Filed under: yard
It’s been nearly a year since our front yard project was completed. For the most part, it’s thrived (we did lose a few of the red flowering currants) but I had no idea just how much until I went back and looked at that reveal blog post.
For example, last year…
…and this year!
I’m still a little in awe that the plants are alive and doing so well (but that’s why we left the job to the pros, right?). We were elated with how it looked a year ago but it’s so much better now. I especially can’t get over the lavender in the planting strip. (The planting strip that was, y’know…paved in concrete when we bought the house.)
Ok, let’s do a few more…
It’s growing, it’s growing! (By the way, we purchased and planted the red Japanese Maple last month.)
Ok, one more set…
We watered throughout last summer (June-September) and then let Mother Nature do her thing. (One of the perks of living in the PNW, for sure.) Kyle’s done a little weeding, but nothing that required too much effort.
The ground cover is really starting to fill in between the pavers!
I was skeptical that we’d be able to do much with the narrow strip of dirt between the driveway and north side of the house. But, hello Lenten Rose and Sorrel. You look pretty amazing. Mark, our landscape architect, designed the plantings so that different things would be in bloom at different times. The roses bloomed a month or two ago and it was such a pleasant surprise since it was still rather wintry out.
The gas meter and bollard (so we don’t drive into it?) are slowly being shrouded in plant life. Yeeeessss.
Blue Star Creepin’.
One of my favorite areas is actually the south side yard. It’s turning into a lush little forest and I love it.
We’re really happy with the work that our friend Mark Garff (The Watershed Company) and JP Landscape Services did in the front yard and can’t wait for the big backyard transformation. I’ve been having visions of Adirondack chairs and a pitcher of Sangria. Come summer, come!
We’ve been chipping away at our backyard since we bought the house nearly (gulp) 7 years ago! Although the space hasn’t seen a lot of love yet, it has been a very useful staging area for all of the other projects we’ve taken on. This year, we decided to bite the bullet and make the backyard our summer project. And yes, we’re going to hire the same company that did our front yard install last year. (Woohoo!)
But first, let’s rewind to 2006 and review what’s been tackled so far.
Mmmhmm, the infamous before photos. Although it needed a lot of help, we were actually thrilled to have such a big backyard in Seattle. The detached garage/carport was an added luxury.
In 2007, Kyle replaced the two gates that separate the front yard from the back. This was a project of necessity as the yard was not very dog-proof. Bailey’s not usually one to flee, but after a neighbor found him running (well, it’s more like a waddle run) down a somewhat busy street we knew we had to do something.
In 2008 we finished the job we started the previous year and replaced the fence on the east and south sides. (No more white pickets!) This involved completely ripping out the old fence and posts and starting from scratch, but oh what a difference it made!
In 2009 we focused on the exterior of the house, so once again the backyard was a staging area and spent most of the summer covered in painting tarps.
2010 was the biggest year for our house (it’s when we remodeled most of the main floor) so the backyard was woefully neglected.
In 2011 we started to get excited about the potential of the backyard. We jackhammered out most of the concrete, built a deck and Kyle welded up a steel planter box.
2012 brought our focus back to the front yard, but we did manage to build the side yard roof (which mostly keeps rain from coming under the basement door).
And this is what we’re looking at for May of 2013. Weed fest.
Kyle rolled out his welder a couple of weekends ago and got to work on the second steel planter box on the south side of the deck. The steel panels had been spread out on the driveway, developing a 2-year patina. Like a nice wine y’know.
We ended up using a lot of the “temporary” pea gravel that we put down around the driveway for the foundation drain project. So, that area is looking extra fantastic now. (And yeah, weed barrier is a joke.)
Ugh, that carport. That whole structure befuddles us. We can’t come up with a good temporary fix (that doesn’t involve a gigantic tarp) and are unsure what the long-term plan will be (we have about 4 different scenarios that we rotate between).
All that to say…well, we’ve made some good progress but the backyard still needs a lot of work. Here’s a glimpse at the current plan (we made some revisions and substitutions since our first go around last year).
The goal is to have everything complete before Avery’s first birthday. Can you say backyard party? BACKYARD PARTY!
Here’s one thing we’ve learned in our 6+ years of remodeling: tackle the crappy jobs first. (Trust me, your future self will thank you.)
When we bought our house it was very much in a need of a new roof. Unglamorous but necessary, that became our first major project the following summer. At the time, we were young(er) and had lots of pent-up DIY energy, so tearing off a roof seemed like a moderately fun time.
Or not. For a few anxiety-ridden days we literally had no roof over our heads. (Our previous neighbor took this photo from her second story window, probably thinking “those crazy Zerbeys!” all the while.)
Our initial strategy was to shovel debris directly into the dumpster in the driveway. This worked fairly well for the north side, but not so much for the south (where we optimistically thought we could just toss shingles up over the ridge). Before we knew it, we were knee-deep in layers upon layers of old shingles, intertwined with rusty nails. By this point we were exhausted and hadn’t even started the actual installation yet.
