Tag Archives: concrete

Covering it all up, and a dad joke

Well hello there…glossing right over my long absence from keeping you updated on our progress, I have progress to share with you in spades. Or shovels actually – square front, because they’re the best for this job so I’m told.

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The last I clued you in on what we’ve been up to in the backyard, was when we transplanted the plum tree from it’s corner of the odd little triangle of deck, and up into the more deserving and lofty place of the biggest planter we could heft down the stairs and across the backyard.

I’m pleased to say it survived, and I had high hopes when we got to enjoy a good spring bloom, but sadly there were only a small handful of meagre plum offerings. Uprooting an old tree definitely interferes with it’s nervous system. Hopefully next summer it’ll be feeling more up to production tempo again.

Pretty ain’t it?

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But not so pretty… the weeds growing in every nook and cranny of the patchwork of old and new concrete, and ugly stained timber decking.

What to do….? Clearly laying ready lawn over top is not a good idea.

While we didn’t hate the concrete part, the odd triangle of deck in the back right corner really didn’t fit in with my vision of a comfortable, cosy, and relaxing back yard. What I really wanted to do was turn the concrete into crazy paving, and then cover up the deck. But apparently this was not achievable without seriously annoying the neighbours with a concrete saw for weekends on end, and the result unpredictable at best but leaning heavily towards disaster.

Would you believe we even contemplated ripping out the decking and filling the void with concrete so at least we’d be back to one simple surface? But that would have brought all sorts of retaining nightmares and probably have involved talking to the council. Not ideal.

So. “Cover it all up!” was the cry. White pebbles was the answer.

Until we saw the price. And realised that to do it properly we’d need to first invest in what the kids have deemed “honeycomb”.

“Honeycomb” is otherwise known as Natural Paving. There are various versions of it, and I forget quite why we chose this in the end, although most were priced pretty comparably, and do the same job. Which is to provide stability for a large area of pebbles. It holds them in place, and makes them easier to walk on. An added bonus is that it makes it hard for kids to dig around in them and throw bucket loads over the back fence and generally create havoc after you’ve gone to great lengths to rake it all out nice and smooth and level. Yep we’ll have some of that.

At $32 a sheet, and needing a total of 31 sheets, it got us almost to $1000 in one transaction. Scary stuff. But at least it was straightforward.

Pebbles was not so much. First there was giving up the dream of white pebbles, because that was looking like a few too many digits after the dollar sign. But mainly because once I got beyond that by telling myself they’d only be hard to keep looking good anyway, I couldn’t for the life of me make comparisons between pebbles and prices and suppliers thereafter. I was good at maths before I divided my brain in half twice by producing two offspring (leaving me with a quarter of my original… just enough to work that one out) but trying to compare these pebbles priced at so much per m3 with these different but supposedly the same pebbles at so much per tonne… way too much.

So what is one to do but go by looks then..?!

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Exhibit A: 4 different pebble samples from 3 different suppliers

I liked the look of the “Hoki Poki Small” from Daltons, and within days a truck dumped a 1.5m3 mountain in front of the garage door.

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But meanwhile… we laid all the “honeycomb” and congratulated ourselves on moving one step further so efficiently (it was super quick to lay), only to spend the next few days wondering if perhaps we needed some kind of drainage underneath…

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A wash down of my pebble samples left water sitting in the matting, with nowhere to drain to, and a quick phone call to Natural Paving confirmed that yes it was absolutely necessary to have at least 50mm of drainage metal underneath. The webbed material on the underside of the honeycomb is more for weed control. Nevermind that we’d edged off the entire yard allowing only for the thickness of the matting plus 10-15mm for pebbles on top of that. We didn’t have 50mm. At least not without copious frustration.

Andre’s day time job came in handy once again as he sussed out more advanced drainage materials than GAP 20, eventually coming across some kind of geotextile called “bidim” from Geofabrics. It has hydraulic properties which makes it ideal for use for drainage and filtration applications. Oh really? And how thick is it did you say? Oh about 2mm. Give or take 1mm!!

Laying it meant taking up the honeycomb row by row and replacing it over the top as we unrolled the bidim, so we didn’t mix up our jigsaw and get ourselves in a complete pickle.

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With that done, I spent most of a precious childless Friday moving barrows of Hoki Poki from here to there. Blisters and splinters aside, it was a good feeling to get to this point.

0504_145748I left off with it all dumped in piles where the wheelbarrow got the better of me and tipped off my wobbly ramp, too exhausted to rake it around, and definitely not able to manhandle that half-built playhouse structure around to finish off the job.

