Tag Archives: deck

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?”

Our midcentury outdoors

I made a promise on Instagram this morning that I’d get a backyard progress post up. And I know I’ve been saying the same thing on here for days now.

So, I hereby dedicate my entire afternoon (yes it will probably take me that long) including all available precious few moments of near silence with Miss E asleep and Master W temporarily convinced to sit still in one place, to show you where we are at with our deck and backyard.

We left off last time with the professionally built brick wall (which I still completely adore!) and this view of the backyard:

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And after a horrendous amount of painting and a bunch of other stuff, we now have this view from roughly the same position:

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Spot the difference?! I promise it does get more exciting. But first I’m going to thrill you with the process. If we had to endure it, it’s only fair I get to share it right?

This stage started yet again with cutting and drilling and digging and chipping out a couple more holes (but with much less grumbling because they could be the last) for the pergola posts.

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And I started with the fun task of choosing colours for the mid century screen on the side of the deck. I’ve had a trio of colours in mind right from the beginning (see the inspiration picture here) and even photoshopped them up here, but when it came to the nitty gritty of choosing the actual paint colours, I freaked!

There were numerous trips to Bunnings and the Resene Colour Shop and I collected a small hoard of samples, in the hope that one or two swatches would say “hey it’s me! pick me!”. Nope. All silent, even when I taped a few of them up onto the frame they didn’t squeal.

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But a few days of mulling it over and I finally picked the least saturated of my selections, knowing that on a sunny day the brighter colours would just be ouchie on the eyes. Plus the pastel tones are more true to mid century styling. We also picked for the strongest of the colour trio to fill the smaller panel on the left. And I did what I don’t normally do and grabbed some test pots of my chosen colours. Wiser and wiser! And the lesson is learnt, because with some bigger samples painted up (you can spot them a few images down, halfway through the pergola building process) I changed my mind on the blue.

But these screen panels weren’t all I had to paint. The pergola posts and fittings took me days of endless painting and a few mishaps along the way. It was definitely not my favourite painting project.

Before we go any further, let me just explain how we came to use steel pipe for our pergola… We knew we wanted something that would span the length and width of our deck without needing posts or bracing all over the place. We also wanted something solid and definitely there, but not chunky, so that ruled out timber (which would have needed to be on the chunky side to hold itself up) and left steel. I had pinned a bunch of images of awesome outdoor spaces that used I-beam steel as a pergola frame and so we designed up a frame and worked out how it could all fit together… then got a little concerned at the cost and logistics of having to construct it onsite. It would have been super heavy and needed welding in position. A little too much to ask of a humble husband and wife DIY team. There was no way I could single-handedly (the other one would have been feeding kids) hold up a 4 metre I-beam while Andre perched on top of a ladder with the welder. So Andre came up with Plan B: steel pipe and fittings. With a 60mm diameter being the largest standard tube size I was worried the whole construction would look too flimsy alongside our bold privacy screen and solid brick wall. But a little scrap pipe visualising along with Andre’s winning smile, and the knowledge we didn’t have any other choice (without spending way too much) convinced me to just go for it.

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So, with that the pipe was ordered and the painting started with a primer made for galvanised metal (I had to hunt this water based Steelite one down) and then topcoats of gloss white (tinted to Painters white for way better coverage).

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Next time we do something with steel I’m going with spray paint and probably will start with an etch primer or something like that. More expensive, but so much easier and a guaranteed better result. We had to do up to 4 top coats to get these pipes and fittings looking good. Te-di-ous. And yes they got rained on and a couple of times as I rolled the pipes to paint them they fell off the saw horses into the dirt. Aaahhh but it’s over now. The posts are all up!

Starting with the two upright posts, the weekend before Easter:

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With a last minute dash to Bunnings for a final piece of timber before Easter weekend (and a closed up shop on Good Friday) we were good to go with the rest of the pergola. Or so we thought… unfortunately “we” picked up a piece only treated for indoor use, and we definitely needed something outdoor treated. Oops. That left us with just a bunch more painting to do on that first precious day of the long weekend, and you already know how that went.

On day two Bunnings was open and the right piece of timber purchased so construction could get back underway.

Our resident builder came to lend a hand and the critical piece was ready to go up by lunchtime. Things are looking up (literally!)

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Oh but I forget… it needed painting. And the panels for the screen did too. That sorted the afternoon of day two. And of course it rained again.

