealer from TerraKoat International that has been extensively tested by WZ for efficacy for over a year.  I have not personally used it but want to pass along this information to my readers. Here is a quote from Damico:

I wanted to let you know what WZ’s take was on the product. Because Wheeler Zamaroni is a landscape supply company we sell a lot of Decomposed Granite, Decomposed Granite with dry stabilizer and Decomposed Granite with liquid stabilizer. (the liquid stabilizer TerraKoat EX is leaps and bounds better than the dry stabilizer) It is the customers that decide to use the dry stabilizer or no stabilizer at all that benefit most from this product.

As you can see from Tony’s quote above, if you used a dry stabilizer or no stabilizer during your installation, you should consider using RainKoat for winter preservation.

Here are the simple instructions:

  1. Remove any loose debris from the DG surface
  2. Using a pump type garden sprayer apply DG RainKoat at the rate of 100 sq. feet per gallon
  3. For high traffic areas or additional protection a second coat can be applied.

For more information call Wheeler Zamaroni 650-271-2099

Or see this website of http://www.terrakoat.com/terrakoatex.html

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Decomposed Granite Paths

With summer here, lots of do-it-yourselfers will be hunting for info on Decomposed Granite.  I have many posts on ‘how-to’ and ‘how-not-to’, including my eBooklets with complete installation information.  I’ve found a few more photos from previous installations of mine in addition to those already on my website.  First some paths:

A Decomposed Granite path in a shady location.  Notice the concrete transition just at the outside door so DG is not tracked into house

A Decomposed Granite path in a shady location. Notice the concrete transition just at the outside door so DG is not tracked into house

Decomposed Granite path

Decomposed Granite path.  Notice the edging here

Decomposed granite flagstone patio

Decomposed granite flagstone patio with DG inbetween stones. Pathway is all Decomposed Granite

Decomposed Granite path no hardener

Decomposed Granite path. No hardener was used in this job

Stone and DG

Decomposed Granite path with stone blocks inserted

Decomposed granite path

Lovely Decomposed Granite path under arbor.  This path was done with a TerraPave seal

Decomposed granite pathway

Another arbor

Wood and DG steps

Pressure treated wood contains these Decomposed Granite stairs

Terrapave

Decomposed Granite path with terrapave

I would be amiss if I did not show a photo of how you can mix different fines to achieve different DG colors. Areas of the country have different standard decomposed granite colors.  Here in the San Francisco area, most DG is gold fines, and occasionally like some of the photos above you can find grey.  In the photo below we mixed in some black fines to obtain a darker color.  Elsewhere on my website, I have photos of a rock I used that was more pink.  Rock can be used but it must have fines in it.

Decomposed granite colors

Decomposed granite patio using a creative mix of fines to achieve our color

Now for some patios using decomposed granite:

Decomposed Granite pathway

Decomposed Granite walk and patio

Decomposed granite shade

Another view of the Decomposed granite patio next to a shade bed

Decomposed Granite leads to a deck

Decomposed Granite leads to a deck

Decomposed Granite with a small flagstone shower

Decomposed Granite with a small flagstone shower

Decomposed Granite inbetween properly placed flagstones by pool

Decomposed Granite inbetween properly placed flagstones by pool

Decomposed Granite path at the Getty Museum L.A.

Decomposed Granite patio at the Getty Museum L.A.

The bench sits on a decomposed granite patio which transitioned from the concrete patio in front

The bench sits on a decomposed granite patio which transitioned from the concrete patio in front

For a complete guide to Decomposed Granite paths, pathways, and using other materials such as pavers and concrete, please see my eBook.

Decomposed Granite (DG)…a new improved stabilizer!

An expensive but new product is out on the market that creates a hard surface for Decomposed Granite pathways and patios.  This product, called TerraKoat, is sprayed on with the instructions below.

One note:  There are other liquid stabilizers out there that DO NOT work.  This is because the solids content of these other products (like G3) is lower than the TerraKoat.  What that really means is the company that makes the G3 waters it down. Another difference is that the TerraKoat contains a proprietary admixture that increases the longevity of the surface. Wheeler Zamaroni has compared both products in real life applications and they found that with TerraKoat you end up with a stronger more durable surface.  Therefore, if you are NOT using TerreKoat, then use a powdered stabilizer.  TerreKoat costs about $15 gallon.  A gallon will do about 20 sq. ft.

Here are the instructions from their application sheet.  You will notice that they recommend preparing the surface just as I do in detail in my eBook Decomposed Granite and Other Materials for Walkways

TerraKoat EX Industrial Strength Stabilizer

1. AGGREGATE SELECTION FOR FINAL SURFACE: Select an aggregate that contains a variety of sizes. For instance, crushed stone mixes such as 3/8 minus, 1/4 minus or 3/16 minus work well with TERRAKOAT STABILIZER, where as single size aggregates like 3/8 rock or pea gravel are not suitable. Screenings with extremely high fine content are not suitable either. To ensure compatibility of selected aggregate with TERRAKOAT STABILIZER, prepare a test area.

