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:
danger

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.

roots

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.

burried

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

wiring

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).

house plug

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.

filled

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:

summer

Sigh…

ohia

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

Advisory: this post begins with a picture of a old women standing outside in her pajamas holding a birthday banner.

patiofinal

If you can look past the (embarrassed) PJ-clad birthday lady, I’d like to point out the hodge podge cement/asphalt patio that she (read: I’m) standing on. Yikes! In the rear, a 12 x 10 asphalt pad leads to where a garage once stood, but now ends abruptly in the grass.

This is the inherited state of the backyard that we finally decided to address this spring; not least of all because the sunken pad was allowing water to slowly drain into our basement every time it rained.

remove sq

On a whim, Jeff posted the cement patio stones on Kijiji on evening in April. 30 minutes later, they were gone. Hooraw, but also, oh no! The project had officially started whether we were ready or not. (We opted to keep four stones as a temporary entry for the back door).

remove sq1

Removing the patio stones still left us a pretty nasty mess of sand, gravel, patched cement and asphalt.

more concrete

Where the asphalt was thin (2″) a bit of pitchfork leverage and a few smacks with the breaking bar broke it into pieces. It was A LOT of grunt work that revealed two more layers of concrete. Ack! The joys of a century home. Case in point, can you guess where the former stairs were in the photo below? #Doortonowhere

asphalt2

We bought a diamond blade for the circular saw to cut the newly exposed concrete and score straight lines along the driveway pad that we planned to keep. Then… more smashing… a lot more smashing.. piling.. and sore backs.

debris

But, even in this state, things were starting to look a little better; sort of. After having lifted each piece of debris out of the ground and then shifting each piece into a pile, we moved onto hauling each friggin’ piece into the back of the truck.

full truck

Poor truck. That’s 4000lbs (2 tonnes) of concrete taking a pit stop before hitting the dump, where we unloaded each, friggin’ piece. If you’re keeping track, because I certainly did, we moved 4000lbs of debris four times, by hand. Ugh.

As an aside, before we started demo I, naively, thought we could just slowly put the concrete out with our regular garbage, week by week. Ha! Talk about an underestimate.

clean

But look! Look at that clean slate. We dug out the grass a little further into the yard to allow us to grade about 10 feet away from the house. Savvy folks would have noticed the blue tarp sitting in the driveway (above). The tarp was, of course, covering 5 yards of screened topsoil. So, out came the rusty wheelbarrow to haul load after load of dirt into place.

dirt

It was a lot of work, way more than I thought actually, but it felt great to get it cleaned up and ready for some grass seed. Spoiler: it’s been a few weeks since we finished and the grass has come up really nicely thanks to all of the rain we got in May and early June.

We eventually want to install a new patio, but for now, the grading issue has been addressed (so far, no water in the house!) and we’re happy to take it slow while the weather is nice. Bring on the mojitos!