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Which brings us then to our third and last day of DIY’ing it on Easter weekend and finally getting this pergola up.0429_3300

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By this time I wasn’t trusting the weather one dot so we rearranged the house to paint the panels inside. Take that rain.

0429_3284Somewhere in the midst of the late afternoon the last coat on these panels was deemed dry and we hung them. That was a happy moment I tell ya. There was dancing on the deck!

But no photos because I had my hands full of these heavy Durasheets while Andre nailed them into the screen frame.

Determined to finish by the end of the weekend, we were back out on the deck after an Easter Monday dinner of fish and chips.

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9.30pm – Done!

It wasn’t until the next day that I even really looked at it! At first I worried that the centre pipe in the “roof” was one pipe too many, but I think it’s just taking some getting used to. Anyway, we have plans for it, involving some shade for next summer so it’s staying put for now, and is an easy task to take it down if we change our minds.

So here’s where we’re at with our mid century flavoured deck and backyard space!

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I am delighted with how it makes this outdoor space an extension of our living area, and even Andre no longer scoffs when I use the term “outdoor room”. He gets it!

It just feels good out there on that deck! Much like when we built the front fence, the addition of the screen along the side, and the pergola frame makes this space feel like it now belongs to us. It’s cosy. We don’t have to share our deck dancing moments with the neighbours!

The colours for the privacy screen are, from left: Dulux Te Awamutu, British Paints Water Watch and Dulux Cape Kidnappers. Love them!

There is just a smidgeon more building to do out here before we’re calling it quits on exterior work for the winter. The outside of the planter box on the deck needs it’s decking timber skin (same as the front side) and we’ll do something similar (but more narrower/trellis-looking) to cover in the underside of the deck by the stairs.

So of course I’ll be back with that as it happens.

But for now, my deck is calling me to enjoy the last of the sun with a bite to eat. It’s well past afternoon tea time according to hungry kids and yes, this post has taken me ALL afternoon!

 

A few weeks in an “insta”

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Progress has been making slow headway around here, which makes for little blog content. But there’s always little bits of projects on the go that end up on Instagram (@duckeggblueblog). So I thought I’d share them here in case you don’t catch them there. And there are a few bonus pics that haven’t yet seen the light of day!

So… starting out the back which is our current priority, here’s progress in pictures:

0410_0208 0410_0213 0410_3149 0410_3158 0410_3195 0410_3198I’m aware that not much of this will make sense right now, but you have my promise it will in a few more weeks (here’s hoping the weather holds to and beyond Easter!).

Much to my delight we’ve also made a start on the master bedroom, finally replacing the cranky old sliding door with a more pleasant hinged option, and the nightmare of wallpaper stripping has begun…

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Besides this, I’ve set myself another six year deadline to get our travel albums completed. A few short weeks away is the day that six years ago we headed off on the adventure of our lifetime.

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As we lived the nomadic life there was a lot of talk about kids and houses and settling down – and suddenly here we are and I’m wondering if that “big OE” was really the adventure of a lifetime?! Every day is the adventure of a lifetime is it not?! In another six years, who knows… I might even be missing these days of endless demo and painting?

 

One brick at a time

A few days ago I showed you our brick wall out the back, but I wanted to also share the process, in case you’re considering something similar. Because it was a little more of a process than we thought it would be, even though this was a rare project we decided to bring in a pro for.

Starting months ago, while the deck was under construction, Andre cut and removed the concrete where the wall would stand. A whole lot of drilling out the rock followed a while later, before it was ready to get a solid footing in place.

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In the meantime, I’d posted the job on Builderscrack, but it appeared there were no willing bricklayers out there. I followed up with a few calls to local bricklayers but noone was interested in a one off, small job like this. So… we resigned ourselves to doing it the DIY way and finally finishing it somewhere in the next decade!

Our attention then was on sourcing some bricks. It took a loooong search on Trade Me, but we finally snapped up one lot of 400 bricks. Loading them up, with the help of the sellers, was the easy bit!

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Unloading them, we realised we were going to need to clean them. They’d been inlaid into the ground as a patio. So thankfully, they’d previously been mostly chipped of their mortar, but a good waterblasting was needed to clear them of dirt and moss.0322_9239

Hours later, we were still going. 6 sides of 400 bricks is a lot of laying them out, turning them, cleaning them, turning them, cleaning them…. and stacking. Over and over!0322_2417

On the same day we picked up the bricks we got a recommendation from friends who’d just had a guy lay some blocks for their own outdoor space. With that came a whole lot of luck in the name of Bob the bricklayer! Semi-retired, he likes the small jobs, and is happy to fit them around his family and other job requirements. With an appointment made for him to come and take a look, we stacked up a couple of options to confirm what we liked best.

