Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Deck progress and fireplace makeover

Progress on the deck continues to move forward. Our contractor needed to put the guys on another project for a few days last week as they had a tight deadline to meet, so it's not finished yet. We did manage to make all the decisions about the privacy screens, stairs and deck railings so things should move along quickly now. 

We're using the same rough cut cedar that we used for the board and batten on the back of the house for the privacy screens along the sides. While the siding runs vertically on the house, we're running it horizontally on the deck in a two wide, two narrow board pattern.

We also decided to use the same material to fully clad the stairway. In the picture below you can see the old temporary stairs set up where the new ones will be built. So the first step down is inset into the deck, and then on the remaining stairs the horizontal cladding will continue out to the handrail. The front section of the deck will also be clad to ground level so that the concrete pad will be fully hidden.

And with the end for the deck being somewhat in sight, it's made me think about spending late summer evenings in the yard in front of a wood fire. We have an outdoor fireplace that we bought many years ago that's been sitting out behind the shed for a long while. I pulled it out the other day to give it a cleaning, and realized that it needed a lot more than a little scrubbing.

The screens on the sides were soooo rusty. After a good scrubbing, first with a cloth and then with steel wool, I sprayed on a couple of coats of heat resistant Rust-oleum spray paint in flat black...

... and now it looks as good as new. I see some weenie roasts in our near future! 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The collector

Matthew turned eleven last week. I know it sounds trite, but it seems like just yesterday this little pork chop was splashing in his bathtub on our kitchen counter.

Eleven years.... same dimples.

So what does every eleven year old boy want for his birthday? Why, a white tailed deer skull in an antique display case, of course.

I found it in an antique store when we were in Vermont at the beginning of July. It may seem like a strange choice for a birthday gift for a child, but I knew immediately that Matthew would love it. For he's an avid collector of... how shall I put this... biological samples.

Some of them aren't so bad. He has an enormous shell collection on his bedroom floor (it only smells bad if you open the tupperware boxes it's stored in), and at the cottage a collection of rocks, assorted snake skins and turkey feathers (a surprising number of wild turkeys inhabit our property).

But let's not forget his eclectic collection of "city gathered" biologicals.

That would be a bird's nest, a hornet nest, some kind of tree knot, and two rodent skulls. With teeth. He recently found a racoon carcass that's all flat and dried out on the ground and he's been begging to be allowed to bring the skull home to add to his collection.

I really don't know how I gave birth to such a quirky little creature, but it's certainly entertaining watching him grow.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Deck framing complete

The carpenters have been working on the deck for two days and they've made significant progress. They completed the framing today and I think that they'll start laying the deck boards tomorrow. 

I made a couple of last minute changes to the design of the deck on the weekend. On Friday I read Meg’s (loving albany) front porch update, and was overtaken by jealousy when I saw the ingenious way in which she had her ginormous city-issued garbage bins concealed. Her carpenter cleverly built in a seat at the end of her porch, and stowed the bins under it (see post here). I added it to my Pinterest account so that I would remember it when I started thinking about redoing our front porch, which needs some work in the near future. 

When I was relaxing over a glass of wine Friday night after putting the kids to bed I realized that I didn’t have to wait for the front porch, I could do the same thing on the back deck! Thankfully we have a very easy-going contractor who doesn’t mind making changes on the fly, and he designed me my very own magical garbage bin-hiding seat. Right outside by back door for easy access even in the winter. 

So the plan for the deck (14' wide x 12' deep) is to have 6' privacy walls made with horizontal wooden slats on either side, and a glass railing across the front so that the view of the yard is not blocked from inside the house. Running along the side of the patio next to the door will be a 30" deep, 12' long bench under which the garbage bins can be stored. We'll be able to lift the bench seat to access the bins from the deck. 

We don't have a lot of space between the edge of the deck and the fence, so the area under the seat will be divided into three bays, each with two ~2' wide doors that swing open. This will give us easy access to the whole 12' of storage area. We'll also have access through these doors to the lower storage space under the rest of the deck. It's not very high, but will be good for things like the winter tires. The 12' run will give us plenty of space to store our two big recycle containers, the garbage can, two green waste containers, and hopefully the boys' bikes.

The stairs will be 4' wide and will be aligned with the opening of the sliding glass door. We decided to recess the top step into the deck so that the run doesn't protrude so far into the patio. 

I'm still working out the stairs and the railing that we'll use. I'd like a glass handrail, but Alan seems to want to go with something more substantial. I need to get back to work on Pinterest as we need to make a decision pretty quickly! 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Backyard progress

I was away for most of the month of July. First I was in Vermont at a conference and then I spent three weeks in New Brunswick at a boat-access, no electricity, no running water cottage. Talk about roughing it! Unfortunately the weather looked like this for a fair amount of time that we were there.

