Garden Project - WIP

3 Aug 2014
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United Kingdom
I am back at it with more DIY. This time i'm outside in the garden and out of my comfort zone! Decided to put a thread up if anyone is interested. Hope someone can take something from it, and if anyone has any questions please feel free to ask. My last major project was my hallway and made a post on here about it. Now its outside time..

I have already done quite a bit so far, but still plenty to do.

So to start. Property has front and back garden full of stones, no grass. Ugly jutting patio with big drop off in back situated in the most exposed part of rear garden. Not very child friendly. No steps to garage side door. Full of bushes and shrubs etc etc. Ive not done really anything since moving in almost 3 years ago, other than a bit of weeding and pruning because always planned to do something with it. We are not gardeners...

Starting pictures;

Front Garden

Back Garden


Back Garden behind Garage

Garage side driveway

My temporary garage steps

The plan...

- Gut the whole back garden out
- Get rid of patio as its currently situated in quite a windy and exposed spot
- Install fence and gates at side of house to make back secure for kids to play
- Get grass in back garden
- Install decking area down at bottom of garden
- Get tarmac widened at front of house for double car driveway

Now, I am going to be doing all of this on my own (except front driveway tarmac). I had a fair idea in my head what I was aiming for, but had alot of learning to do to make it all happen!

Funnily this whole project begun with someone coming and taking our oil tank away which had been sitting unused for 2 years.. Yeah just never got round to it lol. After that was gone, I got some inner motivation to get started on this with summer fast approaching!

So firstly, started to clear out the back;

This was pretty painless, but many many runs to the local dump. Luckily its only 10 mins away. After taking this all out, I soon realised that I would have to put a new fence in between neighbour and me. I also realised that they had built their fence well within their property and not on the boundry. So I could not attach anything to their fence posts, I would have to build my own. Which is better anyway, as their fence is not in the greatest of condition...

So then I hired a breaker and a saw and got stuck into the patio. The saw meant I could make a clean line cut as to were my patio joined the walk patio bit along side the house. I was originally thinking of pulling it all up and replacing with something new and installing a nice curvy bit going off to the garage side door. But after a bit of research I quickly realised I had not got a clue how to do this, and what I was wanting to do was way out of my expertise. I also thought that a good power hose would clean up the existing stones and make it look decent when all done.


A load of stones underneath. This thing was well built.

But eventually got there

One thing I can say is, man that breaker was alot heavier than I was expecting and was alot more hard work that I thought it was going to be! I was knackered after that day, but got it all broken in one day. And of course many many trips to the dump. Think it was about 6-7 runs of rubble. My jeep and trailer didint know what hit it!

Oh and I had a load of stones still in the garden. I had plans for these...

So after recovering from that I started planning out the fence. Originally was going to leave the fence at the bottom of the garden, but since I was putting in fence all along the length of it, it would look pretty awful to not do the end aswell. So... that was coming out too. But first I had to get all my fence post holes dug. Yeah that was more hardwork. I got a post Auger, and man that thing made life so much easier. No, it was not a petrol one, just a hand one. It made no sense for me to hire one, as I was doing what I could inbetween work etc.

I didnt take any pictures of this process, but I think I ended up putting in a total of 15 posts. Used the easypost mix stuff. Bit expensive, but i did add in some of the stones to blk it out a bit. I also didint fill the entire hole with it, but prob about 3/4 of it. Plan was once all posts in I make up my own concrete mix and top it up and put slopes in etc. Using the easypost stuff just meant I could put a post in and within 5-10 mins it was not moving, so I could get it all plumb and move on to the next and not worry about making a whole heap of supports for them.

So after getting most of the posts in, I got a load of timber for the fence. This was not all of it!

I had a lot of head scratching trying to work out how to do the fence on the lengthy which as a slope. I then decided I needed to do the part at back of garden first, and then bit at the top be side house so I could run a string line and get a nice consistent slope for laying boards and also for working out my angles for the rails etc.

So got the old fence torn down, which was sort of easy but also a real pain in the ass! Problem was removing the posts. One Just was not moving but I manage to remove a few others easily. In the end I just cut a couple of them and worked around it when placing my new posts.