As we assumed a one and a half width layout was far too chunky.0322_2441

But this single brick width didn’t give us much room for reinforcing and concrete in the middle.

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The advantages of hiring a professional were evident right from this point because Bob suggested we use a narrower (modern) brick on the inside of the wall, below the stairs where it wouldn’t be seen, so we could have the look we wanted with the strength we also wanted! It’s a little hard to explain, but you can see a few pictures down how it worked.

With that confirmed, Andre knew where to put the reinforcing steel and got to completing the footing a few weekends ago. Starting with some steel epoxied in, then some boxing, and finally the concrete.

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So the finished footing ready and waiting for the bricklayer, looked like this (there’s a step in it to account for the slight slope in the ground):

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Bob set up shop in our backyard for what he assumed to be 3 or 4 days. I was very impressed at how organised he seemed to be with his set up, and despite having no backyard (or clothesline) for the duration it wasn’t at all tedious. He even swept up after each days work!

Day one got us to just a few small “courses” up. Below you can see how Bob used the narrower bricks (stacked at top right) on the inside of the wall below the stair level. And above the stair level he cut each old brick to the narrower width to match. You can also see how he tied additional lengths of reinforcing steel in as he built the wall up, and filled it with concrete too of course. In addition, he drilled into the block base of the house and set some steel into there too, so this is one super solid brick wall!
0322_2915Unfortunately for Bob, he picked some of our hottest days of the summer to work out here in this sweltering backyard with no shade and no breeze. Combining that with the amount of cutting he had to do to ensure all those old and mismatched bricks would fit into the wall, I’m thinking it wasn’t his favourite job to date! It also took a lot more time than he estimated so it wasn’t until two weeks later (with a couple of days off in that time) that he packed up his brick saw and took our money!
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Incidentally, our estimate of 400 bricks wasn’t nearly enough (due to quite a few of them being too beaten up for Bob’s liking), and Andre spent a few more hours hunting out another 100 or so from every demolition shop around Auckland. And Mum and Dad saved the day with the last 10 bricks we needed, which they’d just found around the back of their shed during a massive tidy up before they move house!
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I’m very thankful that we did hand this job over to someone who knew what they were doing, not only because it happened much faster than we could ever have done it (even though it took twice as long as estimated!) but also for the peace of mind that it’s done right.

To be honest, we wouldn’t have been nearly as fussy with the bricks as Bob was, so we might have saved a bit of money doing it ourselves, but the finished product would have been a little dodgy! And that’s really not how you want a brick wall in your backyard to be!

All up, this one cost us around $1600 – ouch! But the pain was very short term and all over once the cash changed hands and I turned around to take another look at the wall!

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The old bricks we bought ourselves came to $364, reinforcing steel a mere $52 and the labour, mortar, builders mix and handful of narrower bricks Bob supplied was $1192.

So to DIY this would have cost us around $800 in materials anyway. Which means for only $800 we got the job done within two weeks. Definitely worth it!

I’m just hoping this amazing autumn-but-more-like-summer weather will hold so we can get the pergola done soon. Because we’re definitely DIY’ing that one!

 

 

 

 

A brick wall to talk to

You don’t want to listen? Fine… I’d rather talk to the brick wall anyway. I’ll stop short of saying it’s better looking, but… well…

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…It is looking mighty fine!

After two long weeks I can finally share our finished brick stair wall. I even managed to wait patiently for the rain that was promised over the weekend, to wash all the orange dust away so I could show it to you at its best. It was hard… but worth the wait!

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I love it! Really, really love it! As it started to go up I thought “shivers, that’s really cutting our backyard in half!” But it’s perfect. It’s a big step in creating the outdoor spaces that we originally planned. Space for relaxing, space for playing, and space for storage and services.

There is still a fair bit to do to make these spaces more defined but this brick wall feels like the biggest step of all.

Next up we’ll be working on a steel framed pergola over the deck (which reminds me… I need to pick up the fittings for that today!) and closing in the gap under the deck. There’s so much useful storage under there so we’ll possibly not close it in entirely, or we’ll put an opening section in so the kids can easily get their toys in and out. Or at least out. It seems to be my job to tidy things away still, but I’m working on it!

