summer project: the backyard

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.

Fence and ARE studying 007

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.

remodel - week 5 006

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).

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The goal is to have everything complete before Avery’s first birthday. Can you say backyard party? BACKYARD PARTY!


19 Responses to “summer project: the backyard”

  1. katrina says:

    Just think of those patina’d steel panels as your own Richard Serra installation. 🙂

    I’m excited to see how this progresses!

  2. mel says:

    question, are you letting the ipe deck weather to silvery gray or are you going to re-treat it? Wondering if you use penofin or something else. I love the dark finish, and mine wears off about every 9 mos or so so we’re always re oiling it. Just curious if you have a better method or you’re going to let it weather!

    • Kyle Zerbey says:

      Hi Mel, We initially applied penofin but not sure if we’re going to reapply. will probably just scrub clean the deck to get the goop off of it. It does get slippery when wet. I might reapply penofin but not sure yet.

  3. Stefanie says:

    Look how young Bails is in the 2007 photo! So cute. And YEAH backyard party!!

  4. Jeff says:

    What finish did you use on the deck? It looks like you have let it weather. Are you happy with that?

    Love your blog!

  5. Ron says:

    Why not just put a sliding barn door in front of the carport opening?

    • Kyle Zerbey says:

      Ron, If we keep the carport as is I think sliding barn doors would be a great idea! So far most of our ideas involve completely re-doing the whole building into a guest house/office with shop below. Seattle code limits us to 800 sf (400 per floor) including garage and storage spaces.

  6. Valerie says:

    Looks amazing!! For the carport, it may (temporarily) just be good to paint the green over with another colour? And install a door to hide the stuff inside?

    • Kyle Zerbey says:

      Hi Valerie, I agree, probably some new shingles too, the roof is falling apart. It’s a tough call, don’t want to put too much time and effort into fixing it up if we’re going to re-do the whole thing someday.

      • Valerie says:

        True but painting the green won’t take longer than an afternoon, and the door could either be reused or sold so it isn’t much of a commitment.

        • Lauren says:

          Yes, but the structure is in such bad shape that there’d be a lot of prep work just to paint the trim. I just don’t think we can justify spending time and money for a quick fix that wouldn’t even look that good. I think our hope is that we’ll spend so much time in the backyard this summer that the perfect solution will just come to us. 😉

  7. Jeff Layman says:

    Oh man, am I the only one that got really excited for the possibility of simply seeing a garage redo? I’d love to see your ideas thrown up on the blog some time, particularly the ones you don’t end up choosing.

  8. Kristin says:

    Oh yeah! We’re in the same boat. Can’t wait to see what you do.

  9. KMP Modern says:

    What a transformation! I love every step you have taken. I always think it is better to go slowly, piece by piece. You get a real feeling of your space, what you need, what you want to say and how best to achieve it. I love those planters with the patina of time and the color of your home. It’s dark, daring and hot!

  10. Deb Martinez says:

    I Love your backyard! Where did you get the steel panels and what are the height dimensions? I
    am looking to do this along our platform deck as well and I don’t know where to begin the search for the steel panels. Looks great!

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