Made a simple jig to help me put the rails up on my own. Was very handy!

And then back done.

Had to try and get this done as quick as I could, as we were feeling very exposed without a fence! Already the fence had made a huge difference. Was pretty excited to get the rest of it done.

I have lots more to add, but this has taken me ages already to write up. I will add more tomorrow.

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So on with the side fence.

Got the top bit done first, adn ran a string line down to bottom. Then worked out the angle with my bevel, and then transferred this angle over to all the rail ends so when I join them together on a post, it all ran nice.

Then it was just a matter of getting all the boards in. I just used a nail for the spacer gap. As all the wood is treated and is still quite wet, the boards would all shrink. As for getting the progressive step, just had my string line in and put a board at top and bottom and followed that. Worked a treat.

As you can see there is quite a gap at the bottom. This is because I am going to add a plinth running vertically underneath. This will tidy up all the uneven ness in the ground once i get the ground all sorted later on. Also keeps the vertical boards of the ground, and only this plinth kicker board would be touching ground and it would be easy enough to replace when it rots. I did similar along the back part, but i put them vertical in line with the fence boards ans it was a straight run.

So the other side behind the garage, was a bit more fiddly. Because I was compromised in putting my corner post. I acutally put it on the boundry line, as I had to remove the old original 70's post with the wire going through it. Anyway, there was a massive tree in the corner beside garage, and this stump is going nowhere. It is absolutley solid and not moving. So I decided I would just cut it down as shallow as I can and work something out for the post. I ended up putting the post on the garage wall, but it was a bit fiddley as, to get it straight with the other 2 posts it had to go on the outside. Long story short I had to put the rails inbetween the posts and I just used some strong L brackets to fit them.

I put a slight angle on the beam, which I prob didnt need to do, as I then later decided to run the boards at same height.

On to the driveway. Earlier when I had the stihl saw, I cut out for the tarmac and used the breaker to break up the top layer of tarmac. In heindsight I cut the wholes far too big. Ah well. When I get tarmac done at front I will get the holes patched up.

For this fence, I needed to put the boards on the side facing neighbour. Was able to use their driveway and some steps which made this alot easier. I also had to do it this way because It would look much better once I get the gate put in.

Next up was making a gate. After doing some research I had a good idea what I wanted to do. I have to say, I absolutley love sketchup. Really helps to work out a design in your head. It also helps you to work out any issues that you cant see when its just an idea! So this was the idea;

The Front

The Back

Was going to use half lap joints. Now I do enjoy wood work, but my actual practical experience is limited, so it was definitely a great experience learning how to make this simple gate! All corners had half laps, glued with screws. I just toe screwed the diagonals into the frame but half lap in the centre bit etc.

Working out the angles

One frame made, just checking the width for the gap. All good so far!

For the front I used longer fence boards, cut them to the tallest point and put them all on, so it was a square shaped gate.

Then I used some string, pencil and the wife to draw an arc. I lay the gates on the ground and then I could draw it in. In sketchup I had a fair idea where the centre of the circle would be. Then used jigsaw to cut them.

Then got all the hardware put into place and got some help to get them hung!

And then it was all done.

One minor thing that annoyed me, is you may notice that the frames are not quite level with each other at the top. Well this wasn't because it was different sizes or whatever. No, when installing the gate we used packers etc to get the hinges all perfectly put in. But what I didnt allow for was the weight of the frame moving the fence post a few mm once the packers were removed! Slightly annoying, but a bit of sanding and from the front, you would have no idea. Only me really notices it. I should have used a 6x6 post for there but I didn't. One of them things!

Once I got the gate up, it really secured the back garden. Kids now running up that driveway and having lots of fun there. Was very happy with the gates. I still have to do a few things with them. Need to finish off the front with some trim around the posts etc to tidy it up nicely. I also need to get a file to put a slight angle on the top of the boards on the gate so water can run off easier. As I used jigsaw to cut I dont have an angle. I was thinking a file and sander would be the best way to acheive this. Unless anyone else had a better idea?

Ok, I have still lots more to add, but out of time again. Will add more later.
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Then I used some string, pencil and the wife to draw an arc.