Beyond that we need to decide how to approach the rather boring area where the kids sandpit and the plum tree currently sit. But we’re happy to mull that one over and don’t plan for anything to be happening there until next summer.

For now, I’m delighted to remember how far we’ve come in just 5 months. From this:

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to this:

0317_0035By the way, we got the door on in our bedroom! The predicted storm was less stormy than rainy, but it still kept us inside and got that done. It’s a small thing, but it’s big too yes?!

 

A deck for summer

As promised, I’m back with a few progress shots of our backyard. I’ve been a little slow to post an update, not just because weather made things a little less photogenic for a while, but because we’re at that awkward, inbetween stage of A to B where things just get confusing if you don’t have a clear view of the B in mind!

So put your visionary goggles on for this one!

A couple of months ago this is how things were looking out the back.

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This is the same(ish) view now!

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We have ourselves a deck to dine on, play on, sun ourselves on, and stargaze on! It feels so, so good to be at this point, and I’m so grateful for our warm and summery weather of the last few weeks (I’m doing my best to forget those two days of incessant rain!).

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Our custom balustrade is completed and installed and I am so happy with it! We took a popular midcentury design and modified it to meet modern safety requirements. I was worried the V shape would be so narrow it would barely even give a nod to its predecessor, but I do feel like we got away with it! Phew! One thing I’m not entirely happy about is the colour, but I’m reserving judgement until we firm up some plans for a frame (see below!).

1211_8725A few temporary measures have been taken to ensure child safety, and enjoyment of this space, until we move onto the next stage of progress which we’ll get to after a few weeks of Christmas and holiday fun. The handrail down the stairs, along with the plastic netting on attached to the full height screen are not part of the vision! The handrail will be replaced with a brick wall/handrail, and here is a little preview of our vision for the screen:

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We are also weighing up our options for a “steel frame” to make this outdoor space feel a little more like a room, than just an open deck.

It may or may not include rafters across the top, for some extra potential in hanging furniture or decor! You can see below my vision for planting too… a jasmine hedge is underway in the narrow garden space behind the screen but it may take some time to fill in like this! Also, we have a few little marigolds in the planter box at the moment, but plan to replace them with some kind of climbing/overhanging vine to add a little privacy and interest to that side of the deck.

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If you scroll right back up to the top, you can see that things are all rather brown and grey at the moment, so I’m grateful for the little bits of greenery that we have, and couldn’t resist these close ups of the plum tree, and concrete planters, and a sneaky nasturtium peeking through the neighbours fence.

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Here’s to a relaxing holiday season, and lots of enthusiasm to finish this space off in 2014!

Spo-rad-ic (adj)

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Sporadic blogging… hmm. I’ll try and do better. It’s just, well… I’ve been too busy sunning myself on our new deck…!

Actually, not too much because we’re not quite at the toddler-proof stage yet (not that I’m a toddler, but there’s usually one not too far away from me) but oh the promise! I’ve moved the coolie chairs in, and our custom balustrade is ready and waiting to be installed.

There has been progress a million, so I definitely owe you an update post – bear with me til next week? I’m still getting over last weeks post which took me way too many hours to write!

If you just can’t wait you can get a few little sneak peeks via my Instagram (@duckeggblueblog) or have a look on Facebook. Links just over that way ——–>

Have a lovely weekend!

It all adds up

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A month ago this was where we were at. And then I got all gloomy and felt like nothing was happening so I got a little envious over someone else’s awesome (finished) space…

But I’ve just collated all my photos of the last few weeks, and lo and behold – progress!

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If you feel like playing “spot the difference” you’re welcome to. If not, here are the answers:

– New deck joists
– Plants in planters
– New side garden
– All tidied up
– Decking timber ready and waiting!

So, starting with the biggie, here’s deck progress.

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We are extremely lucky to have Andre’s dad doing our building. Not only do we get a deck built, but we get babysitting at the same time. I feel pretty guilty about him trying to get a job done with them underfoot, but I’m assured he doesn’t mind, and I know he adores them and they him. It’s like trying to prise an oyster off a rock to get them back inside or playing in the front yard out of the way. So I’ve about given up, and just send regular trays of coffee and hot chocolate out to keep the grizzles to a minimum.

