Since this is the never-ending project of the Summer of 2011 I think it’s fitting that I’m still talking about this after Summer has come to a close and Fall is knocking us on the head with cooler temperatures and changing leaves.
After the happy day when we finally completed our little deck building project we knew it wouldn’t be long before we needed to build a fence to completely close off the yard and keep a certain roaming toddler from exploring beyond the boundaries of the sandbox and going for an impromptu dip in the lake beyond.
We wanted the same railing design we used for the deck so it looked nice and put together rather than some messy mish mosh of randomly built fences. We’ve already got a lot going on in the fence department with two different bordering fences and in the end decided that consistency would be key this time around.
To keep it interesting and not to long and boring we added some dimension to the side fences by making them a tad shorter than the deck rail. We will still be able to keep roaming toddlers in but it’s not too tall to block your line of sight. We think the height variations will add some character to what otherwise would be one long line of railing.
To make the fence panels the guys assembled the shorter version of the deck railing on the floor before carrying it over to some posts that had been set into the ground. After that it was simply leveled and nailed into place.
I always find it amazing how the last step goes so quickly all of the preparation and hard work that went into this entire project and then a little leveling and nailing and viola there’s a fence.
Next came assembling the gate panels to block off the stone stairway we talked about here. Bryan made a a frame making sure it was square. He used a wider board for the top piece so they could add an arch to the top of the gate similar to the one already on the deck gate.
Once the two halves of the gate were pre-assembled they dry fit them into the opening to make sure everything was snug and cozy but not too snug, since a sticky gate just isn’t fun for anyone.
To make the arched top the gate panels were set on the ground. Using a string they made a wide arch across both pieces. It was a bit of trial and error at first with Bryan moving further and further out to get just the right amount of curve.
Once they had the desired curve it was simple a matter of drawing the line and cutting it with a jigsaw. Then they sanded a few of the rough spots down.
This final piece of the great deck project really brought the whole yard together. It simultaneously gave us usable outdoor space in our modest sized yard while making the above ground pool completely accessible from the yard and gave it more of an in-ground feel.
An added bonus is the yard somehow feels wider and bigger because the fence and deck defines the space into two distinct outdoor rooms. We now have the grass area up top to play in and the area by the lake for boating access while keeping little one safe and confined.
The gate arches are my favorite custom touch in the yard so far. They add so much interest to all of the other straight lines on the deck and fence.
It’s come a long way since we inherited the yard from the previous owners. We still have so many plans to finish off the yard and fix up the area by the lake that now has all that white stone.
So what’s next you ask? Well, we still need to stain and protect the entire fence. Do you ever have a project you dread before you start it? I’m kind of feeling that about the prospect of staining this monster.
After we finished our new little garden we quickly realized that it wasn’t going to stay looking footloose and weed free for very long.
Within a matter of weeks it quickly went downhill from looking like this all neat and tidy with freshly raked dirt and our cute new plants.
To this hot mess full of crab grass and other unnameable things with roots reaching so deep you envision someone in China pulling on the very same weed.
We were losing the weed battle, definitely not the look we were going for. We knew it was about time to get our mulch on. I’ve always loved mulch since I was a kid…yeah I’m weird like that. I also loved watching This Old House with my Dad on Saturday afternoons when I was little, go figure.
We went off to Home Depot and got a bunch of bags of black mulch, and gathered newspapers from the recycling pile. A long time ago we read somewhere that newspapers make a fantastic weed barrier instead of the usual black plastic. We’ve used it as our go-to weed barrier in planting beds for years. It withholds light stopping the weeds from growing while allowing moisture to penetrate to the soil.
The newspaper holds up surprisingly well with mulch on top which is also a natural weed barrier giving you an added layer of protection in garden beds while being completely biodegradable and the best part is it’s absolutely free since we just save a bunch of Sunday newspapers as we go and use them when we’re about to mulch the gardens.
I basically worked my way around the garden laying out the newspaper 2 to 3 sheets thick overlapping the edges to ensure full coverage, luckily this day it wasn’t windy so there was no running around like a crazy person holding the edges of the paper down. A smarter person on a windy day may want to dampen the newspaper slightly to keep it from flying about. But that’s just if you’re smarter than I am.
Once the newspaper weed barrier was in place we began spreading the mulch in around the garden in sections about 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep.
Making sure to wear gloves since the dye used in black mulch tends to rub off of the mulch but sticks to your hands permanently, so unless you’re going for the black dye covered hands look gloves are probably your best option.
After a quick couple hours the garden was in tip top shape again. We’re really happy with how this little project turned out.
We went from this
I’m really liking how neat and tidy it all looks again and how much more vibrant to colors of the flowers are against the black background of the mulch. We’re totally please with house this turned out and it was super cheap too. The mulch was around $3.50 a bag and we used about 6 bags for this little garden. The newspaper was free since we saved it from the recycling bin. So we brought about this dramatic change and time saving weed control not too mention our plants love the added moisture for around a whopping $21.00.
Yippee! It’s finally finished! Yup, the biggest project we’ve tackled thus far is finally complete. We’ve officially completed the cornerstone of our entire backyard overhaul. We planned, we prepped, we dug, plotted and finally finished a project that took the majority of the summer. It feels good to have a completed deck. So I’m finally back to tell you the end of the tale of the deck.
