As I look back through the different completed projects, I realize that certain elements continue to evolve and transform – especially the exterior of the house and the surrounding landscape. Every time I walk around the property, I see more I want to change, more projects to tackle. Even after refinishing a bench, building an outdoor patio with walkways and stacked stone walls, there is so much possible. It is too easy to get wrapped up in the desire to continuously create, transform, renovate and lose sight of the importance of enjoying the rewards of so much hard work. Browsing other blogs, magazines and (recently) Pinterest, I find myself inspired and overwhelmed, simultaneously: craving to transform spaces into highly refined, classically beautiful works worthy of a glossy “after” photo, yet at the same time, understanding the amount of time and energy (not to mention, financial resources) it requires to achieve the results I envision. Re-visiting my post “A Little Goes a Long Way” helped me to see the impact of some recent projects and how they have enhanced the property, purely through my fiercely determined mind that propels my body to do things that most people hire a bulldozer and a team of brawny boys to do. Not that hiring a team of brawny boys is an unwelcome idea, just not in my budget. So as a reminder, I am looking at how far I’ve come.
Here are some updated photos (with original “before” photos) that illustrate how much I have accomplished over the course of one year with slow and steady determination on this raw property with NO BUDGET.
My Total cost: approx $200 – $250
Professional estimate: $3000 – $4000 and up
- palm sander
- deck scrubber
- waterproofing stain (some of it picked up from the Home Depot “oops” table for $4 to $7 a gallon)
- elbow grease
Steps to completion:
- scrubbed deck three or four times (using rainstorms and buckets from the kitchen sink as my water source previous to discovering the outside spigot, how to turn it on, and functional hoses. My daughter thought I had lost my mind and I was tempted to agree with her)
- sanded the entire 500 square foot area with a palm sander – (using old t-shrits as kneepads, but a folded towel also works)
- sealed deck with Behr waterproofing stain, two coats (this should last between 2-3 years, but three coats was beyond my patience and budget)
- Freecycled an outdoor patio set (thanks to my amazing neighbors, Jean and Mario, who introduced me to Freecycle, and gave me a ride to go pick it up! eternally grateful)
- pulled weeds until my hamstrings, hands and forearms were burning (thank goodness for a hot bath)
- re-leveled the gravel and re-buried the exposed plastic lining beneath it
- re-purposed found flagstone and flat bricks (discovered beneath a pile of rotting wood in the yard) to create curved pathways, retaining walls and define more flower beds
- re-stained the exterior shingles (climbing through windows and balancing on the roof to reach the upper areas, while seriously re-thinking why I didn’t hire a team of brawny boys)
- re-painted trim around windows (while trying to convince a 6 year old she can’t help)
- discovered several items while clearing branches in the yard including: two wind chimes, two shovels, two pitchforks, an anvil, a scythe, a pickax, a fireplace poker and best of all – two strings of Christmas lights from a discarded Xmas tree that still worked! All in all, these discoveries added up to a couple hundred dollars worth of tools and materials – unexpected rewards for simply cleaning up!
- picked up a $20 BBQ grill on sale at the end of summer at Kmart
Total cost: approx. $20 (applies to all three above before and after photos)
Professional estimate: $8,000 – $15,000 (prices vary extensively between state and work required. Landscaping prices can reach into the hundreds of thousands, depending on amount of excavation and types of ornamental plants/shrubs used.)
- chainsaw (not included in cost since it was a birthday present)
- gardening gloves
- found objects (see above)
- rocks (dug up from the yard)
- more elbow grease
Steps to completion
- cleared branches and downed trees, using some of which to line pathways and stacking the rest for kindling and firewood
- pulled weeds, small trees, and unwanted ivy – poison ivy among them. (a note about poison ivy – first, look it up and know how to recognize it. I always wear thick rubber gardening gloves with long sleeves tucked in to them, as well as pants and sturdy shoes when I am gardening. If by chance you come in contact with poison ivy or something you’re not quite sure about, go inside and SCRUB your skin with JOY dish soap (yes, the brand DOES matter for some reason) and warm water. It is important to do this within 20 MINUTES of exposure. Also, peel your clothing off carefully and immediately put into the washer and wash with hot water and detergent. Always keep calamine lotion on hand, just in case – I learned the hard way.)
- rescued and transplanted many Japanese Maple seedlings, discovered as the invasive stuff was cleared. (A three to four foot tree can cost over $100, even at WalMart. They are a delicate plant to cultivate and transplant.)
- cut back forsythia and other unwanted overgrowth
- built low stacked stone walls with rocks found in the yard
- cleared more branches (thunderstorms, snow storms and windy days seems to bring down more every other week)
- built an outdoor patio with refinished bench (flat bricks – found, gravel – pulled out of driveway, and bench – given to me by a neighbor)
- cut large downed trees with chainsaw and stacked for firewood
- transplanted pachysandra from behind the house to line the pathways
- did I mention clearing branches yet?
- lined pathways with wood chips
So, even though projects may appear to stream fluidly and quickly, they didn’t. They require time, patience, a barrel full of hard work and a great attitude. I always try to keep in mind that DIY home and garden renovations are like any other creative endeavor – they are a perpetual process; shifting, changing, moving. And the best way to accomplish them is to stay focused and continue to work on them – even if it’s every weekend or one weekend a month. At first, it may seem like endless days of hard work and sore muscles, but after a few days, you’ll turn around and be stunned at the results. Remember to take photos before you start, it will keep you inspired as you witness the transformation! And the best part, it will save you thousands!!