What was your technique? Pencil in her mouth, string round her ankles and then swing her in a pendulum motion? ;)

It looks great, Keep up the good work!!
Been very busy with work but time for an update.

Next on the list was getting decking area done. Hounestly no experience in doing it, so read up and posted on here for advice. Originally i was going to add an angled decking, but after thinking about it more when designing the frame, I realised that it was maybe a bit too difficult for me to tackle. So stuck to keeping it simple and just make a rectangle shape instead.

So this was the frame plan;

Originally was going for 4x2s but upped into 6x2s. This was because I was actually able to remove a bit of the ground on the high side of the slope to make it not as much of a gradient. As I said, im no expert but this felt right for me. I needed to just joist hangers as trying to make it without them was going to be much more complicated as I essentially had 3 walls to build against.

I firstly attached the beam to the garage wall. I defintely used more bolts than needed, but this thing was not going anywhere. I used them thunderbolt things, and i just got a load of larger nuts to make for a spacer gap to the wall to allow water to run down the wall. I also borrowed an SDS drill from work, which made life soooooo much easier to make the holes in the wall. Using a series of packers etc meant I could drill all the holes and every bolt was perfectly lined up. Wee bit fiddley to make sure no nuts fell off when attaching.

Now onto the posts. Around this stage it was apparent that my rectangle was not really a rectangle. My back boundry line did not run parrallel to my garage wall. So the fence line was running at angle. It meant that it was going to be a little more tricky than anticapted to make it all work.

First post in. I made the posts longer than needed. Just made it a bit easier to work with, and I would never be able to get the all perfect height. So plan was get all the posts in, and then cut them all to height after. I once again just used the easypost mix stuff. I didnt fill the hole completely, prob around 3/4. Of course did not have to dig the holes as deep as my fence, thankfully! I cannot stress enough how invaluable that manual auger was. So good. Holes done in no time. Of course always big stones in the way etc, but other than that, its great. Infact I bought that post hole digger thing when putting up fence, and honestly I rarely used it. It wasnt that effective for me. Think I well sell them on gumtree or something, as after this decking I hopefully will not be digging any post holes!!

All posts in, and just was laying out my frame timber to make it all gonna work etc. I also cleared alot of the ground here so that the beams would run without hitting anything etc. I also had to work out how much of a slope to put in. Decided to slope it towards the fence. Slight slope, but should be enough for water to run off! I also put a slight slope to the fence opposite garage. One issue I had was that old tree trunk. That tree stump was going nowhere. I cut it down as low as I could, and I have removed alot of the roots around it, but this is not budging. Its rock solid. So I had to work around it. I had to cut a section out of that 6x2 to make it fit. After all the posts where in etc I sprayed entire area with weedkiller and then put down some weed membrane. Then I had loads of them stones from removing the patio. So I put them down to hold it all down etc.

I then attached the beams to the posts. Then once this was all in place, I made up cement/concrete mix and topped up all the holes and made sure they angled down and away from the post etc. Starting to take shape!
Next up was getting all the smaller sections in.

Here you can see I had to add little noggings on the outside for the decking to sit on. You will also notice I had to put beams quite close to the edge. This is because I was making a picture frame style for the decking top, and needed to insure it would all fix down etc.

Frame all done and ready for the top. I also added lots more of the stones and got it all nicely evenly covered. I also put some silicone seal in any bigger gaps, just to try and prevent water running inbetween and prematurely rotting etc. I am quite positive I have over engineered this, but hey why not. This thing felt completely solid. Very happy so far! So, on to the top. I got the border frame in first. I originally was going to put it in at the end and fit boards long and cut with circualr saw etc for a perfect straight edge, however, I was concerned about this angle thing, and really needed to get these mitres perfect. Bit of tinkering, but managed to get them nice and tight! Then It was on to the easy bit of fitting the boards.

Almost there. For the last bit, I cut one board to about 2/3s width, and this left a decent width for the angled cut. Again bit of tinkering but got there in the end!

Job done. Pretty happy with my first decking. Will not need a step because once I get the ground level up a bit with grass etc it will be fine. Infact the left half of it doesnt need a step as it is. All to do now, is get some finish on it. Not done any research on that yet! Stain or oil? Need to look into it.