Our poor little house. When we need perspective in life, Kyle and I look at these photos.
All this to say that when it came time to tackle another roof project, we were glad it was a substantially smaller one.
One of the things on our pre-winter to-do list was to build a small roof over the basement stairs. Although there is a drain at the bottom landing, it often gets clogged with leaves and needles so during heavy rains water ends up finding its way under the basement door.
So, we decided a new roof was in order. It seemed like a quick, knock-that-out-in-a-weekend-or-two project, but of course it never works out that way. Kyle started this project a month or so ago, but progress stalled as we switched our focus to Studio Zerbey. Fortunately, we had a break in the rainy weather earlier this week so Kyle spent an afternoon wrapping things up.
The design we came up with is fairly simple and reflects our goals to create something functional, aesthetically pleasing and affordable. The roof’s size and shape were dictated by the location of the dining room window sill and maintaining adequate head clearance going down the steps. Kyle used two cedar 4×4 posts that are attached to the existing concrete wall. To reduce the depth of the beams, we used two 2×8′s (bolted to the columns) and tapered the outboard edge to avoid a head-knocker situation. (We considered applying a finish to the cedar, but opted to let it gray out to match the fence and gates.)
For the sheathing and rafters, we matched the main roof using painted beadboard plywood and 2x’s.
At the house, the rafters are attached with Simpson clips to a 2×4 ledger board that is attached to the wall framing.
The tops of the beams were cut at an angle to account for the slope of the rafters (we decided this would be easier than bird-mouthing or notching each one).
In lieu of standard building paper, Kyle used Grace’s Ice & Water Shield to protect the plywood sheathing before installing the shingles. This is a more durable product and better suited for low-sloped roofs susceptible to wind-driven rain.
It’s a sticky-back product so installation can be a bit more time-consuming, but you also don’t have to fuss with staples.
With the underlayment on and fascias and flashing in place, Kyle installed the shingles (the easy part!). We used shingles leftover from the main roof project and because it was such a small area Kyle simply hand-nailed them in place.
It’s not so bad, right? This is definitely one of those projects where we could have done something fancier and more “architecty” but couldn’t justify the added costs or creating a focal point of what is essentially a service entry. Eventually (and before Avery is walking) we’ll add a guard rail that will match the design of the adjacent gate. It will be constructed as a removable panel in case we need to move things in/out of the basement at some point.
Where the roof hits the wall of the house, Kyle tucked a piece of flashing up under that row of siding and secured it with a series of nails. The flashing protects the joint between the two surfaces and helps direct water out and away. We still need to install a gutter and downspout, but Kyle picked those up today so y’know…maybe they’ll be up by Thanksgiving?
Obviously, this area still needs some landscaping and hardscaping magic as well.
Here’s a glimpse of how our front yard landscaping is fairing. Our neighbor’s Horse Chestnut is dropping all of its leaves in our yard (the nerve!) and our red-flowering currants pooped out on us, but other than that we’re pretty happy with how the plants are transitioning to winter.
The only plant remaining in the backyard portion of the side yard is the Winter Daphne. In fact, I think it is the only plant that has survived our six years of remodeling.
There has also been discussion about preserving part of this side yard for a future hot tub. (For hydrotherapy purposes of course.) Hmm, maybe that was a purchase that should have been made before six years of manual labor?
It’s been a while since we had a good old-fashioned project reveal, don’t you think? Our front yard has been in a sad state for several years now, so we made it a top priority for 2012. In April we took the first step and hired a landscape architect. Then when made a few tweaks to the design and got bids from three installers. After selecting JP Landscape Services (based out of Duvall, WA) we eagerly waited for the magic to happen. They originally thought the job would take 4-5 days to complete, but with a last-minute delayed start on another project they were able to double-up up their crew at chezerbey. Best of all, what would have taken us at least two months of nights and weekends (not counting all the frustrated sighs and dirt-kicking) took the professionals 3 days. THREE DAYS. But before we show you the money shots (and there’s a lot), let’s get a glimpse of how it all went down:
Work started last Wednesday morning, but while waiting for the crew to arrive Kyle was able to snap these “before” shots for a little context.
Sidewalk to nowhere? Why not?
On the first day the crew scraped the site clean, regraded, took away extra dirt (can you believe we still had extra after all the foundation work from last summer?) and set the salvaged pavers. Here’s what it looked like on a rainy Thursday morning before I left for work:
Truthfully, even this prep work was very exciting. It was also reassuring to see that the installers seemed to know what they were doing and weren’t cutting any corners.
We mostly let the crew come up with the paver pattern for the south side and think they did a great job! They had to compensate for a slight slope from one end to the other, but walking across the final placement it was impossible to tell.
While we were at work, the crew spent the rest of Thursday bringing in new compost and amending it into the existing soil (for a total depth of 4″-6″). By the end of the day they had also sourced most of the plants and delivered them to the house. There were a few varieties that weren’t available at the time so we did some last-minute scrambling to find replacements.
