The porch project

It’s been a while since I’ve discussed our backyard.   Last we spoke about it, I had just sealed and enhanced our terracotta patio…

Well, let me tell ya…. A LOT has gone down since then.   A. LOT. (<-said like Loyd of Dumb & Dumber)  And I had absolutely nothing to do with it.  It was ALL Joey.  Thus, this post is more of a progress report than a how-to since I didn’t actually participate.  I just watched with admiration through the window.  It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.  😉

Basically, the changes all began with a drainage problem on our back porch.   Starting a few months ago, whenever it would rain, the water would approach the house, sometimes coming within a foot of it.  No bueno.  Joey tried to declog our existing french drains with pretty much every method he researched, but to no avail.

So, around Christmas, he spent days digging a trench and installing a drain at the west end of our porch (Ahem!  A 200-foot trench in 20 degree weather), which resulted in this nicely graveled-in drain…

That helped the flooding on that side of the porch, but as we came to find out several weeks later when it rained again, the other side continued to flood.   So, he spent many, many more days out there removing the crazy-heavy railroad ties, and installing another drain, along with a sump pump (a pump that forces the water through the drain and out to the street).

So, picture this.  He’s just spent all this time.  WEEKS working on this. Our back yard is all torn apart as you can see here…


He’s exhausted and sore, but had FINALLY finished and was starting to put the yard back together again.   I get home from work and Joey meets me out on the driveway. He has a look on his face that I could only describe as “livid shock”.

Joey: “So, guess what?”

Me: “What? Are you okay?”

Joey: “No.  You’re never gonna believe this.”

Me: “What?”

Joey: “Ya know that weird electrical box on the porch post that we thought had something to do with the pool?”

Me: “Yeah, what about it?”

Joey: “Well, after I finished clearing things up back there, I took another look at it.  There was a GFI plug that had been tripped and needed to be reset, so I pushed the button to reset it.  And I heard humming coming from underground.  So, I started digging.  (pause)……..Turns out, we already have a sump pump.  And it works.  It works great.  It was just off.  Which explains the flooding.  ….I did ALL THAT WORK for NOTHING.”

O.M.G. Never have I wanted to cry for another person more.  Poor (handsome, handsome) man.

Basically, the sump pump had been buried underground about two feet which is why we never knew about it.   The existing drains weren’t clogged, the sump pump had simply turned off when the GFI plug had tripped, which explained the recent floods we’d been having (our porch hadn’t flooded for the first few months after we moved in).  Since we didn’t know we had a sump pump or that this electrical box controlled it…

(we were told by our inspector that the plug likely had something to do with the pool pump), we didn’t think to check the switch.  So, when Joey attempted to connect power to the new sump pump via that switch, he discovered it. UGH.  Painful, right??  I guess that’s what you get with old houses, though.  You just never know what’s been done before you.

So, now that we knew that the drainage problem was taken care of, we had the issue of the missing retaining wall next to the porch to contend with.   Joey was NOT going to put those nasty rotting railroad ties back, so we ended up getting stackable retaining wall stones from Lowes for about 1.78 a pop.

Joey did the whole wall himself, and I have to say that he did a fabulous job.   He said that the most difficult part was ensuring the bottom row was level in every direction.  He used sand beneath the bottom row to act as a bed for the stones and placed them down, moving them around until they were level and straight.  Then, he used more sand to back-fill each row behind the stones. To ensure that he had a straight line, he tied some rope between the columns of the patio as a guide…


We still have to get a topper for the wall (the cement pavers are just placeholders… They’re destined for another part of our yard), but here’s where he ended up with the wall…


The above shot was taken before he added a second level to the left side, which can be seen here…

He’s going to add a few more stones (once we buy them… we ran out) to even it up with the right side…

Then, we’ll be planting bushes and ground covering beyond the retaining wall to make it feel cozy and lush.

Here’s the before pictures just for reference…

I’m so impressed with him. Seriously. Other updates that he’s taken on include this screen that he built to camouflage our HVAC unit…

We based this screen on a picture that I found on Pinterest.   It’s L-shaped to still allow access to the unit, but makes it much less of an eyesore from the porch. We still have to touch up some of the stain on the corners and add one more plank to the bottom.  Then, we’ll landscape around it with bushes and gravel.   It’s sweet already, but it’ll be awesome when it’s done.    You’ll also note a start to the path we’re creating beside the screen (that’s where those rectangular pavers on top of the retaining wall will come in).  This path will go all the way around the house and will be bordered in and filled with gravel around the pavers.

That pile of decrepit wood that you see in the back of the shot is a portion of our old fence (which’ll be taken to the dump soon).   Every part of our fence has been replaced at some point in time except for this one.  It literally had 2 foot gaps in it.  It was original to the house and was rotting, and completely falling apart.  Joey replaced it recently for both aesthetic and security reasons. You can see the new fence here…

Once the menagerie of half-done projects are finished, we’ll be boxing in the columns on the porch and staining them the same color as the HVAC screen to emulate stained wood posts. Eventually all of the railroad ties along the fence will be replaced as well. I’m getting really excited about everything. And more impressed by Joey by the day.

