DIY Garden Makeover

DIY Garden Makeover

Finished Garden!

I was looking to improve the look of my garden with the following key points:
1) Improve the general look of the back garden to something with more character.
2) Have a better seating area that catches the sun (next to the garage).
3) Make the it low maintenance.
4) Budget to be around the £2K mark.
Before!

This was the state of the garden before work started. The grass was mostly moss and the garden had poor drainage running downhill towards the garage. This is a pretty shaded area with housing all around so I wanted to make something low maintenance and usable for BBQ's etc. rather than a bog.

(The damp patch on the brickwork is splash-back from the gutter above, this was cleaned out and solved the problem).

Looking towards the Garage

This is looking towards the garage (down slope). The deck was raised and mounted directly to the garage wall and felt rotten underfoot. The 'gra-moss' looks great too…
Bought some plants to see if it would improve things. It didn't.
From the deck looking towards the house.

The garden isn't rectangular and tapers down towards the garage, bit of a pain when measuring things for square but I just assumed the house and garage to be parallel and go from there. Turns out they weren't but it didn't have a huge impact.
Decking Away

One weekend I noticed damp mould on the inside of the garage wall. Enough was enough and up with the deck, sure enough it was rotten through. Confirmation of the source of damp was from the ledger beam being bolted to the garage wall (through the DPC) and was acting as a sponge allowing the rain to penetrate the wall.
Day 1 Complete

Here you can see the level of the damp on the garage wall. I sealed up all the penetrations and coated the bottom few courses of brick with brick sealant – hopefully this won't be an issue anymore.
Wreckage

After realising I now had ruined the garden I decided to hit the reset button and remove everything. The old turf and rotten wood was hauled off in a skip bag (flexible heavy duty bag) which was handy for smaller loads rather than hiring a skip.
Patio Away

I took up the old paving slabs and managed to re-sell them on gumtree. They were dry laid on a sand/ cement bed so this had to be broken up.
Clean Patio

Instead of dumping the sand bed from the paving slabs I decided to break it up and mix it back into the soil to help improve the drainage. I did this by hand using a lump hammer… don't do that.
Re-Locating the Gate

Whilst I was waiting for building materials to arrive I decided to re-locate the gate to be side on to the fence. I'm not sure why it was put in the way it was but moving it in this orientation opened up a bit more space in the bottom of the garden. I used some anchor bolts to secure a new post to the wall and flipped the gate around.
Better.
New Gate Location

After I took this I noticed the gate was slightly uneven (gap at the bottom). I re-aligned the hinges and pulled it straight.
Layout for the new deck.

The old patio was located here but (to me) it didn't really serve a purpose, so I decided a three tiered layout would be a nice feature with a deck next to the house. The old 'old' patio was a cast in-situ concrete mass directly beneath the floor, it was about 50cm deep so i decided not to remove it. This meant my joists for the deck were limited to 100mm deep (so the air brick was unobstructed) giving me a tighter spacing.
The plans were all sketched up in CAD to help with material order and layouts.
Setting the Posts

Along the front face of the deck (and rear corners) were 100x100mm posts which were dug in and set with postcrete (I think a full bag was used per post) so they aren't going anywhere.
Deck Framing

The joists were supported from mini-hangers and I used bricks as props underneath to provide extra rigidity. All cut ends of the sub-frame were coated in creocote to avoid them rotting.
Boarding

An anti-weed mat was placed under the sub-frame to help keep down any plant growth.
Finishing the boards

A controversial decking layout – to save on ordering extra boards I decided to line up all cut edges on one joist. Ideally they would have been staggered to 'hide' the joints but due to the shape of the deck it would of required more decking boards (and hence more money).
Finished Deck

The finished deck, just the front facing board to put on and it's done!
That join…

I don't think it looks 'too' bad. If someone else had done it the same way I would be annoyed… but they didn't, so obviously it's acceptable now…
Bonus Project

As a bonus (while waiting for more materials to arrive) – I decided to install an outdoor socket. Pretty straightforward as it has it's own RCD plug so no wiring was required.
Raised Beds

I was a bit sparse on taking photos of the raised beds but they were built from 200mm x 100mm green sleepers (new wood so no creasote or tar etc). These were also modelled up in CAD and came in around 1.8m (L) x 1.2m (W) x 0.6m (H). I built them up in layers due to the weight of each one and they were seated on blockwork sunk into the ground.
Adding Steps

Again, not many photos from this step but I used the same sleepers to make steps up to the middle level. The beds and under the steps were back filled with rubble and sand to allow them to drain better.
Finished Beds

The beds were finished and tied together using metal straps. I also sunk some lengths of rebar into each corner for added stability and tied it to the beds.
Coating of Oil

The beds were coated inside and out with deck oil for a darker look and to help preserve them.
At this point I also installed some french drains behind the beds (on the second level) in a chevron pattern, again to help with drainage.
Plants in!

The right tools for the job…
Bonus Project #2

I realised before I started laying the patio that I needed access to a lot of water when mixing the cement. So I installed an outside tap by connecting into the mains water system through the kitchen wall using speedfit connectors. Went smoothly and now we have water!
Laying the patio

Before I started laying the patio, the ground (sub-base/ sand) was compacted. I then sketched up the pattern on CAD and got to work.
Progress

The mix was approx. 5/6:1 sand to cement, there were numerous ratios recommended on the internet from 3:1 up to 10:1. To be honest, I just eyeballed it most of the time and it seemed to be fairly consistent. I definitely underestimated the amount of sand I needed for this, it took a few extra trips to the store.
Patio Finished

All done! The joints were filled with a pre-mix sand/ epoxy mix which sets hard. At this point I kept wetting the patio every day for about a week to keep it saturated to allow the mortar to hydrate without pulling moisture from the stone (if not it can leave efflorescence on the surface).
Edging added

I was a bit lazy when finishing the patio and decided not to edge the stone right up to the sides. Instead I went with stone chippings around the perimeter. Adds another element to the area and looks good I think.
Preparing for Grass

I didn't get any photos of installing the stepping stones but these were laid in the same manner as the patio with a mortar bed of approx 50mm.
After compacting the soil in the middle level I added vertical drains (columns of stone chipping) which connects to the french drains and overlaid weed membrane with sand on top. This was then compacted again ready for the grass.
Artificial Grass!

This is a close up of the grass I laid. After looking through many samples I decided on this one because it was one of the cheapest and didn't look horrendous. Some of the more expensive ones looked great but would of cost in excess of £800. I ordered this and it was delivered on a 4m carpet roll.
Laid Grass

After laying the grass I brushed in a few bags of fine kiln sand to add more texture and also to help secure the grass (there are also pegs around the perimeter). In some photos it looks very green but I think over time the sheen will fade and hopefully it won't look as vibrant.
Final Budget

Overall I came in within my budget of £2K, but with a few more plants/ decorations etc I think I will hit the mark. Overall though I'm happy with how it turned out – finished just in time for winter….
Source : mrob909 from Reddit