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Entryway Steps & Courtyard

See how new concrete steps and pilasters provide the look of a grand entryway in this courtyard

A video transcript featuring Scott Cohen, The Green Scene

We're in construction on this new front entry here. This is a remodeled project. When I first came to the home, they had a horrible front yard, lots of dead plants and weeds, and a very narrow walkway up to the front door from the driveway, actually what I refer to as a duck walk. And I call it that because when people come over they all have to get in line, like a little family of ducks, and walk up to the front entry of the house. Of course, we don't like to do that, especially when people are entertaining and carrying platters and things like that.

We wanted to create a more grand entrance, but keep with the architectural style of the house. On the house, we have some different angles and some darker colors, and I picked up those same angles with my pilasters. We cast our caps with the same square-edge detail that's on the house. This is going to get a veneer with an architectural stone, and then we cast our steps out of concrete in place to match the colors of the pavers that we used here in the field.

Concrete step detailsTo cast concrete in place with a nice bullnose edge like this, we built our forms out of wood and we faced the inside of the wood with these Styrofoam forms. These are available nationwide from a variety of different vendors in preset shapes, but this one's called a bullnose and it has about a 6-inch rise on it. This goes right into our form detail. We cast concrete into the molds; vibrate it into place to make sure it's good and condensed, then we pull the forms. While the concrete's still wet, we smooth out the face. It gives us a nice, clean, consistent edge to our steps and makes this front entry look terrific.

Building the courtyard and fountainOnce you get to the top of the staircase here, you're going to pass through this arbor into the courtyard area. In this courtyard we've set pavers down, and they're set in what's called a Dublin and cobble pattern, and it's about 12 by 12, and I left enough space for a fountain in the center. Once the homeowner picks the fountain, we'll cut that center area out to accommodate the size of the fountain they choose. The patio areas will be surrounded by plantings to soften all the walls and make this a really nice, welcoming entrance to the home.

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