Our Backyard Renovation Progress – Two Weeks In

We officially kicked off our backyard renovation project two weeks ago. The crew from JGS Landscape came and got right to work ripping everything out and whoa…it changed from a normal backyard to a construction zone very quickly!Backyard renovation progressOur backyard renovation progress

Removing the concrete in our backyardA bit pile of construction materials in our backyardOn that first day, they removed all of the concrete and started ripping the deck apart.Backyard renovation progress

Then, over the course of that first week, they also removed the grass back there. I know some of you were so sad to see our pretty grass removed, especially since we just showed how we improved our lawn in this blog post. But don’t worry, when we worked on our yard this spring we knew the areas that were going to be removed (the grass to the side of the garage and in between the house and garage), so we didn’t waste any product or time on those areas. Instead, we focused our attention on the front yard and the side yard. And I’m happy to report that the grass in those areas is looking great!

The Slope of Our YardThe slope of our backyard

When we started this project, I really didn’t know what the process would be like. I figured they would rip things out quickly and then start building it all back up right away. Nope. There’s so much in between work that has to happen before things can start to get “pretty” again.Our backyard sloping down

For one, our landscaper realized that our yard slopes down from the alley to the house by 18 inches. Whoa! Since we’re doing the paved patio in the backyard, it needs to be level. So the team had to work hard to get the right slope in the back. They used a big machine to move around the dirt and add stones to get everything leveled out. It was a lot of measuring, marking lines on the ground with spray paint, and tweaking our drainage system to get it all right.

Creating a Drainage Systemadding a drainage system in our backyard

Speaking of a drainage system, they added one to our backyard. Before,  our gutters from the house and the garage forced the water into the grass. Adding a drainage systemNow, the gutters are actually buried and they created a tunnel system under the deck and the patio to the side grass. I’m not quite sure how it all works, but it will keep water away from our house and we won’t have huge metal gutters looking like eyesores. Works for me!

Pavers Going Down

backyard renovation progress

At the beginning of last week, they started to put the pavers down and we are in love. It’s actually starting to look more like a real backyard and less of a mud pit. We ended up going with this patio stone in “greyed nickel” in a modular pattern. I really like the light gray color and the different size stones. I can’t wait to see it all done!

Using Our Existing Deck Frame & FootingsUsing our old decking materials

Okay, now onto the deck. As I mentioned, they started tearing down the deck on Day One. Our landscaper took us aside that day and showed us the framework of the deck. Because our lumber and footings were in good shape, he recommended that we use those as the base for the new deck. We would save time and money (lumber is at an all-time high right now!) and they could then build the deck back up from there. We were elated.

Our New Deck Plans

We ended up cutting the deck down quite a bit to make more room for our patio. As you can see from the above picture, the deck won’t extend out from the house quite as far as our old one did. At the edge of the deck, the stairs and railings will begin. Our deck rendering

The above rendering gives you an idea of the new shape of the deck. We wanted it to feel open from the kitchen all the way down to the patio, so we decided on wide stairs that span most of the deck. This will also be a great spot if we need additional seating. Decking from TimberTech

As I mentioned back in this blog post, we’re going with composite decking from TimberTech. We wanted something that would be low-maintenance and able to withstand the harsh conditions here in Chicago. Our backyard renovation progressI looked at a ton of samples and chose the color “Pecan” from their Legacy Collection. It has the natural beauty of wood, without the maintenance. Win-win.

Contemporary railings from TimberTech

Photo via TimberTech

As for the railing, we’re using a black contemporary rail with horizontal cables. It will look really sleek and it complements the metal railing we have on our indoor stairwell. I also like that it won’t interfere with the view of the yard and it will make the deck feel really open.

Moving the A/C UnitsOur old air conditioners in the backyard

Last week, we had new HVAC systems installed. (Yes, we needed two…cha-ching, cha-ching.) Our units were 20+ years old (pictured above) and it was going to cost us money to just have our current A/C units moved, so we figured it was the best time to upgrade everything.Our new air conditioners

The old units jutted out into our yard from the deck. We decided to cut the deck down a bit on the left side so we could place the new air conditioners in between the fence and the deck. It looks so much better with them over there and hidden away. Once we have the stairs in and the trees up, you likely won’t even see them. Our new air conditioners

I’m planning an entire blog post about our new HVAC systems , so be on the lookout for that in the coming weeks. (There’s a lot to share…including cost!)

What’s Next?backyard renovation progress

I’m afraid I don’t have any pretty pictures to share with you…it gets worse before it gets better, right?! I’m hopeful that this week they’ll start to rebuild the backyard and get the stone down completely and make some progress on the deck. And then it will be time for the fun part…trees, bushes, and actual life back here! Our landscaper said the entire project should take about four weeks, so we’ll see if we’re able to stick to that timeline. I’ll keep you posted on our progress around here.


Catch Up On Our Backyard Renovation

The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.