I didn’t have a chance to take photos on Friday morning, but the changes were less drastic than the previous day. Or maybe I was just thinking ahead to the surprise that would await us that evening.
Friday was spent installing all of the plants and the final 2″ of mulch. After work that day, I met Kyle at the hospital for a pre-birth tour that I scheduled weeks ago. While it was certainly worthwhile, we both made a beeline for the exit as soon as it was over. The yard awaited!
Oh. Well, hello there.
[We didn't have enough salvaged concrete for the front strip, so we picked up these 2'x2' pavers for about $15/each.]
For those with a good eye, that is indeed a new (though yet-to-be trimmed out) window. Although it makes a world of difference in the basement, it does look a little goofy from the outside. But good news – it no longer matters because we now have a screen of nature in front! Oh, and gas meter – no one will even remember where you are this time next year. Grow plants, grow!
Have I mentioned that we decided to make Felix a part-time outdoor cat? No longer limited to running the diagonal length of the house, he seems happier, has more of an appetite and is not nearly as snarky as he used to be. A win-win for all.
Overall, we are THRILLED with the results. There are still a few missing plants (some groundcovers and herbs) that need to be added and of course everything will fill in as it matures, but the current density is plenty to be excited about. We were also pleasantly surprised with just how well the salvaged pavers turned out. [Score one for the planet and our checking account!] Although there are still a few loose ends to tie up, the guys did a great job with both the install and clean-up and we would definitely recommend them to anyone in the area.
While you’re at it, you should hire our landscape architect too (Mark Garff at The Watershed Company) – he was involved throughout the installation process and helped us make last-minute decisions when certain varieties were out of stock. Kyle and I debated how modern to go with the landscaping, but in the end we feel like Mark struck a good balance that shares our design approach with the outside of the house. Although we took more freedoms on the interior of the house (and will probably do the same for the backyard), we decided to be more subtle in the front. This was driven mostly by budget (no sense in changing the basic 1910 form of the house just for the hell of it), but it was also a personal design challenge. Now that the front is really, truly done (hallelujah!) we’re confident that it is entirely possible to make a 102 year-old home feel modern, efficient and clean while fitting in with the existing neighborhood and being responsive to our climate. Not to be all self-congratulatory, but for us, this is what good design is all about.
But back to the yard. This evening was warm and sunny so Kyle and I sat out on the stoop with pints of ice cream taking it all in and marveling at what could be accomplished in just three short days:
I confess that I still don’t know the names of all the plants (Latin or English), but I’m determined to learn. After all, we’ll be spending a lot of time together this summer.
It’s been over a month since we last wrote about our landscaping plans, but that ball has not stopped rolling.
After carefully reviewing the design, talking with neighbors and reading your awesome comments, we decided to make a few tweaks. Some plant choices and locations were changed but the biggest decision was to nix the patio area on the south side of the front yard. We realized that the entry stoop is large enough for 2-6 people to gather on and that we didn’t really need a second space. Plus, as soon-to-be parents we were nervous about having a hang-out space so close to the 36″ (+/-) drop from the top of the retaining wall down to the sidewalk. Finally, eliminating the patio (and associated grading and stonework) would save us a worthwhile chunk of change.
So our landscape architect Mark came up with the revised plan below [click to enlarge]. In lieu of a patio, we now have a simple path that connects the stoop to the existing sidewalk on the south side of the house. For the pavers, we’ll be using some of the smaller concrete pieces that we reclaimed from last year’s demo project.
With a finalized design in hand, we had two choices for moving forward: 1. buy the material and do the install ourselves or 2. hire it out. Since it never hurts to get bids, we contacted three different landscaping companies (that came recommended from Mark or other friends). To reduce costs, we limited our scope to the colored area you see below [click to enlarge]:
The side yard gates made a good demarkation line between Phase 1 and Phase 2. We still have some construction projects slated for the backyard so it will be a little while before we tackle that area. (Although I’m guessing a mobile toddler might dictate that schedule.)
Two of the three bids were similar in price (the third was just crazy), but all were more than we had optimistically hoped for. We thought about scaling back the scope or delaying the project yet again, but I think deep down we really just want it to be done. Done by someone else. So that’s what we’re going to do!
As fervent DIYers it makes us a little uneasy to hire someone to do the work (since labor is usually 50% of the overall costs), but we’re also really, really excited to hand this off to the pros. What would undoubtedly take us a couple of months of nights and weekends will take a professional crew 5-6 days(!) to complete. (Ok, sometimes I fantasize about sitting in a lounge chair with an umbrella drink while the work is being done, but the reality is that we’ll probably be plenty busy in the nursery or basement.)
Even though we won’t be getting our own hands dirty, we’ll be sure to document the whole process to share with you as it happens. This is a big milestone in our nearly 6 years of remodeling chezerbey and we can’t wait!