Our porch is still in disarray as I type this, thus I have no pretty “after” shots this time.   Our pool is getting drained today in preparation for resurfacing (I’ll write another post about that) and we anticipate a bunch of dust in the process, so we’re waiting until that’s done to clean and get everything situated.   The coping needs to be replaced around the pool (ugh) and the most cost-effective option is flagstone.  The reason why I’m mentioning this now is that our plan for the retaining wall topper is to use coordinating flagstone to tie the two elements together.   Once the coping is in, we can choose our topper and get that hammered out.   And once that’s done, we can actually start to use our porch again.   (And celebration, complete with jumping and giggles (from me) will ensue)

So, anyways, y’all have a great Monday.  I have much in store for you in the posts ahead.  I’ve had a busy weekend (Heeheeheehee!)… 😉

TDC Before and After

Sealing and enhancing our back patio

One of my favorite features of our new home is the covered patio out back.   I love the skylights and how from inside, it appears as though it’s an extension of the inner living space.   This was one of the main items that I fell in love with when we first saw the house.   And the fact that it had terracotta tile on the floor…. icing on the cake.  Here’s a shot of the patio from before we moved in…


After we became somewhat settled, Joey got going like crazy working on the backyard.  Honestly, he’s done so many things so fast, that I haven’t even had time to photograph them all to put them on the blog.  Of the things that I did manage to photograph was the power-washing.   He power-washed the pool decking and back patio, which made SUCH a difference.  You can see the power-washed area below the line and pre-powerwashed above it….


He started working on this task while I was out running errands, which is when he sent me a text…


Brownie points for Joey!  Heehee!!  🙂

Now, I will say, that we should’ve researched how to clean terracotta tile before power-washing.  Neither of us thought about it beforehand, thus, we were equally surprised when the tiles dried and looked powdery and unfinished…

Honestly, the tiles were so dusty before that we were unsure whether we’d stripped the glazing off with the power-washer or they were already de-glazed before.  Either way, we knew the tiles needed to be sealed to prevent staining and breakdown due to moisture.   I went to Home Depot and the associate whom I spoke with recommended this…

It’s a penetrating sealer and color enhancer meant for stone, tile, grout, etc. and can be used for indoor or outdoor applications.   This product was pretty pricey in my eyes.  Around $40 per bottle, but the associate assured me that it was a great product that would last way longer than the less expensive topical sealers.   So, I went for it.

Once I returned home, I prepped the surface.  Even though we’d power-washed the day prior, it had been windy, thus, some dust and debris had repopulated the patio.   I thoroughly swept, then vacuumed the patio to remove as much dust and dirt as possible.  Because of the cost of the sealer, I wanted to be sure I gained as thorough of coverage with the least amount of waste possible.  So, I decided to seal the patio by hand, rather than using a broom or mop.

I donned gloves and got going.  The process was simple.  Wet the sponge with sealer, press it into the tile and grout….

Then, come back 5 minutes later and remove the excess with a towel…

The first coat was VERY slow-going since the patio was soaking up a ton of sealer.  It was easy to see where I’d already applied the sealer as it definitely enhanced the color as promised.  Here’s what it looked like about a third of the way through…

You can see the beautiful tones of the tile coming out as well as the darker grout.   I’d say the first coat took a bit over 2 hours to complete and used up about 1.5 bottles of sealer.  I waited 30 minutes per the instructions on the bottle (and the instructions from my shoulders), then I applied a second coat (which went SO much faster).  I completed the second go-around in about 30-40 minutes and only used up about 2/3 of a bottle of sealer since the stone soaked up so much less this time.  The second coat really united the sheen, making the patio appear more consistent and finished.  After I was done, I was left with this….

And the before for comparison (this was taken after power-washing)….

And the view from inside….

And the before, again…


I love it.  It’s just so dang RICH!!!   I feel like it looks like more of a floor now, less of a patio, which further contributes to that feeling that the patio is an extension of the indoor space.   When the tiles were dry and powdery-looking, they resembled pavers to me.  We had to avoid walking on the patio for 24 hours and couldn’t get it wet for 48 hours after sealing.   I’m now working on getting our patio furniture cleaned up and rearranged, so I’ll give you that update once I’m finished.  In any case, the hours and money spent on this project were well worth it.  Both for looks and piece of mind that the flooring is now water resistant and more protected.

Future plans for the patio space involve:

1. Removing the decrepit railroad ties and replacing them with stone that’s much easier on the eyes (and will provide additional seating)

2. Beefing up the posts of the porch

3. Replacing the ceiling of the porch with a more durable material (maybe some type of vinyl beadboard).  Right now, its a thin plywood, that we’re learning has been compromised in more than one spot with mold/mildew thanks to leaky, poorly maintained seals around the skylights.  We’ve since fixed the leaks and sealed the skylights well, but the damage has been done, unfortunately.

4. Landscaping.   Once Joey’s had his way, it’ll look amazing.

So, anyways, that’s the scoop on the patio!  What outdoor projects have ya’ll been working on?


TDC Before and After