1029_1715These are from a couple of weeks ago, so there are now spacer bits (technical term!) between the joists to keep everything straight. You might spot them in another photo further down, but no promises.

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For a simple deck we seem to spend a lot of time in contemplation over the details. Andre and his Dad have had numerous discussions and quite a lot of mutterings over the confusing nature of the building code. I had a quick look and left them to it. I’m better at the grand scheme stage.

Polka dot gumboots definitely help with grand scheming (although my feet are starting to swelter in these so it might be time for some new DIY jandals).

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This is us trying to visualise the couple of steps down from the house, and a balustrade along the eastern side. 1029_8281 And the usual messy state of affairs:

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So, we’re excited to have some decking timber now ready to go, but builders between big jobs are in hot demand to complete lots of little jobs so we’re sharing him around and just grateful for the days when the white van pulls up in the drive!

Next. After shovelling a trailer load of dirt out of the backyard, the last thing I felt like was shovelling another load right back in. But it had to be done, and don’t tell Andre, but I kind of don’t mind jobs like this. At least not when I’m nearing the end… there’s satisfaction in shifting a cubic metre of soil!

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It was destined for these gigantic planters now never to be removed from our backyard in a million years. There have been many small steps with these planters in getting to this stage, but I won’t go into the detail just yet. I’m still mulling over my original plans for finishing touches.1029_1710

But one sunshowery day I got them all planted up. I wanted both screen-the-neighbours and fruit trees, so I picked out a couple of feijoas (two varieties is recommended because even though most types are self-pollinating, they still prefer company) and a mandarin. For now, I’ve underplanted with strawberries, just for fun, but once we get a few nibbles off them I plan to replace them with some more permanent ground cover like baby’s tears or Irish moss. We’ll see!

In the biggest pot I’ve just popped in a trio of daisies, for some colour, until our plum tree in the corner is dormant (next winter) and we can gently transplant it. It’s a great producer so I already have my fingers crossed we won’t harm it by shifting it.1029_1724

Last Saturday saw the remaining smaller pipes sitting in our drive cut up into planter sized bits. So we’re not done with planters yet…

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Last Saturday also saw a scruffy little strip of weeds transformed into a promising garden bed. Down the western side of the deck we have a narrow garden space alongside the neighbours fence. Originally it was full of all sorts of jungle-variety plants but gradually we have sent them all to the tip and these scrappy weeds took over for a while.

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Up against the house are were these trees, which we’ve been trimming away at for a few weeks, hoping if we take it slowly the neighbours won’t mind so much that suddenly there are no trees in the backyard offering privacy between us and them. But with a full height panel due to go up along that side of the deck I decided it was now or never and recruited Andre and his long arms to put them (me?) out of their misery.

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The pink flowering one was first to go (it was always a little neglected and scrappy looking, as well as scraped annoyingly on the windows in the slightest breeze) and bit by bit we started cutting down the tall one. At the very last minute, it got a reprieve. We decided it’ll probably be happy to share with the new planting we had planned, and will actually be helpful in providing an illusion of shade (it’s on the wrong side of the sun to really give any shade) over the deck. So it just got a severe trim in order to fit the panel alongside it.1029_1873

While Andre had yet another discussion with his Dad over the finer details of the deck plan, I got busy with some rocks that had been put aside after the big hole dig.

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Then we all pitched in to clear those pesky weeds and fill in with some leftover topsoil, before planting some gorgeous scented jasmine, and a few ferns that were growing mad up under the trees. Originally we were going to use some of the old decking timber to re-edge this garden bed (the railway sleepers that were there were a bit rotten and fell apart during the clear out stage) but the spur of the moment decision to make use of the rocks was a good one, even if we can’t remember whose it was! It’s the little unexpected jobs like this that really make a day feel like an achievement – completed in less than half an hour, and only using what is to hand. (A bit like this temporary sandpit of many months ago.)

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As for the jasmine… I chose it because it ticks a few boxes like fast-growing, minimal maintenance (once it grows it’ll be a bit tricky to get to in this narrow space), and good screening, but also because of its bonus smells so good factor. Because we need it to fill the space and not grow primarily on either the neighbours side fence, or the panel on the side of the deck, we have staked out (hah!) a frame for it to climb on right between the two. Of course it’ll grow where it likes, but I want to be able to trim it back off the fence or deck panel if/when necessary so this middle-ground structure is where I’ll do my best to train it to.1029_8346 1029_8345I did underestimate my staking requirement initially, but now have another pack waiting to be added to this frame so there is somewhere for my little jasmines to aim for next.1029_1877

And that yucca-y tree at the north end… days are numbered. Neighbours love it, I hate it, Andre’s somewhere in between. So until my little jasmines grow a little, it stays put. But the day is coming when the jasmines and I will slowly but surely prove it’s ugliness and uselessness. All it does is drop those annoying fronds and it doesn’t even smell nice – right jasmines?!

