Before and After: A New DIY Deck Turns This Boring Backyard into a Prime Hangout

published Aug 5, 2020
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Rental Friendly
Before: Plain exterior of a house, viewed from the backyard

Ever look at a feature in your home and think, why would the builder make it this way? For Spencer Candy of Things I Tell My Sister, the head-scratcher was the tiny patio in her backyard. While the grass was plenty, the patio itself was too narrow to fit a dining table and chairs. “Since we love to have family and friends over, this was a huge annoyance,” Spencer says. Plus, she adds, it looked out onto a mismatched wood-and-chainlink fence and a back garden that was totally empty and in need of some TLC. “The garden had a weird shape and was awkwardly placed in the middle of the grass,” Spenser says. “The whole backyard just looked so sad.”

“We knew eventually we would love to build a deck instead of the concrete patio,” Spencer says. “I have always preferred the look of wood for outdoor spaces for its warmth.” And after a plumbing issue this past winter forced Spencer and her husband Jonathan to dig up the concrete patio, spring 2020 seemed like the perfect opportunity to make that dream a reality. Then, Spencer says, COVID-19 hit—and having a suitable backyard space seemed even more crucial. “Since the weather was starting to warm up and we were both staying home every evening and weekend it was now or never,” she says.

Jonathan had experience building decks, so he built the new one himself. It took him about a month of working on evenings and weekends to finish; the next month, he built the new pergola that shades the right side of the deck, the stair, and the garden box. Jonathan also built two chairs and a couch from cedar. “They are so cozy!” Spencer says. “I also love the extra wide arm rest that acts as a little side table for your drink or plate.”

Next, the couple had a contractor come over to pour concrete fittings for new fence posts in the span where there was chain link. Once the posts were installed, Spencer and Jonathan put the rest of the fence in themselves so that all sides were wood.

Moving the garden bed to the corner of the yard made it look more intentional. They added small cedar trees, too, which will give the yard a ton more privacy once they get bigger. Jonathan also installed an in-ground sprinkler system. “After that it was all about tending to our poor grass—it looked like we had a gopher infestation,” Spencer says. “We laid sod in areas that were past the point of no return,” she says, adding that for the areas that were in better shape—but still sparse—they added topsoil and fresh grass seed.

All in—the deck, pergola, fencing, sprinkler system, and all the landscaping—Spencer and Jonathan spent about $10,200. “It was an expensive spring and summer, but as many people are saying, it’s not like we are traveling on vacation this summer! We just figure we spent the money on making a retreat in our own backyard,” Spencer says.

One of their favorite purchases: a fire pit that doubles as a coffee table when the top grate is on. “For those chilly evenings, we remove the cover and it transforms into a warm cozy fire,” Spencer says. “Jonathon and I love to just sit at the fire table on the cedar furniture, eat dinner and have a glass of wine.”

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