2. STRUCTURAL STONE BASE PREPARATION: Before starting the actual project, factors such as climate, native soil type, amount of use, should be taken into consideration. As a rule of thumb, “The better the base preparation, the better the results.”

For optimum performance, install 4 to 6 in. of 3/4 minus crushed stone, then compact using a vibratory plate compactor.In restricted areas where a compactor will not fit, use a hand tamper.

3. SURFACE AGGREGATE: Spread surface aggregate over the compacted structural stone base. Rake or screed to the desired level, and slope to allow water run off. Do not compact until after TERRAKOAT STABILIZER has been applied.

4. APPLY THE TERRAKOAT STABILIZER: Using a watering can or pump sprayer, apply the TERRAKOAT STABILIZER to the surface at the rate of 20 ft2 per gallon for residential pedestrian use, or 15 ft2 per gallon for commercial pedestrian use. Allow TERRAKOAT STABILIZER to fully penetrate through the material

5. COMPACTION: While surface is still damp but not saturated, compact the surface with a vibratory plate compactor; 2 or 3 passes are recommended. In restricted areas where a compactor will not fit, use a hand tamper. The better the compaction, the better the results.

6. Seal Coat: After compaction spray TERRAKOAT STABILIZER over the area at the rate of 60 sqft per gallon.

Additional instructions include repairing cracks or using this product on an existing surface that was ill-prepared. For the complete instructions and additional information on TerraKoat, see my updated eBook on Decomposed Granite. I have many readers who tell me their installer did not apply the DG correctly.  Depending upon the circumstance, this stabilizer might be very useful.

Decomposed Granite sunken patio edged with stone and Ryerson's header.

Decomposed Granite sunken patio edged with stone and Ryerson’s header.

Instructions for rebuilding AN EXISTING SURFACE

1. Scarify or rototill 1 inch of the surface, break up any clumps, making any necessary repairs, and add new surface aggregate as needed.

2. Apply TERRAKOAT STABILIZER at the rate of 15 ft2 per gallon; allow liquid to penetrate.

3. Compact using a vibratory plate compactor. In restricted areas where a compactor will not fit, use a hand tamper.

Instructions for maintaining AN EXISTING SURFACE:

1. Apply TERRAKOAT STABILIZER at the rate of 20 to 45 ft2 per gallon. Some judgement will be needed, as consideration for absorption and desired results should be taken into account.

Decomposed Granite path at the Getty Museum L.A.

Decomposed Granite path at the Getty Museum L.A.

2. Compact any loose areas.

As in my eBookTERRAKOAT recommends 3-6″ compacted Base Rock with a vibration compactor and a 2″ surface of DG.  If you are using the Strybing Arboretum method because of poor drainage etc., then only 3/4″ of DG is needed.

For complete instructions on how to install a Decomposed Granite patio or walkway, see my eBook

Patios hard and soft

I received a question from someone on using concrete pads underneath a DG patio, instead of prepping the subsurface with baserock material.  That got me thinking about doing a post on patios in general and what, from a designer and installers perspective I know and understand.

First a few words in general regarding different types of patios.  There are lots of different materials out there, some nice, some not, that can be used, and of course, different areas of the country will have different requirements.  As far as drier climates goes, here are the basics:

1.  Use materials like DG (decomposed granite) or concrete pavers (set in sand) when you need a permeable surface.  Many counties are now requiring with new installations a minimum of permeable surfaces to prevent massive run-off problems.  DG is useful as a patio some distance from the house in order to wipe off small bits of granite attached to shoes.  Concrete pavers are set on a sand base and come in all types, from ugly to handsome.

Calstone pavers set in sand

2. For leisure patios with furniture lots of do-it-yourselfers or people on tight budgets like to put pavers and DG together.  This works fine but keep in mind that high heels and furniture will get caught in the cracks of DG.  There are ways to minimize this.  Refer to my DG Patio book for spacing on pavers and proper installation.  You will have to convince your contractor to use my methods because it is more time intensive, but it works.

A proper installation using Arizona flagstone with decomposed granite in between. You will rarely see it done properly like this.

A proper installation using Arizona flagstone with decomposed granite in between. You will rarely see it done properly like this.

3.  For a long lasting patio that will have furniture on it, I prefer to pour a concrete base and put mortared pavers on.  Another alternative is concrete.  There have been lots of advances in concrete in the past few years.  Meaning there are lots of types of decorative concrete looks, with stains and stamps and 2 or 3 dust on colors; finishes with broom, or salt pitting, or hard trowel.  Just keep in mind that concrete is not a controllable substance and colors vary, fade, and cracks will develop no matter what.