It’s a little hard to tell in the latest “after” photo, with the new stack of decking timber under cover (here it is again so you don’t have to scroll all the way back)…

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…but Andre had a huge tidy up out the back here. Piles of timber got shifted and nails and sawdust cleaned up. I was out first thing on Saturday and came back expecting some “real work” to be underway, but was pleasantly surprised with this. If ever you’re feeling disheartened about progress or lack thereof, just opt for a real good tidy up instead. It works wonders and feels just as good as progress.

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While we’re on the progress train, here’s another something to keep it going…

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The front yard is looking fabulous with spring helping the front garden flourish. My hydrangeas have taken off, after more than a year of being less than impressive, and sending me running for more ground cover plants and some sweet flowers to fill in the gaps, and even wondering if I’d have to pull them out and put something else in. But they’re telling me “not so hasty naive new gardener – good things take time!”

1029_1865Delighted to bring them inside to enjoy too!

Enormous post – thanks for sticking it out to the end!

Backyard planning: A vision for privacy and safety

We could go to Bunnings and purchased a readymade balustrade system. Or we could custom design a different style of balustrading or screening on all sides of our deck.

10 points for guessing correctly. Actually make that 0 points – it’s far too obvious.

If there is anything consistent in our renovation style, it is doing things a little differently. Not because we like to be awkward, but because we like to create a space that suits us – our family and the things we like. What is a home if not a place to be yourself?

With that little disclaimer out of the way, this is what we have planned for the screening and balustrading part of our deck. Andre did render a much more accurate and engineered illustration, but it’s been misplaced (probably in the car) so this is my 30 second reinterpretation. 1004_1510

So, starting at the left as we stand gazing out the french doors off the dining area because it’s the logical thing to do…

This is the side that faces the neighbours driveway and beyond to another neighbour, as well as being the highest point in the backyard, so we want to have a reasonably solid screen along there. My inspiration picture is below, at bottom left. A little bit of mid century style, along with an easy build, and the ability to make this a real feature with some colour (that’s a discussion for another post!) put this to the forefront of my deck design mind. We may or may not leave the top section open as we will have screen planting in behind (between the fence and this screen there is about 600mm) but we can decide when we get to that point.

Along the front edge is where it gets a bit tricky, because it’s where we need some privacy from the neighbours, but don’t want to block our sun or our view to a favourite Auckland landmark. I got an estimate for a custom cut metal screen, but at around the $2k mark it’s definitely not an option. I must have had the top right image below fermenting in my mind because I’ve settled on a planter box, with wires running to a roof frame for a climber to climb to its hearts content (until it blocks our view and we have to take the clippers to it). Greenery screenery. If you’re not getting this vision, try flipping the top right image below on its side and inserting onto the top left image. Better?

And finally on the right hand side we’re going back to retro with a wrought iron (or similar) balustrade which we keep spotting all over town, but with a narrower V to comply with modern safety standards. I have my fingers crossed Andre’s contacts can help with this one on a budget, otherwise we’ll be back to the drawing board.

It’s a real mix of shapes and texture and materials, but I can’t wait to see how it all comes together. Hopefully it marries happily ever after and doesn’t fight nasty.

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Oh! We missed some pictures above… those stairs? Just in case there isn’t enough material variety already, I have my heart set on a brick wall slash handrail for the stairs which run down the right side of the deck (looking out from the house). Below is my amazing technical drawing of how that might appear (minus any sense of scale or straightness). The stairs themselves will just be straightforward timber ones – easy peasy!

And before I go, just one last thing. We’re framing in a “roof” to our outdoor room (flash term for the humble deck) which at this point will just be posts up each corner and then rafters (term?) along the three open sides. It’s still up for debate whether these will be timber, or steel as per top right, above.

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All this talk of multiple materials and styles and textures and shapes and heights and patterns is making me a little nervous. Will it look amazing??! I’m counting on it!

If you missed the last backyard planning posts with full layouts, they’re here and here.

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!