In 2019, we bought a fixer upper in our dream neighborhood. It had active roof leaks in five rooms, needed a new sewer line the day after we closed, and had a host of other problems, not the least of which was the back yard situation. It was swampy in the summer, muddy in the winter, and the deck was a safety hazard. When we built the carriage house, we decided that since we were already tearing up the ground, we might as well do a back yard and deck overhaul at the same time.
Before we begin, let’s revisit our “before” on this deck so that you can really get the full “wow” effect on the after. Get your tetanus booster ready for this one, folks:
Yes, that bamboo was taking over 30% of our back yard when we bought our house in 2019. It took years to get it to stop popping back up, and I’ll never use bamboo in landscaping if I can help it. These next photos are from 2020, when we moved a shed from another project house to our back yard for storage (and somehow made it all look MORE junky). See: weeds and one sad little flower pot.
We struggled with what to do with the concrete pads, which were at three different levels and cracking badly. We made the patios work with cafe lights and a huge table, and the stock tank pool was a fun little addition.
Believe it or not, the deck got even worse before it got better. When we were building the carriage house, Jonny cut the deck back so that concrete could be poured for a grill area between the house and carriage house. Below is the deck mid-construction (and apparently at Christmas time, hence the lights on the house).
While I’ve definitely seen scarier decks in my years in real estate, the one attached to my house was a pretty rough one. We knew which step to skip because the boards were rotting, and even when Jonny replaced the rotten board, we had to be careful of nails (whoever built it used some nails instead of screws) wiggling out here and there. I’m sure the people who (poorly) renovated our house in 2011 added it, and then nothing at all happened to maintain it for the next 12 years. We love entertaining, and during the pandemic, our back yard became our favorite place to entertain. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as welcoming or easy to use as we needed it to be.
Cue new deck: we played with many different deck configurations, and finally landed on one that would have an upper level to connect the kitchen door and back door, and have a lower level that would cover the concrete pads and be flush with the carriage house’s glass garage door. Here it is when it was nearly completed, grill patio to the left, deck to the right.
No more bamboo! When we removed the bamboo in 2019, we found a second patio underneath it.
Okay, ready for the “after”?
With enough room for our 10 person table plus more seating down the line, closed storage under the upper level, and stairs all the way around to invite people to play in the grass, this deck turned out even better than I dreamed.
I’m so glad we decided to build the deck at the same time as the carriage house. It’s made our whole back yard so much more usable, and we spend so much more time enjoying it. We always have more plans for our home, but right now, having an outdoor dining space, a place for friends to gather, and room for dogs and kids to run has been incredible. I’m SO glad I chose to add steps all the way around the perimeter of the deck, because it makes the entire back yard flow together. Before, it felt choppy and unusable because of all of the different elevations, but now it feels so much more cohesive.
Because we’re us and we’re truly always talking about our next project, we’ve got plans for an addition off the back of the house and a potential screened in porch off the kitchen, but right now it’s already safer and more usable than the old, rotting deck. Renovations are a “if you give a mouse a cookie” kind of thing for us.
Next up for the back yard? Setting the stock tank pool back up in a new spot, adding a deck around it to connect to this deck, and eventually adding more furniture and landscaping. Jonny also has plans to build a pergola over the grill area with bar seating and a pizza oven, but we’ll take it all one project at a time.
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