Finally Sprucing Up The Side Of Our House

At the beginning of the year, I revealed my 2022 home goals. Honestly, I’m pretty proud of how we’re doing on that list and I’ll be checking in on our progress in a few weeks here on the blog. In that post, I sheepishly showed you the sad state of the side of our house…

The side of our house

It was pretty pitiful. Well, I’m happy to announce that we FINALLY tackled this side of our home and it looks one million times better. I’m ashamed it took us three years to do this project. But before we get to the goods, let’s talk a bit about houses in Chicago, because I’m sure a lot of you are scratching your heads about the proximity to our neighbor’s house…

Chicago Homes

Next to our neighbors' house

Here in the city of Chicago, you have a typical lot size of 25 feet by 125 feet. Many homes are that same size and they’re butted right next to the house next door. Our house is on a lot and a half. This means one side of our house sits directly next to our neighbor’s house and then on the other side, we have our side yard that is all grass. Fun fact – our side yard is actually a separate tax payment and mortgage payment. Isn’t that so wild?

The grass on our side yard

The extra half lot really drew us to this house because it lets in so much natural light on that side of the house and gave us a lot more outdoor space.

Adding trees and planters

During our backyard renovation, we didn’t even touch the grass and instead kept it so we have room to play!

The side yard on our house

While our backyard has looked good for a year now, the other side of our home was looking horrible. And the worst part? Our neighbor’s front door is actually on the side of their house. Which means they had to walk past all of our weeds and broken pavers to get in and out of their house every day. Luckily, they’re just about the nicest people you ever did meet and never once complained about it.

The Side of Our House Before

Okay, so let’s take a better look at what this actually looks like…

The side of our house before
Broken pavers
Weeds on the side or our house

Essentially, it’s just a long strip of soil, rocks, and weeds. It was overgrown, full of trash (even some glass, yikes!), and looked unkempt. Finn and I stared at this side of the house, took some measurements, and vowed to come up with a game plan to improve it.

The Plan… A Pea Gravel Border!

At first, we discussed putting plants here to beautify the area. We quickly nixed that idea for a few reasons. We don’t want to have any maintenance for this area and since this is our neighbor’s main walkway, we would have to keep things trimmed and neat so it wouldn’t impede their sidewalk. Also, we had to take into account the fact that this is right next to our foundation, so we want water and pests to be as far away from this area as possible.

My best tips to create a pea gravel border

In the end, we decided on a pea gravel border. Pea gravel is inexpensive and works as a natural drainage system to move water away from your home when your ground is sloped correctly.

I hit up Home Depot and purchased 30 bags of this pea gravel, spending about $100 total. I had two very nice employees load up my car for me because each bag was 47 pounds! That meant that I had 1,500 pounds of pea gravel in the back of our SUV. My car was low riding all the way home, which was not great. So if you have a large area to cover, I’d consider getting your pea gravel delivered!

Project Supplies

The tools we grabbed to create our pea gravel border
Ellis in the front yard

A few Saturdays back, we grabbed our tools, turned up the tunes, and got to work. Ellis hung out in the front yard for a bit and watched us work.

Cleaning It Up

Finn working in the yard

Our first order of business was to clean up all of the garbage, weeds, and rocks. We put on work gloves and got to it, loading up our wheelbarrow and heavy-duty contractor bags.

Cleaning up the side of our house
Removing the pavers

It was hard and sweaty work and we were grateful for a cooler day of temps. But man, what a freakin’ workout!

Sloping the Soil

Grading our soil for our pea gravel border

With all of the gunk gone, it was time to work on the soil. To avoid water and moisture getting into our foundation, we had to slope the ground away from the house.

Grading your soil

We built the soil up a bit higher at the base of the house and then had it slightly dip from the back of the house to the grass in our front yard.

Using a tape measure when working on our pea gravel border

We also knew we wanted the pea gravel to be at least a 1/2 inch beneath the top of our neighbors’ concrete sidewalk, so we kept both our level and tape measure handy as we sloped the soil accordingly.

Laying Down Landscape Fabric

Weed control fabric

Next up – preventing weeds with landscape fabric. I purchased this one and we laid it, shiny side up, so when water comes it will slide right off and towards our front yard.

Cutting our landscape fabric

This was super easy to cut and maneuver. I bought these stakes to keep it in place on the sides and didn’t buy nearly enough. Luckily, we had some extra stakes in our garage. I think we probably needed about 30 stakes or so for the project, so make sure you buy enough!

Adding The Pea Gravel

Using landscape fabric

With the fabric in place, it was finally time for the most satisfying part…dumping out that pea gravel! This was incredibly easy, just hard on the body with all of the lifting!

Dumping out the pea gravel to create a pea gravel border

We got to work, dumping bag after bag onto the landscape fabric, smoothing it out as we went to fill in every little gap. I loved seeing this part come together and our car lighten from the load of those thousands of pounds!

Pea gravel

The pea gravel looked fine when we dumped it…kinda brown and orangey. But once it’s in place, take a hose and hose it down. You will be amazed by how different it looks when the dust and dirt are off of it.

The pea gravel on the side of our house

Our pea gravel went from being orange and brown to a really pretty natural color with gray stones throughout.

Our New Side Yard & Pea Gravel Border

Our new pea gravel border
The side of our house
Adding pea gravel to our side yard
The pea gravel in our side yard

I can’t even believe how much better this side of our house looks! I was ashamed of it before and now I’m pretty proud of it! It’s clean, neat, and so much better for our neighbors.

making a pea gravel border on the side of our house

They texted us the evening we finished up our project and were delighted at the new look! I’m so relieved that the walk to their front door is not quite so bad anymore!

Our new side yard with pea gravel

And we feel very proud to finally cross this project off of our to-do list. It took about four hours of sweaty work and about $120 in supplies, but it was well worth it!

Have a Great Holiday Weekend!

The side of our house

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend. We are at my sister-in-law’s farm in Wisconsin for the weekend. I’ll see you back here on the blog next Wednesday.


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.