Now I am off on a short holiday. Next task will be preparing the ground for topsoil and turf! Gulp, lots to do!
Ok sorry I have not updated this in yonks. Just been very busy with work and lots of things, I just never got around to posting it here. Ended up getting this all finished by end of July.

So ground prep. This was the shape it was in after decking complete and I had cleared most of the crap away including the black membrane stuff etc.

So I went and got a rotavator, and boy they are fun. It made things way faster than doing it by hand. Little tricky in some spots to get it to dig in as parts of the ground were so hard and compacted, and it had a tendancy to skim off the surface and I go flying lol. But I watered it and used some spades to loosen those areas up and once it was able to dig in, it was then no problem!

When doing this, I came to conclussion that I needed to put something to finish off where the patio was as it was going to be quite a high drop. I originally had thought of lifting all the tiles and getting it all tiled, but hounestly, I didnt have the budget or time to do this, and decided to keep the existing slabs and just work around it. Yeh not perfect, but there really isnt anything wrong with what is there. It just needs a good clean. So anyway, I decided I would just build a small wooden planter type thing, and I had some fence posts leftover from the fencing and some postcrete stuff, so Just made some holes and concreted them in.

Now I know this is likely to rot, but thats ok. I can replace it if need be, but it was a cheap solution to a problem. And I think it will be a great place to grow some food/plants next year. Planning on growing some of my own..

Anyway back to ground prep. Now it was around this time that I remembered that I needed to do something with the garage step, or lack of. As I didint acutally have one, just a temporary one. I thought I could just build some brick steps on the existing concrete footing from the old steps, however this was completely on the **** and after removing it, was not really a concrete footing at all, instead was breezeblock with some cement around it. It broke up very easily indeed.

So I had to make a new base.

And using sketchup again, worked out how many bricks I needed etc... and then made the steps. Never had done bricklaying, so that was fun. Turned out not too bad in the end. Was happy!

I then got the stones I wanted for the top. And ended up hiring the diamond cutter thing with water hose inlet thing... names escaped but, its well worth the £30 or so it cost to hire. Made cutting so easy.

I also added some on the existing step, as it was quite a drop, and this actually made it a better step with a tiny bit more depth aswell, with slight overhang. As I said, in ideal world I would have removed all the old patio slabs and made the patio go to the garage door, and put a nice curve thing on, but it was gonna be very complicated for myself to do with zero experience and very costly for someone else to do plus all the materials.. and I needed to save money for the driveway...
So back to the ground work. Removed all the stumps aswell except the massive one from the palm tree... yeah that was not coming out anytime soon. Anyway Once I got that all sorted I got some topsoil and used it to level off any bumps and divets as best I could etc. And then once all raked etc I put down the pre turf feed stuff.

And that was me all set for turf. Hounestly, laying the turf was probably the easiest part of it all. It went down in no time and as I had done plenty of homework on how to lay it, I didint run into any problems really.

This was on the day of laying I believe,

So left that to settle for a few weeks and turned my focus to the front of the house. I had to get rid of as much as the shubury/trees as I could in preperation for the tarmac company to and to their bit.

Had a big tree that needed to go as it was far to close to the house. It already was causing problems with nextdoor neighbours tarmac with the roots.

Anyway I got loads of it clear and alot of trips to the local dump with the cuttings;

Then the tarmac company came in and did the whole lot in a day and a half. I got it done all the way up the side of the house and they also put in a drain thing at the garage door, as in heavy rain sometimes the rain water was running into the garage.

I had to trim the bottom of my gates to make them fit as I did not want to move the hinges. As the new height up the side was a little higher than before. But it was no problem. Pretty easy to fix.

And that was that. I did not get around to doing anything in the front garden done as my summer was very busy with work. So its the last piece of work that needs done, and this probably will not get done untill spring now. As I said I got this all finished up at end of July.

Here is a pic of the back garden a few weeks after it was layed and freshly cut.

Very happy. Kids got good use in the back garden in August. It was lots of hard physical work but pretty happy. I never got the fence or decking treated... yeah I know.... but it will be fine. Need a good spell of weather (hah) and I will get it done.

On another note, my fence and gate held up to the recent hurricane, so pretty happy about that. haha


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