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Backyard Renovation Project

Hello friends!

It’s been a crazy week here chez Hansen. It’s been forever since I have embarked on a renovation project, and last week we started two of them! We are doing a bathroom overhaul at our Lake house in Washington. I shared my mood board inspiration for that project on instagram last week.

I had so much fun picking out the finishings at Lowe’s last weekend. Usually Steve is not into renovations or shopping, but he was surprisingly jovial about spending an hour at Lowe’s sourcing tile, bathroom vanities, and fixtures! And then he surprised me by making an awesome spreadsheet to organize all of our choices and pass on to the contractor. Way to go babe!

Meanwhile back at home here in Vancouver, we started a pretty major backyard renovation project on Monday. Before I get into the details on that, I have to give a major shout out to Rob, who we hired to do this project. We have known Rob for years now because our oldest boys are the same age and have played on various sports reams together. He also lives in our neighborhood. Rob calls himself a Handy Man and we talked about how that title doesn’t really fit what he does, which seems to be ANYTHING construction related.  I have been absolutely blown away by what he has accomplished this week, all while dealing with less than ideal weather (one day of torrential rain!) and fighting off a cold/flu. Such a trooper!

Today I thought I would share all the “before” and progress photos I have taken this week to document our process. Then when everything is complete and I have the backyard space styled to my liking, I can share the “After” with you! One of the things I am most excited about is that we will now have room for an outdoor dining space. Here is a moodboard I created a few weeks ago to give you a sense for what stylistic direction I am heading!

Since purchasing our home 5 years ago, we have spent considerable effort into updating and styling the indoor space and I am so grateful that I was able to make the inside exactly how I wanted it.

Pretty much since day 1, I have hated the look of the back deck and overhang that is right off of our kitchen and family room. We did our best when we moved in, to address the outdoor area with what little budget we had available. We invested in an outdoor sprinkler system, we replaced the grass and put up a fence to keep the dog in the yard. And for the most part that has how it has sat since then! Just to share the worst “before” picture on the face of the earth, here is what it looked like when we first moved in and had just gutted the whole inside…

How is that for an eyesore? I bet our neighbors thought the the Beverly hillbilles had moved in! But if you can see past the pile of garbage, you can see the original brown deck. It looked straight out of the 80’s, which was the decade in which the house was built. A few years ago, we hired Student Works Painters to paint the deck and it was a slight improvement.

But the paint didn’t adhere very well so it was peeling in some spots which contributed to the overall tired and dated look. For some reason they also left the gross plastic numbers on the deck, even though I asked them to take them down.

The worst part about the deck and overhang is that we park right beside it, so every time I pull into the driveway, it’s the first thing I see. That and the badly peeling fence.

It has always bummed me out! Over the past year I have had a strong urge to pull the whole deck and overhang down and just start fresh and create a deck with some patio stones. Steve made a strong argument for the practicality of the overhang and in the end I agreed to keep it as long as we could freshen it up a little! The glass overhang serves two pretty useful purposes, it provides a covered area so we can sit outside even if it’s raining. We also have tons of trees around us, so even though the glass always looks dirty, it does keep our patio area clean.

When we originally met with Rob to discuss how we could make this space look better, our scope of work looked like this: white picket fence & plant a hedge along it for privacy

Our house backs onto a really busy alley and with our current set up, not only can passers by see into our yard, they can see into our kitchen and living area. Especially at night when it’s dark outside and our lights are on.

2.replace deck boards with composite materials across the surface and along the sides

In an attempt to make the deck look nicer, we decided to recover it with durable composite decking. Say bye bye to the dirty, peeling wooden steps!

Also, we had to pay a pest removal company a ridiculous amount of money to install this ugly wire mesh around the bottom of the deck because we had a skunk problem…it’s the perfect spot for them to “den” and have babies! Ack! By using a composite siding, we would eliminate the need for this wire mesh.

3.extend the deck towards the neighbors fence to accommodate an outdoor dining space

This little corner has always bothered me because it is a waste of space and also was a magnet for junk! Our backyard is small so every inch counts. I  love eating outside during the summer months but we have never had room for a table. If we want to eat outside we all have to sit around the sectional which is not ideal. My biggest wish was for a place to have an outdoor dining table.

4.Put up a fence board along the retaining wall.

As you can see in the above picture, there is a retaining wall that seperates our backyard from the side of the house. It’s quite a steep drop, so having a fence there will be much more safe. You can also see our heat pump and water meter along the side of the house which are not that pretty to look at. Lastly we  have lovely tenants that live in our basement suite and their bedroom/living room window is right below the retaining wall so we wanted to put up a sound barrier.

5. Replace gutters along the overhang

One of the least aesthetically pleasing things about the overhang was the gutters. They were is terrible shape! So we asked Rob to tear them down and replace them.

Construction Begins

So Rob showed up last Monday morning ready to get after it, as my idol Chipper Gaines would say. We went to the lumber yard to pick out the decking and then he came back and got to work pulling up the floorboards. Pretty much right out of the gates, we made two major design plan changes.

After he removed the deck surface, you could see a concrete slab under the deck. Remember how I said that my original idea was to scrap the deck altogether and have patio stones? Seeing the perfectly good concrete patio got my gears turning.

Then Rob mentioned that he discovered that some parts of the deck frame were rotted, so he would have to replace some boards before going ahead with the composite.

So then I asked him about changing the plans and getting rid of the deck and pouring more concrete instead. It was so great having Rob talk through all the options with me and discuss pros and cons. I am so grateful to him for this! After a fairly quick discussion, we decided to keep the glass overhang and get some new support beams but to scrap the old deck entirely! Not long after we made that decision, Rob discovered that the white picket fence along the driveway would take so long to strip/sand and repaint that we might just be better to tear it down and start from scratch. Enter big design change number two! We decided to tear down the existing fence and then continue the tall cedar panels that run along the back of our yard up along the driveway. This would offer us the privacy we were wanting as well as look more cohesive with the rest of the backyard.

So our new design plan and scope of work looked something like this:

1.remove deck

2.tear down and remove picket fence

3.tear down gutters

4.extend patio area by pouring an adjacent concrete slab.

5.replace support posts under the overhang

6.Install new fence panels along the driveway

7.Install fence panel above retaining wall

8.Build new step/landing area off of back sliding door

9.replace glass slider with French Doors

I can’t believe how much Rob accomplished last week in only 4 days. He made it up to step 6. He is two days in this week and is almost done the new fence which looks amazing. I am afraid to type this for fear of jinxing the whole thing, but this backyard reno has been so fun! Not maybe so much for Rob who went from experiencing “June-uary” weather conditions last week to record breaking hot temperatures yesterday and today. Such a weird shift!

I can’t wait to share the finished backyard space with you in the hopefully not-to-distant future! Stay tuned!


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