This Decomposed Granite with flagstone patio is not done correctly.  Spaces are too big and will catch high heels and chairs

This Decomposed Granite with flagstone patio is not done correctly. Spaces are too big and will catch high heels and chairs

Indian pavers with decorative rock set on concrete base

Interesting walkway that incorporates brick, stone and boulders

Interesting walkway that incorporates brick, stone and boulders

A WORD ABOUT PAVERS:  If you decide to go for real stone pavers, I salute you.  Although concrete is cheaper, stone is beautiful and will give you lasting pleasure.  So how do you choose amongst all the choices at the yard.  First, go to a large landscape supply yard and pick out the stones you like.  Get samples and bring them home and live with the samples for a week or more.

Two types of concrete are in this walkway

Two types of concrete are in this walkway

You must map out your design exactly.  Usually the stone yard will have some basic design patterns for you to work with, or simply obtain some grid paper and go to work.  Indian pavers have flooded the market in recent times.  There are some incredibly beautiful stone and colors amongst the choices, but the stones are not all exactly to size.  You’ll have to work with this when you or your contractor lays it down, which means some of the spacing will be off.

No joints in the perfect paver

Next you must decide on the size of your joints.  Be exact in your communications to your contractor.  If you have uniform stone, you can lay them down with no mortar in between.  If you want joints, or if your stone isn’t perfect as in the Indian pavers pictured below, you must have mortar showing in the joints.

Decomposed Granite patio under willow.

Decomposed Granite patio under willow.

As far as flagstones go, there are many types, some of which I do NOT recommend because you will develop moss in the wet season and you MUST seal these types every year to prevent mold.  I discuss this more in depth in my eBook.

In general choose flagstones that are hard with small pores.  These would be stones that come from places like Montana.  Flagstones come in many names, and what’s called one name in one yard will be named something else in another, even if its the same material.  Just make sure the flagstone is dense.

Another thing you want to watch for in flagstone is how slick it is.  Slate, though gorgeous, is really slippery when wet.  I’ve heard that a little bit of sand in your sealer can help this problem.  Better to avoid it from the start.

For a more in-depth discussion on these topics, see my DG patio book.  In it I discuss all the pros and cons of different materials, as well as give exact instructions for the installation of the different mediums, whether your contractor installs it or you do.  I’ve tried to keep the price to a bare minimum and it includes all the tips I’ve learned from years of experience.  Good luck and do it right from the beginning.  Hardscape, unlike plant material, cannot be picked up and moved, and is expensive!

Decomposed Granite Patios

I’ve done 100’s of decomposed granite patios and walkways in northern California and learned a few things as I went along.  When I first began, the industry didn’t have a ‘hardener’ that you could add.  That made for a semi-successful installation, because in the winter your walkway was mushy at best.  With the advent of hardeners, the DG comes out quite nice, with minimal mush.

Get the DG pre-mixed with the hardener (some landscape outfits will deliver like this) or mix on your own in a wheelbarrow per the proportion instructions.  Prepare a bed that’s about 5″ deep.  Use an attractive edging.  I am totally committed to Ryerson header, which is a thin hard steel that’s bendable.  That’s because it disappears.  It is expensive though, comes in 16′ lengths with its own stake. The other plastic headers are ugly.  An alternative are the many colors and types of Trek, which is a recycled plastic material.  Use the 1/2″ wide size.  The advantage is that its more bendable than the steel, but it doesn’t disappear, so its part of your project design.

Decomposed Granite Path

Decomposed Granite Path

Lay down several inches of road base and use a compacter to compact it very hard and tight.  Order enough DG to lay down 2″ on top, compacted.  Then here’s the secret:  apply the DG (with the hardener mixed in good) at the rate of 1/2″ at a time.  Then compact.  If you apply too thickly, the stuff won’t harden well.  The DG has to be moist when putting it down, but not sloppy.  Compact 1/2″ at a time till you have your desired height.  Sprinkle with water.

Another method I’ve used quite successfully was told to me by the contractor at Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco.  All their paths are done this way, and they get tons of traffic.  For this method, DON’T use hardener.  Apply a good road base foundation of several inches, maybe 3 or 4″.  Then apply only 1/2″-3/4″ of compacted DG.  Essentially this is a dusting.  You will have to reapply every few years depending on your traffic.  I used this method for a patio over 4 years ago and still have not reapplied.  I think this is a superior method because you completely eliminate any winter mushiness.  Even with a hardener there will be some mushiness.

Some warnings:  DO NOT try to apply a hardener after the fact.  I once went to a potential job where the gardener had installed a walkway, then put the hardener in after he was done. Oh my God!  What a mess.  The whole thing had to be removed and redone.

