Create an urban oasis in your front yard with a private paved retreat.
When kids take over a backyard there’s often no room left for the parents to relax. So this front yard corner has been transformed into a grown-ups’ retreat.
From the street, passers-by wouldn’t know that this inviting courtyard was tucked in behind the front fence.
The fence stands 1500mm tall, enclosing the area on three sides and providing total seclusion.
Paving the way
This garden corner has a northerly aspect, so full sun is received all day, with a well-established tree providing welcome shade on hot afternoons.
To turn it into a courtyard, paving was laid, bordered on two sides by built-in seating.
A narrow garden bed in front of the fence provides a burst of green foliage, while on the opposite side, a small expanse of lawn separates the courtyard from the home.
The L-shaped seating is built around the tree and doubles as a retaining wall for the raised garden bed beneath the leafy canopy.
A second bench sits against the opposite wall framing the area. The slatted timber tops are hinged and lift up to reveal valuable storage space for garden tools underneath.
The seat benches were built using Hebel blocks. Made of Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC), the blocks are lightweight and easy to work with.
The base course is laid and levelled on a 10mm thick bed of mortar and subsequent courses on a 3mm bed of thin set adhesive.
TIP Use a panel saw to cut Hebel, and wear a respirator, ear and eye protection, sleeves and gloves.
This diagram breaks the courtyard up into different sections, follow the measurements or use them as a guideline for your own
This diagram shows the dimensions and measurements for the corner joist
Create a corner courtyard
Peg level formwork in place to contain the concrete and position a layer of steel mesh, finishing 50mm inside the formwork. Barrow in the concrete and roughly level, screeding the surface in a sawing motion. Smooth the surface using a timber float.
Set out the base course for both seats on the slab and roll out a layer of damp proof course (DPC). Build each corner to the required height, stepping back to the top course. Use mortar under the base blocks to set them level and adhesive between courses.
Set stringlines to lay the blocks in between the corners leaving weep holes in the base for drainage. Lay the second and third courses, closing vertical joints to 2mm. Mix up a Hebel render, applying a 3mm layer over the blocks and sponging to finish.
Mark the finished height of the paving at the corners and barrow in paving sand. Set two screed rails in the sand 40mm below finished paving height then screed the sand level. TIP Allow 15mm fall per metre for surface drainage.
Use a builder’s square to set a perpendicular laying line off one of the block seat walls then lay the paving one row at a time using the wall and the set stringline as a guide. Complete all the full pavers, checking alignment and making adjustments if needed.
Mark and number the pavers then use a wet bricksaw with a diamond blade to cut to size. Position the cut pavers and edge the last row to contain the paving sand using a haunch of mortar angled at 45˚, then grout by filling the joints with fine sand.
Cut 90 x 90mm treated pine joists to fit across the boxes at 450mm centres. Use a mitresaw to make a series of cuts 60mm deep to house out 80mm wide rebates at both ends. At the corner of the L-shaped seat, notch out a 15mm rebate to support the end joist.
Cut the decking slats to length for each section of seating, spacing them evenly before drilling 2mm pilot holes and securing with 50 x 2.8mm stainless steel decking nails. Cut the fascia with butt joints at the corners and secure to the joists with screws.