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Each Project is a Journey – One Step at a Time

When it comes to outdoor landscape solutions, Art of Stone Gardening is not your run of the mill landscaping/stone company. We are totally different from most companies, specializing in creative, unique designs. The story of the Wesselink project illustrates that. Vision, design, technique, labor and artistry were all involved in creating a one-of-a-kind solution for this client.

Lake Laceola is a private lake community, boasting breathtaking views from an elevation of almost 3,000 feet above sea level. It is located just outside of Cleveland in White County, Georgia. Our client’s new home sits on a lakefront lot that is very, very steep.

Vision & Design

Initially, the owners wanted a lower level patio for entertaining. In 2020, they hired us to install a circular patio, and steps which led from the house to the patio. The patio, shown in Image 1, has our signature “knee wall”, an 18” high, dual purpose wall. Technically, it holds back and stops the soil from washing onto the patio. Esthetically, it serves as a seat or bench. For this patio, we used Crab Orchard Pink and Tan stones.

Image 1: The initial project for the client was a lower level patio, which in itself was unique and appealing. Note not only the trees beyond the patio but how the hill drops off.

Then in 2021, the owners wanted a way to get from their home on the hill down to their dock on the lake. The hillside is very steep and as the clients are getting on in age, they needed a more stable and secure way to access the lake – a way to get down without a rope and pulley! The answer was a concrete walkway and steps. 

Did we say steep?

Because the terrain was so steep, we needed to create a series of curves to slow the descent – just like roads in our Georgia mountains. Switchbacks are a safer and easier way to navigate a slope. So as to blend with the existing landscape, we tried to disturb as few trees as possible as we laid out the curves. Often, that necessitated changing the slopes, direction and location of the steps and walkways as we went along to avoid large trees and buried rocks. See Image 2.

Image 2: The end result of this project is this serpentine beauty, sweeping and curving through the woods. Access to the lake to and from the house is a meditative and gentle ascent or descent. 72 steps, 200’ long

Technique & Labor

Consider this. When pouring concrete, the distance from the source – the truck – to the project site makes a big difference. The concrete needed to be pumped (see the long tube in Images 5, 6 and 7) from the street past the house and down to the lakefront. Due to the distance involved, the company we hired was from Atlanta, as no one locally could do it.

Image 3: Before pouring the steps, ‘concrete forms’ – boxes to hold in the concrete – were created. Each form was measured, cut, assembled and placed, a challending and time consuming job in such a steep setting.
Image 4: Once the forms are built the next step, pouring the concrete can begin. This picture also gives an additional view of how the steps and walkways work their way up the hill and through the woods.
Image 5: Jason, with the concrete hose, makes pouring the concrete look easy. This type of project requires intense physical labor and teamwork. The work is painstaking and is accomplished literally “one step at a time”.
Image 6: Pouring and screeding. Francis, in the foreground, is starting to screed the concrete. Screeding  can be done by machine, but in this setting, a machine is not a viable option and must be done manually, one step at a time.

Concrete in its plastic state, when it is wet, is heavy, and manipulating the hose takes strength and stamina. In a setting such as this, pouring and screeding must be done by hand. From the internet, “Screeding is the process a person called a concrete finisher performs by cutting off excess wet concrete to bring the top surface of a slab to the proper grade and smoothness.”

Image 7: The concrete forms were filled starting from the bottom of the hill and working up, one step at a time. Note the silt fencing uphill from the steps, which serves two purposes. It prevents dirt from washing into the lake and it limits degradation of the hillside.

After the concrete is poured and screeded, it must be floated. “When done properly, floating pushes the aggregate down into the concrete and encourages moisture to rise, helping the concrete dry and creating a smoother surface.” (concretedecor.net).

The concrete must be floated twice (see Image 8). From FineHomeBuilding.com, “A bull float is used to smooth 95% of a slab, but it has a tendency either to pull a small amount of concrete away from the edges of the slab or to push concrete toward the edge. A hand float is used to level and smooth these areas so that they match the rest of the slab.” Both processes must be done for each step.

Image 8: Nik and Francis, in the foreground, and Jorge in the green shirt, are all using floats to even out the surface of the concrete. Then the guys use bull floats to even out the concrete.
Image 9: Nik looks like he took a bath in concrete. Having a crew that has the skills and commitment to a job is invaluable. Their hard work is the bridge between the client’s vision and the end product.
Image 9: A rare shot of Jason’s happiness.  Teamwork, hard work and great planning are all required to make a project such as this a success. To be able to look at the completed project and know that it has been done well is a great source of pride.

There is no doubt that the Wesselink project offered challenges on many fronts. The Art of Stone Gardening crew is well practiced in implementing solutions to meet such challenges. The result of the hard work and sweat is the creation of a unique and functional landscape installation. We’ve got what it takes to make the journey with you from vision to completion.

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