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…

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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…

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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…

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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
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Oh, the difference a year makes…

So, this week marks the one-year anniversary of Operation Home! Crazy, right??!  In this time span, I’ve published 127 posts including this one. That’s 127 posts mostly containing craft/DIY projects that I/we’ve attempted, along with several decor posts and a few personal posts mixed in.  This past year has been so rewarding thanks to this little blog.  It’s been an outlet that I’ve been lucky and grateful to have, and it’s allowed me to meet some really cool people whom I would’ve never met otherwise.  Plus, I’ve learned a ton!!  Not only about blogging in general, but about DIY… I’ve taken on projects in the last year that I’d never tried before and might not have had the courage to do if it weren’t for Operation Home.  So, thanks little blog and all of you lovely readers who support it!  🙂

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on updating Our House page in the bar above.  It contains updated photos with links to the most pertinent projects within each space.   So, check that out if you’re bored (or just, ya know, if ya just like me.  Nopressure).  😉

I haven’t really posted a ton about our backyard since the inception of this blog.  A few random posts here and there but not the full-monty, if you will.   So, I thought an updated tour could be fun since the foliage has changed quite a bit.  I mean, what could be more fun than watching plants grow? 😉

On that note, I’d like to take a moment to marvel upon the magic that is the Southern Wax Myrtle.   The most amazing shrub I’ve ever come into contact with.   Seriously, I’m about to justify this statement with pictures.   Just wait.  Wait for it.  Okaaaay.  Onward…

See, when we planted these guys in February of 2013, they looked something like this….

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By September of 2013, they looked like this…

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And now, one measly, piddly year later….

I know.  SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR.   They’ve flippin’ exploded!!!!   It only took a year and a half for them to begin providing privacy above the fence line.    That is, unless you count this from last September...

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I was so excited about “all that privacy” provided by those two little branches.   Heehee!!!   I was such a kid.  Now, I’ll admit…. there is one little runt bush that hasn’t quite caught up with the others, but he’ll get there.  No doubt.

The wax myrtles were a generous housewarming gift from Mac and Pop when we moved into the house.   (Need a housewarming gift idea? Buy a shrub.  You won’t regret it.)  And they seriously MAKE the yard.   In these pictures, they almost look a little messy because it was so incredibly windy when I took these shots, but in person they’re lush and warm and bring such a cozy dynamic to the backyard.   Our goal was to allow them to grow larger and then trim them into a privacy hedge.   The plant beds that Joey created with moss boulders are still going strong and look amazing.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for this sad, sad live oak tree (seen in the back of this shot)…

It’s alive.  Just not looking great.  The brutal winter really took a toll on him.   Maybe one day he’ll come back and be happy again (Ihope).

The other side of the yard looked like this last year after we’d planted a few crepe myrtles along the fence as well as another live oak tree (…who did remarkably well in the frigid winter. Way to take one for the team, tree!)…

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And now that side of the yard looks like this…

So, not a ton different, but definitely more filled in.  Sorry for the blurry pic.   It was far too windy for my lack-luster photography skills.

The rosemary beds looked like this before…

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And now…

And that’s AFTER Joey gave them a significant haircut.   As for the porch…

We got a new umbrella, which makes the space so much more livable in the hot Texas heat.  It’s from World Market in case anybody’s wondering.  We need to get a better umbrella stand, since the umbrella is leaning quite a bit.  It’s much heavier than our last umbrella since the rod is made of wood.  It’s an aspect that I neglected to think about when deciding to re-use our old umbrella stand to save some cash.   Sometimes, ya just gotta spend the money, I guess.   I love the colors and simple pattern the umbrella adds to the yard.  Plus, it helps tie in all of the colors from the conversation area nicely and provides much-needed shade over our newly waterproofed table.  As an added bonus, it blocks out some of the surrounding roof lines from inside the house.  Score!

Speaking of the conversation area, the space looks much the same from when I added the herbs and flowers.  Shockingly, they’re still alive.  Although there’s a chance that a few of them loathe me for adopting them (*coughcough*parsley!).  They aren’t exactly thriving if ya know what I mean.

See???  You can see the one little runt shrub in the background of this shot.  That’s really just a living metaphor for me standing next to my friends and family.  I can totally relate.  Just keep swimming, my little vertically-challenged friend!  You actually have the option to keep growing, so run with it!

I apologize for the lighting in some of these shots.  Our schedules as of late basically forced me to take these pics around dinner time… Not only was it insanely windy, it was pretty harsh lighting.  I totally know better, but sometimes ya just gotta do what ya gotta do.  Here’s a shot from earlier in the summer to demonstrate the actual colors on our porch…

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It blows my mind just how much the shrubs have grown even since then!

Functionality-wise…

… the beverage fridge is the bomb. When we have people over we stock it with water, soda, beer, etc. it keeps guests from having to go in and out so much.  Of course, it doesn’t look like anything special as of now.   It *may* even be on the slightly fugly side.  Especially with the *meh* concrete.  But a few shelves above, maybe a little appliance paint? Or perhaps, a little wood facade… It could be a really cool little area.

In any case, I think we’ve (and by “we” I’m referring to Joey) done a pretty good job with the space so far, especially being that it started off here…

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Joey’s really outdone himself with the landscaping, in my opinion.   And despite me and my olive thumb, the majority of the plantings have taken off beautifully.  I think it’ll be a really charming (and private) backyard once everything matures and blocks out the view of the surrounding neighbors.

Anyways, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Thanks for stopping by my humble little blog!  I totally love ya’ll for it and hope you continue to visit for ANOTHER year of blogging! 🙂

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TDC Before and After