Sunday, June 26, 2011

A bit of Landscaping

As soon as we finished our pergola project we headed straight downstairs to do something about the big mess that was our backyard.

Let me back up a bit and explain why it was such a mess.

Remember my post about our planned renovations?  I waffled on about how the house desperately needed exterior insulation.  Well, we spent weeks and weeks of quote hunting (prices vary drastically here, as does quality of workmanship....) and finally settled on a company that appeared professional, was able to show examples of satisfactory workmanship and even offered a tax-free payment plan!  We made an appointment with them to sign the final paperwork and to pay the deposit ... but they didn't turn up!  They didn't even call!  The day of the appointment was actually a public holiday so we gave them the benefit of doubt and waited for them to contact us the following day.  But nothing!  As with every other company we researched, these people were not particularly efficient at returning telephone calls (but still they were much more professional that every other company we tried) and we were fed up with forever chasing them up.  Did we really want to invest more than $15000 in a company that couldn't even be bothered keeping it's appointment to start work?  We decided the answer was "nope!"

Being as exposed as it is on top of a hill, the house is severely weather beaten - the paint on the rendered-cement walls is flaking off all over.  Insulating the house would have meant a brand new looking home!  And besides the coldness in winter, this was a major consideration in wanting to get the insulation done.  However, we are selling the house and weren't entirely sure that spending this kind of money would improve the value enough to warrant doing the renovations.  Being mucked around by this company was a sign not to go ahead.

Instead, we decided to do some other bits and pieces for a lot less cashito, which we were sure definitely would improve the value to buyers in this area.  The pergola was one addition.  It cost us only $350 to build and looks fantastic even while bare of grape vines and flowers.  We're also in the progress of building-in a decorative (but entirely useless) enclave in the side of the house to become a garden shed.  Once complete the overall cost will be something like $250.  Here's what it looks like so far.

We just need to choose a door, cement-render the bricks and paint it.  All this we'll do once the sunroom is built.  
The other renovation in progress is the building of a glass roofed sunroom, or conservatory along one entire side of the house (cost approximately $6500).  These sunrooms are extremely popular in this neighbourhood and when done properly look modern and very attractive.  To build this sunroom we've had to extend the balcony above (which hubby is doing himself - final cost anticipated to be approximately $300) and extend the patio below (complete at a cost of $100).

It doesn't look like much now but once the original balcony wall is removed and a new wall built, we just have to install a new railing and tiles and I think it'll look really great.
We've already signed the paperwork for the building and work is planned to start in 4 days time.  This is what the area looks like so far.

Imagine those three windows at the bottom knocked out, the entire patio area enlcosed in glass and the brick walls cement-rendered and painted.  This will be such a lovely area to sit and relax.
In the meantime we've been very busy cleaning up the big mess caused by these last two renovations.  Cement, broken bricks, nails and bits of wood were embedded in the ground.

Ky is always keen to help.

It took several days of on-hands-and-knees, nail-chipping work to get the dirt cleaned up and then the area was ready for some much needed landscape lovin'!

I saw this picture a few weeks ago and it became the inspiration for our work.

Borrowed from
We originally planned to make a path exactly like this one but our intended path was so long and when we bought the logs we greatly under-anticipated how many we needed.  So instead of buying more wood, we decided to modify our design.  By the way, total cost of logs, cement, sand and topsoil came to a grand total of $110!

We thought making a path like this would be so easy - simply a matter of digging a bit of dirt, laying some sand and cement and positioning the logs....  Unfortunately, just the digging part took almost an entire day and then positioning the logs turned out to be a very time-consuming challenge.  We asked that the logs be cut into approximately 20cm lengths.  But instead they ranged in length from about 10cm to 50cm!  This meant a whole lot of digging holes for individual logs, banging other logs into place, carefully leveling the logs section by section and repositioning already banged-in logs.

This is how it looked after we positioned the logs to see how they'd look, and before we actually dug them into place.

After that it was simply a matter of filling in the gaps with a mixture of cement and sand, laying topsoil all over the entire yard, spreading grass seed and watering the area very thoroughly.

Notice the vege garden?  Tomatoes, beans, eggplant, capsicum, cucumbers, carrots  and lettuce.  All grown from seed.  It's my pride and joy!  We plan to build a proper brick or wood border to pretty it up a bit... it's on the list.
We're hoping grass will grow amongst the log path but not conceal the logs too much...  But if these little fellows have anything to do with it, we won't have any grass at all!

They may be little, but these ants are very efficient at collecting the grass seeds ... I'm seriously concerned that they'll collect them all!
Already I think it looks pretty nice.  Certainly much better than the muddy wasteland it was before!


(So all in all, the completed renovations including pergola, balcony extension, patio extension, basic landscaping, garden storage room and sunroom is estimated to be ... $7610!!  Cheap as chips compared to the $15000 we were going to fork out on the insulation.)


Anonymous said... [Reply]

Looking good. Get those skills up so you can help me when I have a house to build :-)

Colette said... [Reply]

@Anonymous We'll definitely be there to get our hands dirty with you - will especially enjoy packing the mud onto the wall of your house ;-)