Fortunately, we had lots of family around and had a great time anyway.  The boys got to spend a lot of time with all of their older cousins, and the last five days we overlapped with my younger brother's kids who are of similar ages. The cousins had an absolute blast.

While it was nice to be on vacation, it was great to get home. And while I was off cavorting in the sun (or fog, as the case may be) our landscape guy was hard at work installing our new patio.

The stone patio, where we plan to put the BBQs and the dining table, is 18'x20'. We left an unfinished area next to the chain link fence so that we can construct some kind of privacy screen. I think that we'll use trellis and vines but we haven't ruled out a wooden privacy screen. All of the neighbours to the north of us have chain link fences, so everyone within the next ten houses can see every move we make in the backyard. We're going to wait until the deck is finished and we see how much screening it provides for this lower area and then make the decision about what to build and how high to build it.

It's a bit of a mess right now. Our neighbour's yard is slightly higher than ours as the street slopes gently, so we have to figure out some kind of retaining wall solution to keep the dirt off of the patio.

The contractors will be here Monday morning to get going on the deck. I'm excited for things to start moving along!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

New chairs for the backyard

I decided to ignore all advice to the contrary and go for the wooden Muskoka chairs. I just couldn't bring myself to buy the recycled plastic ones, even though I know they're lower maintenance. There's inherently more charm to the real wood chairs and I don't really care if the stuff in my yard fades and looks kind of dingy well loved.

Plus, I have two boys that I can force to do the restaining for the next decade at least.

Matthew and I were at Costco on Friday and happened across Muskoka chairs, so we picked up a couple of them. Yesterday he helped me unpack them and start the assembly. Unfortunately he lost interest fairly quickly and I was left on my own for much of the process.

The first chair was  bit of a pain to put together, but the second one was a breeze and I had them all assembled within a couple of hours. They're really comfortable to sit in, and I think that they're going to look terrific when I get them stained.

I discovered a patio design flaw yesterday when Alan cut the grass - the mulch that I put down around the hostas flew everywhere when he passed by it with the mower. So I pulled it out and put down some of the river rock that I had stockpiled behind the shed.

I like the look much better and it should be less maintenance than the mulch - a win-win situation.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The garden shed

I spent a long day on Sunday setting the flagstones in the the grass by the shed. It's all done now! I also managed to finish staining the front of the shed last week. The sides and back still aren't done, but we can't actually see them from the yard, so I'm not in a big rush to get them done. I'll let Matthew slowly pick away at them.

My mom was in and helped again on the weekend - she was a good sport and scraped the way-ward paint off of the windows and then cleaned them. They'd never been washed in the 13 years that we've owned this shed. Frightening, I know, but I can barely keep my children clean. Cleaning shed windows isn't even on my radar. The only problem with the clean windows is that I need to re-organize the junk inside the shed as you can see it so clearly now! 

We picked up some geraniums for the window boxes and  planted hostas that I had moved from the garden that used to be near our back patio. The plants really softened the look of the shed. 

It's such an inviting little nook in the yard. I pulled out a couple of plastic Adirondack chairs that we had stowed behind the shed and set them on the patio. I think I'll head out this weekend and pick up some wooden ones - I'd like to paint them bright red to contrast with the grey shed. 

So I have one small region of the yard finished up. Next up is getting some gardens in place adjacent the planned stone patio so I can move the bushes and perennials out of my vegetable gardens. I'd like to get some tomatoes in the ground! 

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Backyard progress

The backyard is slowly proceeding. Our contractors didn't really have time for us, but since they're so nice they agreed to squeeze us in. We agreed that we didn't expect this project to be finished lickety-split, so we're patiently waiting for them to have time to do some more work. 

At the end of last week they poured the concrete slab that will be under the wooden deck and we put the old stairs back in place temporarily so we can now get out of the back of the house and we have a clean spot to BBQ. We're happy with that for the time being. 

Since there's work still to be done near the house and it's a mud pit where the stone patio will go, Matthew and I decided to start work at the back of the yard and move forward. I convinced him it would be a lot of fun to stain the shed (and the offer of pay probably didn't hurt) so he started on that last weekend. 

My wonderful mother came in on Sunday and spent the afternoon helping Matthew paint. I spent the day dragging around the flagstones that used to be part of the patio close to the house to make a little seating area back there. It gets full sun late in the day, so it's a great place to sit after we get home from work. 

I wanted a casual look, so i decided to put the stones right into the grass so that we can run the lawn mower right over them. I laid out the stones where I wanted them, and now I'm removing the grass underneath and setting them level with the grass. 

It's not really hard work, but it's slow. I'm hoping to get these finished up this weekend so I can get to work on my gardens because that's when the fun really begins. 

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