• Backyard Update

    Backyard Update | www.SimplyCait.com

    We’ve been working hard on our backyard plan and have a lot of progress to report!  It has been a lot of work and pretty exhausting, but we took a much needed break this last weekend to spend some time with family and friends and celebrate Father’s Day.  It was amazing to host in our own backyard and have a bit more space to move around and enjoy the sunshine… just enough fuel to keep us going!

     

    Here’s a reminder of what the backyard looked like when we first got started:

    Before

    before

     

    before

    before

    before

    before

     

    The first project we took on was adding the screening between our house and neighbors.

    #simplycaitsbackyard | www.SimplyCait.com

     

    #simplycaitsbackyard | www.SimplyCait.com

    #simplycaitsbackyard | www.SimplyCait.com

    If you like to see pictures side by side like me, you’re in luck.  Here’s the evolution!

    Before and After | www.SimplyCait.com

    {You may have had a sneak peek of the tree planting if you follow me on instagram.}

     

    The peony bushes that were originally in our yard started blooming!  Oh how I wish those things would bloom all summer…

    Backyard Update | www.SimplyCait.com

     

    After building the retaining wall, the next logical step was to put in our new fence.  We decided to go with a white vinyl privacy fence because after all this work, the less maintenance the better.  I thought that choosing vinyl would be  a somewhat controversial decision, but we have received so many compliments on it (and absolutely love it ourselves) that I am 100% sure that it was the right decision for us and our property.  My dad and brother did the majority of the fence install themselves, so I’m not going to do a tutorial, but I’ll post soon about how we chose our fence and the realities of the install vs. the instructions online.

    Backyard Update | www.SimplyCait.com

    As you can see from the side by side below, we also patched the burnt out grass with new sod that we took from the retaining wall project.

    Backyard Update | www.SimplyCait.com

     

    And then in true “if you give a mouse a cookie” fashion, we needed some landscaping along the fence in the corner that isn’t going to be covered by the deck we have planned.  Here’s the before:

    Backyard Update | www.SimplyCait.com

    {The fence is fairly shiny in this picture, but you don’t notice it as much when you’re in the yard in person.  When we were deciding whether or not to DIY it, we got bids from local fence companies and they said that the sheen diminishes after 2-3 years in the sun.}

    Below is the “after.”  We got the hostas and daylilies for free from neighbors on Nextdoor.  I chose to do a Northern Bayberry, rose, and Strawberry Sundae hydrangea bush in the corner to add a bit of height and interest.  Throughout the yard, I tried to pick plants that would bloom at various times throughout the summer (or the majority of the summer in some cases) and have color interest in the fall.  I didn’t want to shrink the yard with too many plants, so I did alternating hostas and Spirea Snowmounds for a lush border.  We clearly still have to do edging and mulch.  That will be this weekend’s project.  Woo!  {Note: the edge of the grass line is where our yard used to stop.  Adding the retaining wall and pushing the fence line out gave us about 4-5 more feet of usable yard space}

    Backyard Update | www.SimplyCait.com

     

    The rose bush in the corner started blooming the day after I took that picture.  Isn’t it beautiful?

    Backyard Update | www.SimplyCait.com

     

    And, yes, I have pink flamingos in my yard.  My dad was horrified when I told him that I bought two.  I love them!  They add a little personality to the fairly formal color palette.  And, I think they give off a strong “life of the party” vibe. 😉

    Backyard Update | www.SimplyCait.com

     

    We also planted clematis vines along the front chain link fence for some more natural screening.  It’s not much to look at right now, but I’m very excited to see how big they get this summer and next year.  The one the previous owners planted is amazing right now with hundreds of blooms.  I can’t wait until the whole fence is covered in the vines and flowers.

    Backyard Update | www.SimplyCait.com

     

    The next big project will be our deck.  Over the weekend, my dad made a scale drawing of the deck plan and all of our furniture so I could plan out the space.  (One of my major weaknesses)  Isn’t he amazing?  I certainly am lucky.

    Deck Space Planning | www.SimplyCait.com

    Stay tuned for more updates.  We still have a lot of projects planned to fully realize our vision!

     

    What outdoor projects do you have planned for this summer?  Are you a little bit at a time person or a power through and do it all at once type?

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  • DIY Modern Concrete Gas Fire Pit

    DIY Modern Gas Fire Pit Tutorial | www.SimplyCait.com

    I am super excited to share our concrete gas fire pit DIY with you.  Mostly because concrete is one of the best “making” materials to work with.  People think you are a straight up magician when you pour concrete to make things and almost always gasp “how did you do that?!?” when they see your project.  Which is every maker’s goal, right?  To wow others with their talents?  Oh, just me?  Woops.  Well, even if that’s not exactly your goal, this is also a great weekend project that packs a big punch and provides hours of entertainment!  Since we made our fire pit, we’ve had several nights of good times sitting out by the fire in the backyard.  And the best part is, you can customize it for whatever size/shape would best suit your house.  It was the perfect addition to the backyard plan.   After all, what’s a great backyard without a fire element, amiright?  (Water element still TBD, don’t think we overlooked that!)

     

    Materials

    Quikrete Fast-Setting Concrete Mix (We used five 80lb. bags)

    Melamine Board

    2×4’s to brace your form

    Screws for form

    Propane fire ring kit (we got ours here)

    1 sheet Hardiebacker 1/4″ cement board

    Fire glass (or equivalent)

    Olive oil

    Concrete sanding pads and seal (optional – we plan on doing this later if the mood strikes but it’s not necessary)

    Propane tank (our fire lasts about 8 hours on a 20 pound tank at a medium low burn)

     

    Equipment

    Eye and ear protection

    5 Gallon bucket for mixing concrete

    High powered drill

    Mixing paddle attachment

    1/4″ drill bit

    Plastic tarp to put down under form (optional if you’re pouring in its permanent place)

    Hammer

     

    DIY Modern Gas Fire Pit Tutorial | www.SimplyCait.com

    Building the form

    The first step in building our concrete fire pit was building the form to pour the concrete into.  Since we purchased an 18″ double ring propane fire pit kit, we knew that we could have a lot of flame when we really cranked things up.  {We had previously ordered a pre-made kit from Target with a 6″ ring and were disappointed, so we wanted something with some real oomph.  When the fiancee emailed the propane fire pit company about which ring size would produce the largest flame in a small area, they thought he was going to build a crematorium or do special effects! ha}  Knowing that the flame was going to be large, we decided to make our pit 32″x32″ and the sides would be 4″ deep to keep some distance from the flame.  Safety first, friends.

    Our melamine was 3/4″ thick, so we cut each piece to 31 1/4″ and screwed them all together to form a box.  Then we added metal braces to the corners thinking that would be enough support.  It wasn’t and our sides started to bow outwards so we wedged leftover retaining wall block into the sides to stop it.  This definitely isn’t the way to do it, but we had already poured the concrete and had to scramble.  I would recommend building two more “boxes” (really it would be more like support rings around the top and bottom thirds of the form) out of 2x4s. Screw those into the sides of the melamine form, making sure that the screws don’t go all the way through and mess up your concrete when you pour it.  This should give your form a lot more strength and stability than the metal brackets we used.

    Continue Reading…

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