Sunday, September 21, 2014

Finding Beauty: New Backyard Patio

So I'll admit that it isn't quite so new anymore, but I wanted to share some photos of our new patio. It has been a bit hot this summer to fully enjoy it, but we were able to spend several hours out on the patio today, and it reminded me how wonderful the simple moments in life can be. 

A few months ago, we undertook a renovation project on our own - putting in a new patio. Here is the before and after photo of our small backyard.

Quite a change! The pictures below were taken a few years ago when we first bought our house. At the time, there was no fence in the back left corer, or along the back right side leading to the driveway. That side of the yard was weeds and overgrown bushes, and I'd wanted to rip them out ever since we bought the house. 

The picture below is a view of back as you're looking out of the house. It was an ugly metal chain fence and overgrown bushes when we moved in.

The first part of the project was putting in a nicer fence, and extending it around the yard to enclose our dog. Justin and his dad put in this amazing picket fence a few months after we moved in. It was exactly what I wanted! Adds a nice rustic, homey feel. 

Here is the back yard two years ago.

Last year, Justin decided to grow some vegetables. What started as a few seeds, became several giant tomato plants that overtook one another. You can see about three tomato plants below, which grew into one another. We learned a valuable lesson: you need much more room for tomatoes!

This year's project started with me removing all of the dead vegetables left over from last year. The highlight from that project? Realizing that the third type of parsley Justin thought they had sent us accidentally was actually the tops of the carrots he had intentionally planted. So.....we had a whole crop of rotten carrots in the ground from the year before since we never pulled any of them. That was fun to clean up, let me tell you. ;)  Note to self: don't plant carrots in the midst of all your herbs, it makes it difficult to discern them from other leafy 'herbs'!

{and yes...our neighbor still hangs her laundry on a clothes line! I have to admit, I love it! Gives it a nostalgic feel}

You can see the after photo above. We decided to plant some azaleas to give the backyard some color. I also added cedar picket fence landscape trim to the garden, that sits just above the grass, to try to separate the grass from the mulch.

Justin's task below, was to dig out all of the dead bushes and weeds for the patio.

After day one we had a giant square-ish hole in the ground. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the gravel process, but here is essentially what we did. Rather than dig out several feet of dirt to place numerous layers of rocks, gravel, and sand, we opted for a new product provided by Lowes. They are called Paver Base Panels, and they virtually replace the lower levels of rock and gravel for your patio base. They are 2 foot by 3 foot, and are simple to use. The directions specify how much gravel and sand you need beneath the base, and it is only a few inches. We actually dug out too much from our hole, as we hadn't been to Lowes yet to purchase these. We had to sift through some of the dirt and replace it in the hole. We also have a slanted backyard, so it took us forever to level it out with the gravel and sand. We ended up using a bit more than required by the manufacturer's recommendations. We had a thin layer of gravel, which we hand-tamped. Then we added the sand, and hand-tamped that. Then we simply placed the paver panels within the hole. All you need to do to cut them is use a razor blade to score it, then break it apart with your hands - super simple.

We had originally thought we were going to use oblong pavers, so we had cut the hole in a decorative pattern. We later decided to use square pavers since they're easier to match up, so unfortunately we had some areas of the hole that we didn't use. 

My biggest suggestion for you if you're planning on adding your own patio: decide on the types of pavers and paver base you'll use BEFORE you start, then measure the hole diameter and depth before you start digging. If we had spent a little more time on the planning stage, this whole process would have been much easier!

After you have a layer of the paver panels, you simply place the pavers directly on top in the decoration of your choice. We left a little gap in between each, the same size as those on the pavers themselves, so that once the sand would be added, the crevice sizes would be consistent. 

Here are some photos of the final pavers being laid. We decided to use some smaller, square pavers for the walkway so that we wouldn't have to cut down the larger ones. The colors are virtually identical, so it worked out well. Since we hadn't pre-planned the width of the walkway, luckily it was about four pavers wide and we were able to make it work. Again, please measure first!

Because I only had to 'cut' about five pavers for the space where the walkway met the patio, I didn't want to purchase a chisel or anything special for this small project. I used the simple method of hammering a flat-head screw driver into the paver numerous times along a line I drew with a sharpie, then broke the paver in half on the concrete. Simple, yet effective. 

Here is the final layout. We hammered in paver restraints around the edges using large plastic stakes. This helps keep the pavers in place and provides an edge. The last step was adding the polymeric paver sand. You simply dump it out on the pavers, then use a broom to rake it between the pavers and into the crevices.

Then you just add water by spraying with a hose. Follow the directions on the container for the amount of water. Then you just need to let it dry for a few days. The paver sand hardens up, and you have yourself a beautiful new patio!

We enjoyed a nice beer and margarita on the new patio the next night, just as the sun was going down. Not too bad. :)

Of course, I had to decorate the patio a bit. We already had the two blue chairs from a few years ago...which we still hadn't used. And I've had the glass table for years. You can see the blue umbrella we used to have in the table on the right side of the picture below. The umbrella was pretty torn up though, and we wanted a larger umbrella to cover more of the patio. I had seen this gorgeous umbrella from World Market a few weeks earlier, and was dying to buy it. Luckily it was larger in diameter (9 feet), so I got the go ahead from the hubby.  ;)  I got the matching pillow and outdoor bowl to match. 

We got the solar lights for the walkway and around the perimeter of the patio from Lowes. I love these things! The minute the sun goes down, these lights each pop on. 

We added mulch to the garden beds on either side, which helped cover the areas we didn't use for pavers.

We got a few flowers for each corner to help add some color.

The metal bench below was a steal! I had been eyeing it at World Market for a few months, and it happened to be 50% the day we went shopping. I was finally able to convince Justin that we needed more seating than just the two chairs. I love this bench - so comfy and the perfect size for our patio! The patio ended up being about 8 feet by 9 feet. You can see from the photos that it comfortably fits the bench, table, and two chairs, with plenty of room around the edges. 

You can still get the bench in yellow if you're interested, and it's 50% off online!

The trellis and paper lanterns above are from Ikea. Again, the lanterns are solar powered, so when the sun goes down the lights pop on! They provide more light than you'd think.

Here is the patio in all her glory!

We also got Justin his father's day present at World Market. It's meant to be a potting bench, but I knew it would be perfect for food prep. He is always grilling, smoking meats, or cooking with his wok outside, and he always has to go in and out to bring out bowls or plates of food. This way he can carry everything out on a tray, and he has a surface to work on. It's working perfectly.

Plus, he can store his grilling gear on the bottom shelf. 

That's it! Sorry for all of the photos, but I wanted to share the full process. Justin and I had never done anything like this before, and it probably only took us about three full days. If we had planned it out better, we could have had it done in two. Again, I strongly recommend making measurements and planning out your layout before starting. The project wasn't overly difficult. The hardest part was just trying to make sure the gravel and sand was level enough. We did leave a slight slant towards the fence so that water would run off away from our house. 

I hope this inspires you to tackle your own home improvement project! Have a nice weekend coming up? Build your own patio, or redo that bathroom you've been meaning to work on. 

We've been thoroughly enjoying the patio this weekend with the great weather we've been having. Justin and I sat out there for a few hours yesterday as Addie was napping. The perfect weather, birds chirping, slight breeze - there's nothing quite like it. I guess you'd call it relaxing. ;)  Then when Addie woke up we put her swimsuit on and put her in her baby pool on the patio. These are the little moments in life that matter the most. Finding beauty in the little a new backyard patio and beautiful weather. 

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