Monday, June 15, 2015

Our back yard

Hi, everyone!  I'm still around and working my butt off on this house, despite my lack of posting!  Our bathroom is 95% done, still waiting for a silly shelf that apparently had to be hand made by artisans before they could ship it to me.  I hate waiting!  That reveal will come next week, I promise.

For now, I have some news to share.  Shaun has been offered his exact position with TJ Maxx in the Chicago market, so we are moving very soon!  Now, our entire focus has shifted to 'design to sell' this house and with that, we have turned our attention to the fenced backyard.  Can I remind you what it looked like when we moved in?
Yikes!  In case it isn't clear, this entire area was covered in weeds and lava rock.  It was horrifying and we had to spend hours weeding and relocating a bunch of crap.  Not to mention the tri-colored fence as the previous owners gave up on their staining midway through.  After a really crappy debacle with putting all the lava rock into Bagsters that WM would NOT pick up, then shoveling it all into a real dumpster for the second time, it was finally mostly gone. 
Shaun ripped out the half dead barberry and burning bush to make room for more attractive landscaping.  Then (before we knew we were moving) we decided that a little paver patio would be ideal in this large dirt pit, and would give us more entertaining space than just the concrete slab...which always feels cramped for some reason. 
I found these 6x6 and 3x6 'ultra slate' pavers at Menards on mega clearance for next to nothing.  We got all of the pavers for about $100 and still have some left over.  This was the pattern we were going to use for the patio:
Very simple and clean.  The goal was to have a three foot wide walkway leading from the concrete to an 8x9 foot space.  We chose this end of the fenced area because it was the most sunny, and we had visions of buying some awesome lounge chairs to soak up the sun.  We started marking out the shape and then Shaun got digging. 
 A lot of leveling of the dirt was necessary back here, and we did a fair amount of tamping as well. 
We used cheap paver base from Home Depot, and it worked fine.  It was not as nice to work with as the crushed limestone we used at our last house, but fine nevertheless.
I don't want to tell you how many times we had to go back to Home Depot to buy more bags of paver base and sand.  SO. MANY. TIMES.  Because we wanted everything to be perfectly even and symmetrical, we lined up the number of pavers that we wanted on each side and in the little walkway to make sure our edgers were the correct length before we cut them and staked them. 
We also tend to stake the edgers as we go because sometimes they just aren't tight enough to hold the pavers in, staking as we go means we can tighten them in if needed. 
Putting in the pavers was such an ordeal because it was SO hot when we started.  Over 90 degrees and no clouds in the sky!  Leveling took forever and we just kept going to buy still more sand.
Finally, it was done and we were able to plant some new perennials and evergreens around it.  I also had to address the wonky fence.  I took a piece of peeling paint/stain to Home Depot to find a product that was as similar as possible.  I ended up with Behr Waterproofing Solid color stain in Cedar Naturaltone.  It is literally the same exact color and look as what was already on the fence. 
 I started where the orange ended and was so pleased to see how closely it matched.
This fence is in terrible shape, it is so old and water damaged that the wood just flakes away under your fingernails.  It probably only has a year or two left, so this was definitely the best we could do to buy it some time and help us sell the house.  Luckily, it looks new upon first glance with the stain, so hopefully the overall look will leave buyers with a good impression.  AND, after tons and tons of work, here is the finished back yard!
We are so happy with the way everything turned out!  If we were staying here, we would plant more and possibly add more stone work, but our goal was to spend as little as possible and have it look as nice as possible. 
We purchased skyrocket junipers to flank the edges of the patio, roses, phlox, some ground cover and grasses to finish this area.  We also repurposed some salvia, two enormous hostas, and two perennials we bought last summer that I honestly cannot remember what they are. 
We weren't really sure what to do on the end of the fenced area by the house, so to save money, use the random timbers that were already here, and use up tons of extra dirt that was also back here, we created a little garden area.  The chives, mint, and rhubarb were here, I bought the tomato and pepper plants.  It does look a little sad, but hopefully it will give buyers a good idea of how they can use this space.  And the fence looks so much better stained to match the rest!
We decided to use 12x12 paver stones to create a little walkway from the patio to the garden.  We didn't really consider that we wanted these to be centered on the patio when we built up the garden, so I had to jog the path to the left.  I think it adds some interest. 
The deck area is sort of useless.  There is really no way to have substantial seating or anything up there because it's too small and there are two doorways.  We thought about tearing it out, but didn't want to deal with whatever was (or wasn't) underneath.  So, I invested in a super cheap Ikea bistro set to stage it, then we planted some of the crazy mint from the garden in pots and a couple other annuals in wood planters from Homegoods. 
Even though the seating blocks the doors to the dining room, they are blocked on the inside too, so what does it matter?  It looks cute.  I do have a stain/sealer I will use on the deck to freshen it up as soon as I get a stretch of days without rain. 
We obviously have some cleaning up still to do back here, I bought too much mulch and there are pots of dirt and rocks all around, but for the time being we are just so happy all the hard work is done!
Here is a couple before and afters again, for fun!
We spent about $160 in plants, $45 in mulch, $80 in stain for the fence and deck, $125 in pavers, I'm guessing about $150 in sand, paver base, and edgers, and paid about $300 (I think?) to rent a dumpster and buy the bagsters for the lava rock removal.  I think the before and after makes it more than worth it!  I hope you all like it.