From Overgrown to Gorgeous: Beautiful DIY Outdoor Living Makeover on a Tiny Budget
The housing market was just starting to wobble when I bought my house at the very end of 2007. It was a small two bedroom fixer-upper. As one repairman told me, my house had lived a “maintenance-free life.”
Though it was desperately in need of repairs and updates, the housing market was tumbling, and the mortgage payments were eating me alive. That’s when my DIY spirit, and money saver mindset showed their true worth.
In one of my bigger projects, I turned a rotted wood deck, and overgrown backyard into a beautiful outdoor living space. Watch the transformation.
Planning for Change
After cutting back or ripping out the overgrown shrubs, I managed to squeeze a couple more years of life out of the deck by pressure washing, and applying water sealant. This made the space safer, and usable while I saved up money and considered my options. I finally started the project in the summer of 2010.
Initially, I hoped to install a stamped concrete patio. By removing the deck, the usable space would be lowered by a few feet, making the whole yard feel more open. When the first quote for concrete came in over $30,000, I didn’t even bother pursuing that option further.
I also looked into pavers, and flagstone, but costs for site preparation and materials were prohibitive for such a large area. Gravel seemed to be the most cost-effective solution, but I didn’t want pebbles getting spread all over the yard.
While browsing a garden forum one day, I came across a product called Klingstone Paths. It’s a binding product for rocks, that creates a hard surface, but still allows water to flow through. Cost effective and environmentally friendly. This was my solution.
The Transformation Begins
I started by removing the existing wood deck. As I pulled off the decking boards, I could see how badly rotted the beams underneath had been. This project was getting done just in time. A local junk removal company hauled away the debris.
With the deck gone, I leveled the space with just a rake and a shovel. Since the new patio would have a water-permeable surface, the grading didn’t have to be perfect.
Edging pavers were purchased at the local home improvement store, and were set in place by digging out the ground slightly. Careful to put them in straight and level to each other, I left them sticking up enough to contain a bed of about two inches of gravel.
A truckload a pea gravel was then moved from the front yard to the back, in a seemingly endless number of trips with the wheelbarrow. We raked it out smooth.
Adding pergolas at either end of my new patio created a tiny bit more privacy.
My mom and I built these with a few 4×4’s and some 2×2’s, with a plan to train climbing plants across them.
Making the Steps
Three steps were needed to get from the sliding glass door to the patio level. I created a tiered design, with angled corners, to allow easy access to the whole space. We used wood framing, and engineered decking boards. The engineered boards were a splurge, but it was a great decision.
Sealing the Surface
Once the building work was done and the gravel was smoothed again, it was time to apply the binding product. I don’t have any pictures of this process, because I did it all by myself one evening. It was a little harder than I expected, but still doable.
Working in sections, I used a rented lawn roller to compact the gravel. Then, following the manufacturer’s directions, I used a watering can to spread the binding product. I completed the process in a couple hours. The binder needs to cure during a period without rain, so I had to choose my timing carefully around the Seattle weather.
The finished surface is solid like concrete, so the pebbles don’t get scattered all over the yard. It’s also easier to walk on than loose gravel. The best part is that water flows right through, so I never have to worry about drainage.
Designing Outdoor Living Spaces
Hanging a swing from one pergola instantly created my favorite summer reading spot. At the other end of the patio, I hung a colored glass lantern over a table and chairs. Now it’s the perfect place to enjoy a summer meal.
At the side of the house, there is a little nook that was a nice sheltered spot for a fire pit. Colorful potted plants soften and brighten the entire space.
There are so many simple ways to make your yard both pretty and functional. If you want to steal more tips and ideas, be sure to check out the Home Deconomics Outdoor Living Idea Guide. You can get it for free for a limited time.
From prying up the first deck boards, to finally relaxing at the fire pit, this project took about three months to complete.
Here is the cost breakdown:
|Wooden Deck Debris Removal:||$420.00|
|Gravel (4 cu. yds.):||$186.15|
|Steps & Pergola Materials:||$745.42|
|Klingstone (30 gal.):||$1,122.74|
|Lawn Roller Rental:||$14.00|
Pretty amazing, compared to a $30,000 concrete patio estimate. And the result is fantastic!
Don’t forget to download your copy of the Home Deconomics Outdoor Living Idea Guide. Free for a limited time!
Packed with practical and affordable tips and ideas for real life, it’s the perfect resource to help create your own beautiful outdoor living space.
And for more budget-friendly home remodeling ideas, check out 7 Things You Need to Know for a Successful Kitchen Remodel.
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