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Backyard renovation project


This is a "master plan" of the yard so far:


So, here's how things are going!


My house is sort of on a corner lot per se, with the front facing one street, and a dirt driveway running down the west side of my lot.The dirt driveway allows easy access into the back yard. My house is rather small, at only 1000 square feet, and it's on a lot that's only 50 feet wide, by 90 feet deep. The house has a small footprint of only 35 feet wide, and 30 feet deep, and it is located "city like", at only 30 feet off the road it fronts. The home's small footprint, and good placement on the lot makes the backyard rather large and useable, despite the overall small lot size. This backyard was one of the primary reasons I purchased this house.


The dirt driveway came from when the neighborhood was built. The county never extended the cross street through to the road behind me. Before I moved in, the neighbors got the county to put gravel down on the portion of the land owned by them, and this made the backyards, and the alleyway accessable to the surrounding homes. Recently, a new development is being constructed on the block behind me, and the house beside me has been sold to a good friend. Neither the construction company, nor the county wanted to complete the road down between us, and so the county divided the property between my next-door neighbor and myself.

The back of the house, Summer 2002

The deck I want to build will go to the right of the existing back porch, and the beginnings of a brick sidewalk can be seen here.

The rear most part of the back yard, summer of 2002



I have the Power!!!


The backyard is nice and flat, and it's got a little workshop shed in it. The shed however did not have power. If I wanted to use it for working on projects, it was going to need power. Less than 4 months after moving into the house, that problem would be solved!


I was in luck, the couple that was in the house beside me at the time runs a heavy machinery dealer. We bartered on projects: He brought home a ditch-digger and cut a trench for me. I, in turn installed a DirectTV dish on his house! I laid a 50 amp line out to the shed, and he buried it back underground. I also ran a conduit, which houses CAT5 and coax cables for telephone, internet, and television. This made the shed totally useful for more than just storing yard tool in. The next phase was simply to connect up the lights and outlets inside. Unfortunatley, I don't have any pictures of this completed project due to the fact that I did not posses a digital camera at the time.


Why 50 amps in such a small shed? Well, it's because of all the junk in there that I could think would be running at the same time. The shed has an air conditioner in the back window (10 amps), and an electric baseboard radiator (20 amps). There's also an air compressor in there (15 amps), and an outlet to plug in my camper on the outside (30 amps). So, there you go! On a winter day, I could be working on the camper, and have heat going in both the camper and the shed. Plus if I'm using air tools, the compressor may be running to! I did NOT want to be blowing fuses.



The latest renovations


Despite the nice flat yard, I have found that this house is still inadaquite for working on boats, campers, cars, and other things that can sit in a yard. The reason? Well, because the yard is flat, water sits around and goes nowhere. There is not any existing driveway into the yard, or any hard surfaces to do work on. Placing a vehicle up on jackstands involves finding plywood to set the stands on...that is if the jackstands, plywood and all doesn't soak into the soupy mud!


This project has been going on for about a year.  The weather has taken what was supposed to be a 3-4 month project, and has pushed it at least 10 months beyond the expected completion date.  The biggest phase of the project is installation of a large concrete driveway at the back most portion of my yard.  This is to work on cars, and for additional parking for boats, campers, etc.



Tree removal


First and foremost, was removal of some trees that were in the way. A maple tree, pictured below after it was chopped down, was growing up in the middle of the fence at the back most portion of the yard, as can be seen standing in the picture at the top, just in front the sailboat. A smaller pine tree was also right where the driveway was going. Another problem existed: Getting dump trucks into the backyard to lay the gravel and cement was not going to happen because of the low branches two old maple trees had on along the fence. Unfortunatley, because of this, these trees could not be trimmed to grow tall, instead of out, because they had power lines directly above. Much to my dismay, all but one Maple tree now stands in the backyard, that's the one in front the shed. The tree removal projet lasted for most of the fall (get it) Hurricane Isabel, which I was certain was going to take limbs off the maple trees, didn't do a thing to them. The problem was that the man I hired for tree removal was tied up all fall and winter with removing debris left over from the hurricane. I had to get the trees out before I could get any gravel laid, so this was a major delay in the project. One side benefit I was not expecting that have noticed from the removal of the trees however is that the swampy, soupy soil dries out MUCH quicker after a rainstorm!

I cut this tree down myself & removed it



Western gateway


Well, in order to even get into the backyard, the fence has to be modified. Ever since I moved into the house, I have had a portion of the fence up by the house taken apart and rolled back. To use this, meant driving through the front yard...something I am trying to avoid since it damages the grass. I needed a real gate, and I want to re-install that section of gate beside the house. Atlantic fence in Ashland, VA made the gates below, at 42 inches tall, X 8 feet wide. I installed them myself. Now, direct access could occur to the backyard.

The gates in the back corner of the lot, as of July 2003



Repairing drainage problems


Where I want the driveway installed, from the shed to the dirt road, is the lowest part of my yard. Luckily, a new section to the neighborhood is being built behind me. They were dumping all the excess dirt in the woods behind my house. A friend and I got a Bobcat skid steer, and took a few dump truck loads of dirt and spread it where I want the driveway. This REALLY helped solve the mud soup problem that would exist for as long as a few weeks following a good rain!

The bobcat and a little bit of the dirt that had been trucked in. Notice the ruts off to it's left that were made....a lot more dirt was definitely needed!


Another, more simplier addition was installation of a gutter along the front edge of the shed. the downspout pours into a piece of drainage hose that goes underneath the driveway area, and into the alleyway behind the house. The picture below shows what it looks like during a rainstorm, and the fact it's actually working!




A big truck takes a dump in my yard!


Before one lays concrete, it is recommended to put down gravel first. The gravel allows for easier levelilng of the ground, and gives the concrete something to stick to. The gravel was delivered the morning of April 17th, 2004. With it's installation, the back driveway area is now actually useable! A car can in fact be driven on this stuff without getting stuck! For the first time since I've been in this house, I can now safely park vehicles in the backyard without them getting stuck!

The backyard as of the morning of May 17th, 2004 before the dump truck

The B&D hauling truck just after he dropped the first load

A high resolution picture of The backyard from across the dirt driveway April 2004

Future plans:


The deck, and the sidewalk fromthe backyard to the side road has not been built yet. These will be coming this summer. Once everything is in place, landscaping will take place to get the yard looking nice again. The backyard will be re-seeded and fertilized to get a nice crop of grass (now that vehicles don't need to be driven across it any more!) I am also going to add some low-voltage landscape lighting around the deck, along the sidewalks, and inside the gardens to give some atmosphere to the backyard. I may also plant some more trees and bushes to replace the ones that had to be removed. I think chain-link fences are ugly too, so I may attach some wood planks along the fence to make it more attractive, or I may plant some bushes along it that will grow up into the fence and hide it.

 I may also in the long-term future demolish the small shed in the picture in the future, which has suffered from rotted wood and termites.  This is due to the bad drainage problem that existed long before I moved into the house. The drainage problem is now solved, but the damage is done. I would also like a full garage so that I can work on vehicles during the wintertime, and under cover.