Monday, July 1, 2013

Outdoor Project Week

This summer we decided to tackle some exterior projects.   A few years ago, we added a fence to a section of the yard as a safety measure to protect our kids from a pond that is near our house.  Our swingset, sandbox, etc. reside in this area.  We have spent a ton of time back there over the last few years but have not given its aesthetics much of our focus. 

The house already had a deck and pergola as well as a paver walkway to another deck/pier that was located in the area which we fenced in.  I'm not sure exactly when the existing deck and pergola were added to the backyard, but it was a least 20 years ago.  There is a glimpse of it in one the aerial shots here.  Given it's age, it's probably not a surprise that it needs some repair.  Also, most of the plants that were originally planted in this area have either kicked the bucket or gotten way out of control.  And lastly, the paver walkway has settled so much that the pavers are very uneven and the weeds have taken over.  It's gotten a little worse each year, and we have know for awhile that eventually we were going to have to deal with it.  

Last week we had a little "stay-cation" and we worked outside in our backyard.  Our major goals were to remove a large overgrown bush, figure out what to do in the space sans bush, and repair/modify our deck.  All things combined, we decided this was a good opportunity to really think about our backyard space as a whole and consider what could work a little better for us or what needed changed.  We also recently purchased a trampoline (giant eyesore but tons of fun :) ) for the kiddos and as things currently exist there wasn't a place inside the gated area to house this, so there was also that to think about.

We tackled the removal of the bush first. 

Picture of bush....excuse missing's on the list with many other things :)

Over the last few years, this bush has totally taken off and had become my adversary.  It was impossible to keep pruned back and it was covered in prickly thorns.  For a couple years we had some kind of tree pop up behind it and grow into it....that was fun to remove....ouch! :) was starting to get way too close to the pine tree beside it.  Before long I'm pretty sure it would have overtaken the kitchen window too!  Mark and I were both a little apprehensive to remove it because we weren't sure how we would feel about the big and empty section of house that would be revealed, but we really couldn't come up with a better option.  The bush had to go.  It's really hard to tell from the pictures just how big this bush was, but it took 3 full truck loads to haul all the branches away.  We were both amazed at how much of an improvement simply removing the bush was!  A clean slate to work with!

Bye, bye bush...

Back to the deck....

Existing deck and original pavers

Another view
A few years ago, we painted the deck white to match the house. We love how it feels more like an extension of the house by being the same color, almost like a big porch.  We have replaced a few boards here and there as needed, but the railings were starting to rot and we knew that they were going to need some attention soon.  This deck has served us well, but since major repairs are on the horizon this year, it made sense to now change the things that could really function better for us.  

No. 1:  You may be able to see there are built-in seating areas.  While great for extra seating, they obstruct the view to the swingset where the kids play.  Since we are out there all. the. would be really nice if we could sit on our comfy patio furniture and relax as we watch the kids.

No. 2:  There is about a 5' section of the deck that steps down just after the pergola ends.  We have found this is completely useless space to us.  There just isn't much in the way of furniture that either fits or makes sense to put there.

No. 3:  It's just a little tight to have both an eating area and a seating area on this one deck without it feeling congested and obstructing the flow of traffic.

We tossed around *a lot* of possible ideas.  This was kind of a giant puzzle, but once we figured out all the pieces, we became really pleased with how everything will work together when we are finished!

Our Solution:

(Side note... I would love to show some progress pictures...but it decided to rain today and I don't have any taken.  As the wife of a farmer in an area of the country that has experienced drought for the past two summers...I am absolutely not allowed to complain about this.  Haha.  Even though it's slowing down my project.  And messing with my schedule for the week.  ;)  So please bear with me and try to visualize... )

In place of the bush, we built another deck.  It's only one step off the ground, so it doesn't require an enclosed railing and still feels open to the yard.  We plan to use this as our outdoor "dining area".  It's the perfect size for our table and chairs with an umbrella for shade.

The decision to add this second deck, as well as figure out a way to include the trampoline in the fenced in area, greatly influenced the changes we are making to the existing deck.

We decided that the best place for the trampoline is directly out from the deck.  Kind of to the left of where I was standing to take the picture of the deck and pavers above.  The only problem is that if placed here, the trampoline will interfere with the existing paver walkway.

We resolved this by changing where the stairway accessing the deck is located and also relocating the paver walkway.  By doing this, we can create a new walkway between the new deck and the existing deck and create a larger yard area where the old pavers were located so we can include the trampoline.  We will no longer have a walkway to the pier/deck area, but we have decided for no more than we access that area (currently never) it should not be a problem to walk through grass.  

We are also removing the 5' step down extension of the deck as well as all the built-in benches and replacing the rail all around.  By removing the deck extension this also allows us a few more feet of additional yard space.

Needless to say, we did not complete this project last week.  I'm pretty sure we checked off the bulk of the difficult steps , but we still have a ways to go!   Most of the construction that needs to be finished is pretty straight forward and then I can move on to the landscaping and a few other finishing details!  (Yay! My favorite part! ;) )  Unfortunately our updates won't reach there full potential until the end of the summer, at the very earliest, when we can paint it...(pressure treated wood takes forever to dry before it can be painted/stained...ugh!)....but I'm so excited about the changes we've made that it's totally worth the wait!

I'll try to get a few pics soon with the updates completed so far!


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