0504-03.07Andre got it done the next day, and after a good wash down of the dusty pebbles, it was looking pretty fine!

0504_4354We over ordered by a small pile of pebbles, and these have been fun for the kids (to throw around by the bucket load) but will get bagged up and used for top ups when necessary.

0504_4358 0504_4359Besides this “cover up” we’ve been busy in the backyard for most of the summer with adding timber to the front side of the planter wall on the deck, and to the side alongside the stairs. I’ve spent a bit of time in the garden up the side, trying to get some shade loving plants established, and helping the jasmine along with a better growing frame, and a couple of extra plants. We also filled in and painted the “half wall” at the garage side of the backyard.

Busy. But these leaps of progress are so worth it!

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Once you can stop and look back… and once you know there are just a couple more things left on the list. We have a playhouse to finish obviously, and then a line up of more concrete pipe planters waiting to move into position along the back fence and break the monotony of brown with some much needed green!

I’ll leave you with this:

After 5 years of fatherhood Andre is getting pretty heavily involved in the Dad-joke Club, but one of his latest (pilfered from somewhere no doubt) is actually not bad: “Did you have a good weekend or do you own your own home?”

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A quick weekend update on the patio

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Once upon a time, a very long time ago… this baseboard on the patio was all prepped and ready for painting. But then it rained, and winter arrived, and the paint was never applied.

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But I took a chance on the weather this weekend and got it done. A couple of minor showers weren’t going to stop me this time! I used Dulux Weathershield in Semi Gloss, and the colour is Eighth Friar Grey (a Resene colour). It’s the same as our painter used on the other baseboards, gutterboards and sills for the rest of the house, but this baseboard was hidden behind a raised garden bed at the time.

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Remember this first glimpse at our patio progress, and the funny story about the table and chairs?

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That was way back before we ripped up the lawn and resowed! And it’s not just the lawn that has come a long way. Here’s the patio now, after the addition of pavers, some planting, and my painting efforts from the weekend.

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I do need to get some bigger statement pots, to make this area more of a feature, and we also plan to try and get some moss to take in between those planters… we got it wrong the first time! Also, it’d be nice when the pavers weather to match the concrete some more.

But for now, the little patio is a great spot for al fresco lunches on a sunny day, and as the weather warms up some more it’ll be al fresco breakfasts too!

At the other front corner of the house, spring is helping things along with the perfect mixture of rain, sun and warmer temperatures. It’s a good time of year for gardeners like me – stuff it in the ground and sit back and watch it grow! That lavender is on a takeover mission… hydrangeas look out!

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Loads more happened this weekend – there was concrete, new deck posts, trailer loads of dirt and some waterproofed planters. I shall do my very best to share pictures in the next couple of days.

Working out the back

This is what we tell our Saturday visitors at the moment: don’t knock at the front door – we’ll be working out the back.

There are a couple of things on the go out there. The main one being demolition of the old deck, to make way for a new one over the next couple of months. It’s been Andre’s project (I’ve been getting my hands dirty with some concrete planters) but we were both pretty pleased to see the last piece of old deck come away this weekend.

A few weeks ago, we started here…

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The lower steps were the first to get removed, so the kids (the smallest one at least) could no longer get up onto a half dismantled deck. Safety first – always!

With that, I left Andre to carry on as he wished…

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There were lots of rusty nails, and some help from a small boy with a hammer, until eventually all the deck boards were done and we could see right down to the odd concrete terraces underneath. 0903_1100

With a deadline looming (our building mastermind returning from a holiday!) Andre opted to stay home from a kids party on Saturday and busted through the rest of the deck. I got home in time to make him pose with the very last piece before it joined the pile of scrap timber. Here’s the “I can’t believe you’re making me do this, and that I’m actually doing it” face:

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So while things are looking more like a blank canvas in one corner of the backyard, the other corner is temporarily doing the opposite. I’m just so glad for the hardy wee plum tree that is bringing a bit of blossom beauty to a very sad and sorry backyard just now! Even that succulent is giving up after being unceremoniously uprooted and dumped with barely a clump of soil to help keep it alive. I’m not sure what the plan is for this timber now – we were hopeful we could use some of the decking boards to replace some rotten bits of the lower deck triangle (right under where they’re stacked now) but a fair bit of them were also rotten, and most broke up when they were prised off also. Firewood maybe? Or just the scrap heap…?

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Because I’m a neat freak clean as you go type I was in with the broom as soon as Andre was out of the way. Decades of decaying debris didn’t stand a chance. And that last remaining patch of “back lawn” got bundled away too.

