Thursday, 28 August 2014

Slowly but surely...

... progress on the deck is moving along.

The new stairs are finally complete and it's a joy to not be clambering down the unattached, rickety temporary set we were using. It's especially nice for poor old Tessa who had a lot of trouble navigating the top step, which had about a 16" drop.

As I'd hoped, the space to the right of the stairway is the perfect spot for the barbecue. We just bought a new Weber charcoal grill with a propane start; Alan is a purist and refuses to use a gas barbecue, but I can't stand how long it takes to get the coals and electric starter set up, and then to actually get them lit and ready to grill. So this Weber was a good compromise. Not to mention that it has a handy, dandy table to set stuff down on while you're grilling and a tilt-out storage place for the charcoal so there's less running back and forth to the shed.

But best of all, our new patio furniture arrived just in time for the long weekend.

I looked long and hard for a sectional that would fit the space well (and didn't cost many thousands of dollars). A lot of the wicker sofas are built with very wide armrests and backs, and have an enormous footprint. Since our deck is only 14'x12' we couldn't afford monster furniture that would overpower the space. This piece is quite petite for the wicker genre, but at just under 11' fills the space along the side wall.

I'm not sure about the extra piece along the "L" as it's in front of the sliding glass door. We actually switched out a corner piece for that armless piece as I knew that an "L" would be big for the space. I hoped that this piece would look light enough, but I think that I may move it down onto the lower patio for seating there and just have a straight 4-seater sofa.

I also need to figure out what we're going to do for a coffee table out there. The table that matched this set was about 4' square and would have blocked the walkway to the stairs so it was a no go. We really need something long and narrow.

It didn't take long for Matthew to stake out his place on the deck. And he's still there two hours later, huddled under a blanket in the dark watching Netflix on the iPad. This deck may be more valuable than we ever imagined. It's too bad we're finishing up so late in the summer, but hopefully we'll have some warm fall weather that we can take advantage of!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Deck progress and fireplace makeover

Progress on the deck continues to move forward. Our contractor needed to put the guys on another project for a few days last week as they had a tight deadline to meet, so it's not finished yet. We did manage to make all the decisions about the privacy screens, stairs and deck railings so things should move along quickly now. 

We're using the same rough cut cedar that we used for the board and batten on the back of the house for the privacy screens along the sides. While the siding runs vertically on the house, we're running it horizontally on the deck in a two wide, two narrow board pattern.

We also decided to use the same material to fully clad the stairway. In the picture below you can see the old temporary stairs set up where the new ones will be built. So the first step down is inset into the deck, and then on the remaining stairs the horizontal cladding will continue out to the handrail. The front section of the deck will also be clad to ground level so that the concrete pad will be fully hidden.

And with the end for the deck being somewhat in sight, it's made me think about spending late summer evenings in the yard in front of a wood fire. We have an outdoor fireplace that we bought many years ago that's been sitting out behind the shed for a long while. I pulled it out the other day to give it a cleaning, and realized that it needed a lot more than a little scrubbing.

The screens on the sides were soooo rusty. After a good scrubbing, first with a cloth and then with steel wool, I sprayed on a couple of coats of heat resistant Rust-oleum spray paint in flat black...

... and now it looks as good as new. I see some weenie roasts in our near future! 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The collector

Matthew turned eleven last week. I know it sounds trite, but it seems like just yesterday this little pork chop was splashing in his bathtub on our kitchen counter.

Eleven years.... same dimples.

So what does every eleven year old boy want for his birthday? Why, a white tailed deer skull in an antique display case, of course.

I found it in an antique store when we were in Vermont at the beginning of July. It may seem like a strange choice for a birthday gift for a child, but I knew immediately that Matthew would love it. For he's an avid collector of... how shall I put this... biological samples.

Some of them aren't so bad. He has an enormous shell collection on his bedroom floor (it only smells bad if you open the tupperware boxes it's stored in), and at the cottage a collection of rocks, assorted snake skins and turkey feathers (a surprising number of wild turkeys inhabit our property).