Let’s start at the very beginning shall we. Almost 2 years ago when we first decided to purchase the house. We knew right from the beginning that a pool in the back yard would be oh so awesome for hot summer afternoon’s gazing from the comfort of the raft overlooking the lake. Bryan and I both grew up with pools and had always talked about having a pool someday. What didn’t know was that someday was going to come quicker than we’d hoped.
While we loved the idea of having a pool in the backyard what we didn’t love was the giant saucer of a pool floating out in the middle of the yard with a WAAAAY too small platform that made it impossible for sitting. The way it was you were either in or out no lounging on that platform was going to happen EVER. Artificial grass does not exactly say “hey come and sit down on my synthetic grassiness”. Totally not the look or “feel” we were going for. We felt there there were some area there for improvement.
After some deliberation and hours of debating with my father Tony the mastermind behind every major building project that goes on around here we came up with a plan.
Click on the image above to see it super-sized.
With his plan we were aiming to address a few issues that we felt were going on. First the new deck would solve the lack of lounging area that we feel is definitely imperative to a truly relaxing pool experience. Second it would bridge the much higher grassy area of the yard with the much lower rocky area you can see in the first picture. As it was it felt a little bit disconnected from each other and we really wanted the whole yard to flow from the house right on down to the lake front which of course is the main attraction.
Once the plan was laid out the guys got to work digging and setting posts and starting the general construction. You can read all about the progress in these posts here and here where we first introduced you to our total vision.
But I digress, the deck itself was a huge undertaking not only because it’s well, pretty darn big at almost 16 feet wide by 26 feet long but it also needed to float next to the pool, not attached to it and transition from the grass area to the height of the pool.
To make up the height difference we decided that a couple of different platforms and some steps would be needed to make a smooth transition.
The first steps start right as you make your way through the arched gates my father custom built. On either side they give weigh to two benches perfect for sitting and chatting or as we have found lately are also pretty handy for using as side tables to set a glass of perfectly summery homemade iced tea my mom is famous for.
As you make you way down the deck another two steps transition onto a second platform level with the pool. Where some day we plan to add some chaise lounge chairs and side tables but for now a little baby Adirondack chair set next to some of the most comfortable already owned aqua chairs.
A lot of the details in the deck were super time consuming. Each element took some thought and preparation. Not to mention what felt like 100 trips to Home Depot over the course of the summer.
The arched gate adds some height to break up the long expense of railing across the back yard. Giving it a bit more visual interest, as well as the varying widths on the rails. While on the custom bandwagon we played around with each handrail by hand router the edges for an added layer of detail.
And speaking of playing we’ve already been getting a ton of use out of the deck splashing and playing about. We absolutely plan to get a ton of years out of this baby watching Nik play and laugh by the pool.
So what about you guys, Anyone take on a giant deck project like us that took the majority of the summer? We’re so happy it’s done though!
Since summer is here and we’ve been working diligently in our yard I thought it was high time to stop take a look around and see where our yard is today, where it was and where it’s going.
I updated this cute little (not to scale) drawing of our backyard that represents some notes of where we’re thinking we are heading with our yard overhaul.
Click on the image above view larger
Here’s an overhead view of how the yard looked when we first bought the house on the day of our home inspection. We had so many ideas from the day we laid eyes on this view.
Here’s an in-progress shot from the same angle as it looks today. It’s been a little bit of a construction zone over the past couple weeks, we’re working towards making it a really inviting retreat after a hard day at the office. It’s super sunny and aitch-oh-tee-tee. HOTT down there when the temperature rises above 60 degrees. I’m not kidding, you could fry an egg on the stones on a hot summer day.
We’re updating the pool deck platform to make it a cool inviting area. One where you can relax, get your toes wet and watch the kids floating the days away in the pool. We’re thinking that will probably include some sort of shady, relaxing, lounge area.
The deck platform will have a couple of steps to gradually transition from the lawn level to the pool level, and a fence and gate to keep curious little children safe and sound.
The path to below is currently being updated to include some natural stone steps (you can read all about how this surprise project started here).
As you head down the stone steps you can see that you just can’t get away from all that white stone that we inherited, in small doses those stone may be attractive but it doesn’t exactly lend itself to kids playing barefoot in the sprinklers the way it is now.
As you come down to the water’s edge we think this is an ideal spot for a small patio and an area to sit and relax, some shade maybe in the form of shade sails or a pergola and if we get really spunky an outdoor bar would be totally cool after all this is the money spot right here.
And then is this corner we’re thinking some really fun (think sherbert colored with a punch) Adirondack chairs would be lovely instead of the extra row boats (which are soon to be on Craigslist) that we somehow acquired.
We’ll also add a garden in front of the pool side that faces the lake with some flowing ornamental grasses that rustle in the breeze contrasted by rose bushes, camouflaging the less than stellar above ground pool look we’ve got going on.
And if you didn’t get enough of the before shots here’s a little video of the space as narrated by a 14 month old boy!
Needless to say we’ve been thinking about this for a little while and have come up with a preliminary collection of things we like.
Click on the image above view larger
The kind of things that are likely to change at least 1,000 times before we’re totally finished but for us part of the fun is in the journey, although the finish line is looking really good right now!
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