What to do with our back yard landscaping and deck area has long been a question we didn't have an answer for since we moved into this house in 1999. It formerly featured a 24 foot above ground swimming pool that had since been removed, an unlandscaped curved dugout hillside where the pool had been, and had a basic deck off the living room that had a poorly thought out addition to the pool that now went to nowhere. We did install a similar 24 foot pool for the kids and made some minor modifications to the swim deck to bring it up to code shortly after we moved in, but were never very satisfied with the asthetics or the layout of the whole thing, and were struggling with ideas of what to do about it. To add to the unappeal of the area, there was an 8'x8' wooden shed behind the garage sitting roughly 10 feet outside the dining room window in what looked to be an ideal area for a patio.
I demolished the old shed, built a new one in a better location toward the back of the lot, and tore out the old swim deck addition. About the time I was ready to build the new patio, my employer announced a layoff, so we put the project on hold for a few months pending notification of my employment status, which essentially left us with a couple of nice mud pits for the better part of a year where the shed and swim deck had been!
Fast forward to this summer (2011)...While I'm still employed, that status is constant unconcertainty these days, but we decided to forge ahead with the back yard project anyway, knowing it would be difficult to ever sell the house with the back yard left in that condition. We scaled back the size and scope a little bit to keep costs in check.
I started by removing the old deck rails and digging a new curved stairway in the hillside between the deck and pool using mainly pressure treated lumber I had salvaged from the original swim deck. Next I resurfaced the main deck using a rented drum sander, trimmed the former overhang, and added skirt around all sides. Deck stain has been added to the deck surface and stair treads. I finished the deck by adding new rails with new pressure treated lumber....stain will be added later when the wood seasons more.
Next I dug out the patio area and transferred the former walk stones around the pool. While I was at it, I also dug out some old hosta plants that formerly flanked the shed. I broke the large hosta plants into several smaller plantings and re-used them in various locations around the back yard. 5 yards of crusher run gravel were used to build up a 4" base over the 365 square foot patio area. I pitched and leveled it as best I could, tamped it down by hand, then added 1.5" of bedding sand for the pavers, followed by actual installation of the "4- cobble" paving stones. Polymeric sand was added between the pavers, and a clear sealer was added to the stones.
A 16 x 20 foot pergola was added above the patio shortly after the patio was finished. I started by digging two holes 42" below the frost line to accommodate two 12' 6x6 pressure treated pillars. Those were cemented in place and left to harden. I then built a main beam across the columns using two 20 foot pressure treated 2x8's. Next I added a 2x6 pressure treated ledger board to the garage, and added 11 notches to accept the 16 foot 2x6 stringers. The stringers were notched in two places to mate with the 2x8 beam, and were set in place about 19" apart. A seond tier was added above the main stringers with some smaller 1x4 pressure treated cross members. A decorative detail was added to the beam and the stringers using a jigsaw, and the columns were chamfered with a router prior to being installed. The stone base you see around the columns are just some paving stones glued into place along the columns, and capped with pressure treated sills. Once the wood has seasoned sufficiently, I'll add some natural color stain to it. There's still plenty of landscaping to be done to the whole area, and next year we're planning to grow some vines above the pergola.
The whole project ran a bit under $2K...a fair chunk of change, but it makes a huge difference in the appearance back there. The pavers were purchased while on sale for 20% off at Lowes, and the steps were built from salvaged lumber. Doing myself probably kept costs to less than half of what hiring it would have run, but holy moly that was a lot of work!
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