But let's not forget his eclectic collection of "city gathered" biologicals.

That would be a bird's nest, a hornet nest, some kind of tree knot, and two rodent skulls. With teeth. He recently found a racoon carcass that's all flat and dried out on the ground and he's been begging to be allowed to bring the skull home to add to his collection.

I really don't know how I gave birth to such a quirky little creature, but it's certainly entertaining watching him grow.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Deck framing complete

The carpenters have been working on the deck for two days and they've made significant progress. They completed the framing today and I think that they'll start laying the deck boards tomorrow. 

I made a couple of last minute changes to the design of the deck on the weekend. On Friday I read Meg’s (loving albany) front porch update, and was overtaken by jealousy when I saw the ingenious way in which she had her ginormous city-issued garbage bins concealed. Her carpenter cleverly built in a seat at the end of her porch, and stowed the bins under it (see post here). I added it to my Pinterest account so that I would remember it when I started thinking about redoing our front porch, which needs some work in the near future. 

When I was relaxing over a glass of wine Friday night after putting the kids to bed I realized that I didn’t have to wait for the front porch, I could do the same thing on the back deck! Thankfully we have a very easy-going contractor who doesn’t mind making changes on the fly, and he designed me my very own magical garbage bin-hiding seat. Right outside by back door for easy access even in the winter. 

So the plan for the deck (14' wide x 12' deep) is to have 6' privacy walls made with horizontal wooden slats on either side, and a glass railing across the front so that the view of the yard is not blocked from inside the house. Running along the side of the patio next to the door will be a 30" deep, 12' long bench under which the garbage bins can be stored. We'll be able to lift the bench seat to access the bins from the deck. 

We don't have a lot of space between the edge of the deck and the fence, so the area under the seat will be divided into three bays, each with two ~2' wide doors that swing open. This will give us easy access to the whole 12' of storage area. We'll also have access through these doors to the lower storage space under the rest of the deck. It's not very high, but will be good for things like the winter tires. The 12' run will give us plenty of space to store our two big recycle containers, the garbage can, two green waste containers, and hopefully the boys' bikes.

The stairs will be 4' wide and will be aligned with the opening of the sliding glass door. We decided to recess the top step into the deck so that the run doesn't protrude so far into the patio. 

I'm still working out the stairs and the railing that we'll use. I'd like a glass handrail, but Alan seems to want to go with something more substantial. I need to get back to work on Pinterest as we need to make a decision pretty quickly! 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Backyard progress

I was away for most of the month of July. First I was in Vermont at a conference and then I spent three weeks in New Brunswick at a boat-access, no electricity, no running water cottage. Talk about roughing it! Unfortunately the weather looked like this for a fair amount of time that we were there.

Fortunately, we had lots of family around and had a great time anyway.  The boys got to spend a lot of time with all of their older cousins, and the last five days we overlapped with my younger brother's kids who are of similar ages. The cousins had an absolute blast.

While it was nice to be on vacation, it was great to get home. And while I was off cavorting in the sun (or fog, as the case may be) our landscape guy was hard at work installing our new patio.

The stone patio, where we plan to put the BBQs and the dining table, is 18'x20'. We left an unfinished area next to the chain link fence so that we can construct some kind of privacy screen. I think that we'll use trellis and vines but we haven't ruled out a wooden privacy screen. All of the neighbours to the north of us have chain link fences, so everyone within the next ten houses can see every move we make in the backyard. We're going to wait until the deck is finished and we see how much screening it provides for this lower area and then make the decision about what to build and how high to build it.

It's a bit of a mess right now. Our neighbour's yard is slightly higher than ours as the street slopes gently, so we have to figure out some kind of retaining wall solution to keep the dirt off of the patio.

The contractors will be here Monday morning to get going on the deck. I'm excited for things to start moving along!
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