Hey guys! I’ve got another long, long, long overdue post for you today. Summer has come and gone, but I’m happy to report it was chalk full of summery stuff (drive-in movies, a family wedding, camping, market shopping, and drinks in the yard) as well as plenty of productivity.

We took full advantage of the no-longer-February weather to tackle a bunch of outdoor projects, including an early-spring regrading project and an exterior power update.

So before we jump into it, and just in case you’ve forgotten what our neglected rear exterior looked like, here’s a refresher:


Ugh! So ugly. So leaky. So many layers of concrete and asphalt. Our May demo started the rehab, but definitely made the yard look even worse:


Thankfully, 5 yards of fresh soil (and several weekends of intensive labour) had things looking a little more cleaned-up. Plus, the regrading stopped water from leaking into our basement every time it rained. Win-win!


A few weeks later, with our grass starting to fill-out, I decided to tackle our ugly, flaking parging. Queue a month of work with the steel brush, cement caulk, and masonry paint. This project was simple enough, but it honestly took hours and hours over several weekends to get it finished.


But, it was worth it. The parging looks light and bright again, and our “door to no-where” finally got it’s phase 1 update. Phases 2-3 will involve replacing the door with a huge window and having a custom sill cap made. Obviously we also still have some masonry clean-up to do (scrub the bricks and patch that crazy, broken corner post) but, gee, isn’t paint is a wonderful thing?

paint parging

Up next, the summer spruce-up continued with a little recycled brick project. Last year (yes, 2014) we picked up a hundred or so used bricks for free from a near-neighbour via Kijiji. Originally I had planned to attempt a full-scale patio, but decided a smaller project (or two) would be a good way to see how the bricks wintered without over committing. Our remaining asphalt pad, from the old drive-way-to-nowhere, seemed like the perfect spot.

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Step 1: Dig a trench. Ohia, although a serious digging enthusiast, was less helpful than you’d think with this precision work.

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Step 2: pack in gravel. Step 3: pack in (and level) sand. Step 4: Add yo’ brick. Step 5: Add paving sand (the kind with a bit of glue). Step 6: mist with water (to set).

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The rustic pavers cap off the asphalt pretty well, I think. I love the mix of color and texture — hello patina! I also decided to paint the back door, at some point this summer. Taking it from that awful brick-red (see the second photo in this post) to a nice charcoal grey.


But… I still needed to do something with that awful metal awning. Ideally (eventually?) we’ll replace it all together with something more substantial and hearty. But, until we finalize our final backyard plans (should we add ANOTHER door to the back of the house? lol) I decided another quick sand-and-paint job was the best approach:


So, we now have this greatly improved side-by-side.

Flashback 2012:


Progress 2015:


Overall, I’m stocked about this year’s progress and I feel significantly less embarrassed when hosting people in the yard. Many details still need addressing (those left-over cement stones outside of the door, the crazy corner, the door-to-no-where, the awning, and a bunch of brick cleaning) BUT, hooraw! Things are looking so much better.

Up next? We’re back indoors with another long overdue update, this time in the master bedroom.

Take it easy, weirdos!


Hey guys! If you had to rank your backyard as a danger-zone on a scale from 1-10 (1 being a happy valley and 10 being an active volcano) where would it fall? Turns out our backyard was not only ugly, but it was also a solid 7 on the danger scale. Ack!

We had an ESA inspection when we moved in that flagged the backyard electrical as a point of concern. The electrician that came to fix the issue (on the seller’s dime) added the black wire cover (to the right of the door below) but reassured us that, “Thankfully, the wire to the shed is properly run.”

Turns out, he was lying. Turns out, the wire was unprotected and sitting JUST under the grass — like 1/2 inch under the surface right along the edge of the patio. Handy illustration:

This is a problem because: electrocution. We garden a lot, with sharp shovels. We also use an edge trimmer along that patio, weekly. It’s amazing that we never hit that live wire.

What began in May as a patio demo project quickly became an exterior rewiring project. The joys of old home ownership! After pulling up a few patio stones and exposing the start of the wire, I literally just walked to the shed lightly lifting the wire out from under the grass. This was the easy and also shocking, no pun intended, part of the project.

Getting the wire back into the ground was the hard part. Queue the digging…

trench view

We dug a 1.5-2′ deep trench from the house to the tree, and then from the tree to the shed. It started relatively easy, but once we got within 6 feet of the tree: hello roots! This part of the dig involved a lot of hand trowel.


Next we dry fit plastic tubing — the wire runs inside of this for protection from roots, weather, moisture, sharp tools, etc.

Feeding the wire through the tubing turned out to be much more frustrating than expected. I’m glad we didn’t jump the gun and glue anything before getting the wire pushed through and connected.

Since we were starting from scratch, we opted to add an outlet on our maple tree and to start the wire from the existing exterior outlet (on the left side of the back door) rather than rerunning it along the right side of the door, simply to clean-up the overall look.


Reconnecting the wire was straight forward. We bought new outlets and boxes approved for outdoor use. Look at this handy guy:


After everything was connected, we tested the power (everything worked!), and got to gluing the plastic connections and affixing the exposed portions to the tree and house (for support).

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All of that dirt was then shovelled back into place, and topped with grass seed. Thankfully, this was first thing in the Spring, so we had plenty of time to get the lawn into shape.


So… a few weeks in and we are super happy that we tackled this update. The tree plug allowed us to pick up some great patio lights (Homesense), which have been a big hit:




How’s your summer been going? Any patio lights lighting up your life?