Working With Urbanite: Recycling Concrete

Recycling Concrete into Urbanite @ Farming My Backyard

With a little creativity and some grunt work, beautiful paths, patios and other projects can be made by recycling unwanted concrete into a urbanite, a useful building tool.   Urbanite is a method of recycling concrete rubble into a myriad of uses, including flowerbeds, walkways, and patios.

I’ve always been planning to put a garden in next to the driveway but really dreaded having to dispose of the concrete.  As soon as I learned about urbanite I knew I had a solution, as well as a source of garden paths.  We broke up the concrete alongside our driveway and added another garden.  The concrete pieces I used to create urbanite hardscapes throughout our property.

Obtaining Urbanite

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The deconstruction was a group effort, as you can see from the pictures.  Because Edward thinks he’s the hulk we chose to break up the concrete with a pry bar and a sledge hammer.  It’s common to use jack hammer, and broken concrete is usually readily available for free on craigslist or if you ask around.

If you need specific sizes or shapes you can use a chisel and hammer to more precisely cut your chunks of concrete.  I chose to use the shapes already available.  I think putting them together like a puzzle is fun.

Preparing The Path

Prepare to lay down your path or patio by digging deep enough to pour a sand and gravel base and still allow your urbanite to be at ground level.   Because my budget is limited to free items, and I had no sand or gravel at hand, I chose to skip this step.   My paths are a bit uneven but it still looks nice.

Level out your base and start laying stones.  This is the fun part where you get to decide how it will look.  I took my time and tried different stones in different places until I found what I liked best.

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Finishing Touches

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Back fill any gaps between stones with soil removed when preparing the bed.  This is a good time to put in any plant plugs you might be using.  I decided to seed mine with grass seed and it’s starting to come in now.

Really pack the earth in between the cracks so the stones don’t shift around.  This will be less of a problem if you properly prepared with sand and gravel, but if you skipped that part like me than be prepared for some settling, especially after the first rain.

Sweep off your stones and enjoy your new path!

Other Projects

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I also used remaining stones to create a small bench on our front walk.  I can sit here and watch the kids ride bikes.  I’m planning to make a larger one in the backyard as well.   Another use I found using the same principle was lining a hugelkulture bed.

When making vertical projects, try to find stones that are similar in width.  Variation in length can be useful.  Lay down your largest blocks on your bottom layer.  Start your next layer by offsetting the cracks to create stability.  If you do a third layer or more continuing alternating the spacing so gaps between stones do not line up above or below each other.

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That’s pretty much the jist of it!  What about you?  Have you put recycled concrete to use in your home or garden?  Please share!

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Here’s the driveway garden just a few months later.

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