Sunday, November 3, 2013

Outdoor renovation: A story, with pictures

We have lived in our house for almost 10 years now, and it's a 30-year-old house, built in the heyday of 80s building boom. When we moved in, A, my eldest, was 7 months old. In the intervening time, we've had two more babies (in 2005 and 2009), I've eased back into more work hours, and we have slowly picked off small to medium maintenance projects around the house - new carpets, new air con, new blinds, new wooden floors, new furniture, upgrade on the car, solar panels on the roof, and so forth.

The big stuff, however, has been mostly out of reach until recently, with me working only part time.

One of the features of the house that we most liked when we bought it, and still do, is the yard - a large-ish, nicely laid out, side yard with mature native trees, a paved concrete path and BBQ area, and a slatted openwork verandah that wrapped around three sides of the house and fed into a domed pergola above the BBQ area. This openwork verandah, as well as working well aesthetically, protected the houise considerably from summer heat, rendering it much more energy efficient in the hot months.

When we moved in, this structure (like the house) was approaching its 20th birthday, and was starting to look quite faded and a bit manky, but was basically still structurally OK. But it has been apparent for the last 4 years, and screamingly apparent for the last 18 months, that the structure was becoming dangerously rotted and aged.

So when I started fulltime work in July, the two big projects that we settled on quickly for this financial year were:

a) A rebuild of the outdoor area, and
b) A family holiday to the Great Barrier Reef next June.

I have booked accomodation and holiday time for Port Douglas already - I'm nothing if not ahead of myself when it comes to vacations! The next step was to get moving on the outdoor improvement project.

As you can see, the starting point was not awesome. The pictures above shows what most of the structure was looking like before work started - not pretty, and not safe.

I found a carpenter online and got him to come and quote the work. The job was, unsurprisingly, not cheap - that is a LOT of wood! - but we decided it was important to do it anyway, so we went ahead and booked it. 

The work was (to me) incredibly smoothly accomplished. I was very impressed with how efficient and reliable Dave and Murray, the two carpenters, were - turning up on schedule, working meticulously, and checking in with hubs or me whenever there was a point of concern.

They identified (and remediated) some unsuspected rot on the eaves once the old structure was pulled away, and triggered us to get our gutters cleaned, a job that probably should have been done years ago too. (Bygones, people...)

The demolition phase took about three days, and construction took another 5,  which, with weekends and one fallow day, stretched the process out to just shy of two weeks. I think this was a great result for the size of the job, especially given how many of my friends and relatives had been harrowing up my soul with chatter about tradies that didn't turn up, didn't finish, didn't listen; renos that went on for months, houses disrupted, costs that blew out...

None of that happened to us, Not one bit of it. Our job came in at the quoted price, with minimal disruption, and bang on time. Not to mention, it looks awesome and is *just* what we wanted.

Have a look!

My lovely shady but airy wraparound...

My beautiful domed pergola...

My robust structure made of treated pine that will never need to be replaced by us again.

It's yet to be painted - we have a quote to get this done, but finances need to recover a bit first - but we love it.

We took advantage of having the ginormous skip here for removal of building rubbish to also dismantle and throw away out rusted and collapsing old swing set, which the kids have been sternly urged to avoid for the past year, and to move the old trampoline (itself scheduled for the tip after Christmas - the kids are getting a springfree tramp as their Christmas present) into the play area at the end of the yard. This has opened up a new stretch of lawn - "big enough for a tiny cricket game", as my 8 year old noted.

My husband also cut back all the hairy and overgrown trees and we did a big declutter of the outdoor toys.

Result? A yard that we are so looking  forward to being in this summer :-)

(Because I have been asked by several people for details, and I was so happy with the quality and professionalism of the work, here is the website of the carpentry group I used. This post was in no way sponsored or solicited by the carpentry firm, and all views are, as ever, entirely my own).

This is post 3 in NaBloPoMo. 3 down, 27 to go!


  1. How good does the pergola look!! Will make enjoying the summer days ahead easy. :-)

    1. Yes, it does look nice, doesn't it? And thank you for the pity comment too :-P

  2. Love it.. and love your storytelling skills. Great that you also kept photos as you were working with this project. Can't wait to sit under the new pergola in summer, perhaps with some nice homemade icecream and sorbet.

  3. Fantastic...Love your storytelling skills and look forward to the next blog posts. Megan