Decomposed granite path

Local fines used as Decomposed Granite

Closeup of local fines and 3 Rivers Paver inserted for effect

Closeup of local fines and 3 Rivers Paver inserted for effect

Next warning.  Do not install DG directly  next to an indoor situation.  DG tracks.  It’s granite and granite gets on your shoes and gets in the house.  You need at least a few steps (not many) before you go inside.  My son’s elementary school built a new gym for millions of dollars.  The landscape architect speced DG as the hardscape all around the gym.  That was a disaster.  All those kids tracked that DG into the new hardwood floor and ruined it!  They finally installed concrete as a spacer.

Decomposed Granite grey

Decomposed Granite path

Next, the materials.  Of course, every area is different.  DG in the Bay Area came in gray, gold, or dirt brown.  I’ve mixed them for different colors.  Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit.  A new rock came out on the market from a local quarry that was cheaper (DG is expensive.  Last I looked it was around $80/yard!).  I was able to get ‘fines’ and used that successfully with the hardener for a coral color.

Anoter view of sunken DG patio

Decomposed Granite patio with edging

Decomposed granite ryerson header edging

Decomposed granite patio and ryerson header edging

For patios, (see my complete post on patios)I usually don’t like to have a visible drain, so I put the drain(s) on the outside in the shrub area.  The exceptions are like the previous post with the photo of the sunken patio.  Of course, I had no choice.  But really, always remember your drainage.

One neat new alternative to DG is permeable concrete.  Its more expensive than ordinary concrete, but it is nicer, much nicer, on the environment.  Its fairly new and my understanding is that a good powerwash in the spring opens the pores and keeps it permeable.

Permeable concrete

Permeable concrete

Permeable concrete closeup

Permeable concrete closeup

If you found this short entry useful, but need more information, click on this link for my full downloadable eBook on patios and walkways, priced at only $2.99.  I’ve collected hundreds of real-life questions from do-it-yourselfers and all those questions will be answered in this short pamphlet.

I’ve also included information on DG  pricing, colors, how to customize colors, and drainage.  If you are not sure if you should use DG or another material, I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of concrete patios and their preparation, mortared flagstone, flagstone on sand vs. flagstone with DG, as well as how to prepare gravel paths and patios.  Chock full of information in just 46 pages with additional color photos.  If you like the eBook, please comment in the Amazon section.  I appreciate all my readers and thank you all very much.

Decomposed granite path Getty museum LA

Calstone pavers

Calstone Pavers using Slate squares as the ‘edging’

California gardens are only a Slice of Paradise

The formality of 17th and 18th century European gardens is a reflection of people’s desire to control their environment and the natural forces around them.  They were still surrounded by wildness.  The comfort of a garden with lines, hedges, and geometric shapes was their safety.

Today people yearn for the natural.  We are surrounded by non-nature, non-wildness.  We all want contact with what we cannot control.

That is why my clients, as a general rule, all say they want a ‘natural’ looking garden.

Having lived in northern California for so long, gardening was my salvation.  I spent my childhood summers in the San Bernadino mountains and backpacked the Sierras and Rockies in my teens.  I always yearned for that feeling of being ‘lost in nature’.  I understood my clients deepest longings.

This week visiting some clients and potential clients, I was pleasantly surprised with some of my installations from last spring.  As a general rule, I need to wait at least 3 seasons to take photos.  But here are a few photos from last years installations with comments below.  Besides, I bought a Nikon P90 and I’m loving it and excited to post some of the photos.  Its really lightweight too so I can carry it in my daypack.

For more information on how you can design your own dream garden see my ebook on Design.

This yard began as a flat rectangle.

This yard began as a flat rectangle.

This is a gravel garden.  See Beth Chatto's gravel garden.  Arbor/fence existing

This is a gravel garden. See Beth Chatto’s book on gravel gardens. Arbor/fence existing

Very small patio with grand view

Very small patio with grand view

Decomposed Granite sunken patio edged with stone and Ryerson's header.

Decomposed Granite sunken patio edged with stone and Ryerson’s header.

Decomposed granite patio using a creative mix of fines to achieve our color

Decomposed granite patio using a creative mix of fines to achieve our color

Decomposed Granite patio with Lots of natives with view

Decomposed Granite patio with Lots of natives with view

Decomposed granite patio with flagstone shower

Decomposed granite patio with flagstone shower

The view from all patios.  These are drought tolerant plants, mostly natives, on an Oak woodland interface

Decomposed Granite steps with headers. The view from all patios. These are drought tolerant plants, mostly natives, on an Oak woodland interface

This is a different property with a great view of SF bay

This is a different property with a great view of SF bay

Plants as Sculpture.  Each pot has a different architectural plant

Plants as Sculpture. Each pot has a different architectural plant

New plantings, the owner choose the chess set.

New plantings, the owner choose the chess set.

Except the small lawn, the beds are all low water, mostly succulents/natives

Except the small lawn, the beds are all low water, mostly succulents/natives