a bar patio with picnic tables and a big shade tree

Expedited Cafe Hardscape Fixes Slip Hazard

Priorities: Walkway Safety Hazard – Reduce Pressure on Heritage Oak
Challenges: Tight Scheduling – Balance Elements of Hardscape and Softscape
Solutions: Task Orientation – Detailed Grading

Live in Austin long enough, and you’re bound to lounge on the shady patio at Better Half Coffee & Cocktails.

The spread itself is broad and welcoming, and the live oak that shades it has been there far longer than any of us have been alive. As the holidays approached in 2022, both the hardscaping and the heritage tree needed some care.

Better Half turned to Maas Verde to fix a sloping stone walkway that had become a safety hazard. The path was too narrow to allow two-way foot traffic, and the granite gravel it was bedded in had started to exfoliate onto the stones.

A stone walkway with exfoliating gravel
Messy gravel created slip-and-fall hazards.

Slip-and-fall incidents became too common as customers and staff jockeyed around each other on the tricky slope.

However, the fix wouldn’t be as simple as mortaring in a walkway. Specifications from a City of Austin arborist dictated no impervious surfaces could cover the tree’s root mass. Recently decompacted via air spading, the area must now remain open to water absorption, and resilient to foot traffic.

Finally, Maas Verde faced a scheduling challenge. Cooler temperatures and holiday crowds meant busy days were getting busier, and the restaurant would soon place its permanent winter tents on the patio.

“In every aspect, the project not only addressed aesthetic problems, but functional ones,” Maas Verde founder and president Ted Maas explained. “This eroding slope ended in an asphalt cake, and the granite gravel created a slip hazard. We needed to put in a patio that would secure all that, handle heavy traffic, and float on top of the tree roots with no excavation.”

Maas Verde met the parameters by resetting the existing stone on a decomposed granite bed, then adding a second row.

workers regrading and repairing a stone patio
The narrow path before (left) and during work (right).

A mulch layer around the tree helps cushion any shallowly-buried roots.

Grading the decomposed granite below the stone surfaces, then coating it with a non-toxic stabilizer, limits its tendency to dislodge.

photos of the stone walkway in completed state
Maas Verde added the larger stones, which tend to to limit gravel shedding.

At the bottom, Maas Verde placed a cut limestone step to provide retention and maintain the overall grade.

a cut limestone step

Maas Verde worked efficiently to get out of the way of the tent install crew. Project manager John Harris visited the site for a final walkthrough days later, after the tent crew had started work.

“It wouldn’t have been impossible to do this job with those guys there at the same time,” he said, pausing. “But it would have been close to it. They were working right on top of our job site — which was also an early test of concept.”

Better Half said the walkway has made the courtyard safer, and reported no further slip and fall incidents as of this writing.

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