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The old apricot paint is a clear mark of where the old deck came to, and how it stepped down alongside the house. We’ll need to waterblast and touch this up at some stage…

Among it all, I found this:

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It’s body was as long as my longest finger. Erghhh! And yes it did get dealt with when it had the cheek to actually jump on me. I totally didn’t squeal, but there was lots of arm shaking and shuddering and I made Andre check all over me to make sure none of its friends thought it would be fun to join in.

The last task before we called it enough’s enough was to mark out and cut holes in the concrete for where the new deck posts will go. The four squares marked along that line are where there will be posts in a few more weeks. The old deck came to right about the edge of the bottom concrete terrace. The new one will go to about a metre beyond that yellow line, so we’re getting another metre and a half in length, and a touch more in width too. Yes!

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Next week we’re breaking out that concrete to discover if we get an easy “dig out some dirt underneath”, or need to hire a rock breaker! I’m picking the latter… this house seems to be built on rock!

For the meantime, the kids are loving playing in their idea of backyard paradise – pile of dirt, stack of timber (sticking out nail free, and securely stacked) and those fun (but ugly) concrete terraces!

Pin of the day: Concrete pipe planters

Over the weekend Andre took Master W out for coffee and a little poke around Shed 5 and it’s neighbourhood. We’ve been going there since before Master W could toddle around looking at the motorbikes himself, so it’s exciting to see all the new eateries appearing, in keeping with the shed aesthetic. Nice work Auckland!

They came home with some photos of concrete planters, and an idea of how we can get some for our backyard. When you have something quite different in mind (like oversize terracotta pots) it can take a little getting your head around a new idea, but if it works out a lot cheaper and I can resolve the potential problem of characterless concrete then I’m in.

Like these mini neon versions, a lot can be achieved with some paint. Especially if there’s some metallic involved!

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I have loads of projects on the go, they’re just not going far or fast right now. Kids, weather, a weekend away – they’re not good for progress – but they’re good for other things!

So, you’ll have to wait a bit to see the kindling box, headboard, curtain rods (yes I did mention those months ago), more on the backyard and where we’re at with the front lawn.

For now, I have concrete on my mind. It started with a promo email from The Design Gift Shop this morning.

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Clockwise from top right:
Our very own, awesome, one of a kind concrete floor
Outdoor bench by Design Warehouse
Stacking spice jars via Etsy
Planter box spotted at The Design Chaser
Soap dish by The Design Gift Shop

Concrete continues to astound me. It’s no longer just a cheapish option for whatever ground you have to cover… it’s a material for crafting pretty much whatever one can think of. Those spice jars – so (stuck for words) cool!

And I love our concrete floor to bits – minus the kisses. Having two little ones in the house it does get a bit icky under the dining table at least 3 times a day. But it does a reeeally good job hiding that if I just don’t feel like mopping it up right away. Again. Also, it’s no colder than the timber floorboards in the mornings (they’re both pretty cold to be honest!) and the afternoon sun does a good job of heating it up so it is warmest in the evenings. Hardly a person visits our house without commenting on it, and I’ve had to run for the nearest cloth a few times when I see them start to get down on their knees for a good look.

There are a million and one companies that can give you one, if I’ve convinced you, but it really is worth trying it yourself. It’s kind of fun, looking back on it months later!

Because green is the new grey

Hey Mr Big Concrete Slab… we had a date remember? It was fun, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing you again. We’re looking for something a little more… green.

0411_6892  Ten points for spotting the cute boy in the grey hoodie:0411_68950411_6930 Bonus points: Aww who’s the cutest l’il Daddy’s helper? Clue: Not the one in the high vis jacket.0411_6893

Here’s the updated front yard list:

Build and paint fence
Build and paint gate
Build and paint letterbox
Make a sweet spot for morning tea in the front yard
Remove concrete turning bay
Kill off lawn with Kiwicare Organic Weedfree Rapid
Fill in and level with new topsoil
Plant new grass seed
Plant climbing vine along inside of fence
Plant a row of something else at base of fence

It looks like we’ve still got a long list… but the worst is over. Can’t wait to get it finished and then I can tear up our master bedroom!

Here’s a little funny story: My car was parked on the street while the demo was happening. Once it was all done and just before heading out to visit friends for dinner, I shifted it back in. Andre was waiting with the kids in his car on the street. As I reversed back and forth a bit to get around the corner (I normally drive in forwards – smoothly) he was watching with this “bemused man watching a woman driving a car” face. I was halfway into my manuevering when I remembered the pile of broken up concrete where my parking space used to be! Ooops!