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May 31

Back Yard Renovations: Part 1

You saw my front yard renovations last year, but prepare your self – as the back yard is a horse of a different color.

Backyard Jungle

When we bought our house it was the end of October.  The first thing we had to spend our renovation money on was tree removal.

It was both sad and hard to spend so much money right off the bat to remove some lovely, old trees but they were either in the process of dying or in the way of power lines so they all had to go.

Backyard Tree Removal

Backyard Tree Removal

We always knew the backyard needed some work, but once the following summer hit we really realized just how overgrown and awful things really were back there.

Backyard Jungle

That first summer – young and naive – I thought I could just spend a couple hours each day/week and pull everything out gradually.

Backyard Jungle

I was ohh soo wrong.   As soon as I called it quits in the fall, I would look to back where I started and the area was once again covered in small weeds.

Felix and I had a *real talk* and we decided that we’d call in some professionals to deal with the situation, as it would take me far too long working as I had been.

Fast forward to Spring 2015, 2 quotes later and after much research (and drama) we had a crew working on the yard, clearing out all of the stuff.

Backyard CrewBackyard CrewBackyard Crew Backyard Crew backyardClearingTransformDay1_24

There was a crew of around 5 guys who came in with a bobcat and boy did they get rid of everything quickly!  As soon as 30 minutes had passed – Felix and I were looking at each other saying *we made the right decision* as doing the work manually would have taken us… oh let’s say 3 years!  lol

This landscaping crew was at our place for 2 days and cleared out so much stuff.  I can see the back fence again!  heh

Backyard Crew

Yes – we’re talking Summer of 2015 still.. and you may be thinking but Liz, this is 2016!  Bear with me…

After the crew was done with the clearing of the yard, Felix and I coordinated a sod delivery and we set about installing the sod ourselves which saved some major $ but was also quite labor-intensive, back breaking work.

Sod InstallSod Install

The string/line on the left is our property line actually.  The neighbor went in on the yard renovation with us which was nice & we were able to split the cost and share on the delivery fees and whatnot.

Sod Install

Felix would carry over each sod piece and I would put it in position and join up all of the seams.

Sod Install

On the second day, my parents came over to help with the remaining pieces of sod and my mom surprised me with a load of flowers.

backyardSodInstallDay2_10 Sod Install

We got into a good rhythm and we finished the sod install in 2 days.  Our section of backyard is roughly 25 ft wide x 70 ft long.

It looks so great!  Fresh sod – all the craziness gone!

Here’s where things got complicated…

The crew didn’t grade our yard properly and when we watered we were left with a large pool of water in the middle of the yard.

Water pooling

I have VERY sandy soil and there’s no reason why water should ever pool in my yard.  They tried to tell me I must have clay… which I don’t.  I’ve dug down over a foot in my yard & even more so in my basement and never, ever, EVER have found any clay.

The crew had to come back out – add more soil – and then relay the sod.

Backyard Crew Part 2 Backyard Crew Part 2 Backyard Crew Part 2

It was a major headache and made me feel quite icky at the end of the project.  Turns out Felix and I are better at laying sod than the landscapers.  You can totally see where our sod was used vs. the contractor’s sod.  Our was so much nicer, and greener.  Till this day the backyard section of sod is better than the front areas.  I’m still a bit sore about all of that as it was a lot of yard work to lay the sod ourselves.

This was mainly the happenings of 2015 if you can believe it!  Don’t you just hate it when you have to wait to see the second part of a two-part series?!  I’m sorry to do it to you guys, but this post is already huge and I don’t want to leave out too many of the details.

You can be sure that there will be another post up soon since I don’t want to leave you hanging.

  1. Qui / May 31 2016

    Wow, it already looks amazing! Can’t wait for part 2 :)

  2. Lisette / Jun 1 2016

    Wow! That is some serious work! It makes me appreciate that our house’s previous owner was really into gardening. He didn’t do landscaping though, so the backyard is less nice, but the dogs don’t care! I’m in the process of ordering clover seed to cover up the bare spots back there because it should hold up a bit better and re-invigorate the soil.

    • Liz / Jun 1 2016

      Oh yeah! Our house sat vacant for maybe a couple of years and before that an elderly woman lived there, so she wasn’t doing any yard work either. It really got bad and out of control.

      We have a weed back there called Japanese Knotweed. Apparently its THE most aggressive weed out there & it was deliberately planted in my backyard. Fun stuff. I can’t even pour concrete out there since it will even bust through that! It’s crazy…

  3. Amy / Jun 1 2016

    Your yard is looking great, Liz! What a transformation – from crazy jungle to manicured lawn. Do you share your yard with your neighbor? It’s nice that they would go in on the yard renovation with you. I’m impressed you can do the juggle of house and yard renovations at the same time! We haven’t really done much at all with our yard or the outside of our house since we’ve been so consumed with the kitchen and all of the systems inside that need updating. One day maybe we’ll have a yard that nice!

  4. Sox / Jun 3 2016

    Wow! What a lovely change.
    And contractors! Honestly.You have to warch them constantly and there are still problems.

  5. K-Line / Jun 4 2016

    Oh – that is SO irritating (bad contractors). But what gorgeousness is the end result. You really are better at doing the gardening than the peeps who get paid for it. (It’s the curse of being talented and caring to do things right.) I know I’ve said it before but your backyard is HUGE. I live in an urban ‘hood too and mine is 15 x 45. And it’s a pretty standard size for downtown TO.

    • Liz / Jun 8 2016


      My yard is 25 ft x 70 ft – we don’t have an alley behind us. I think the yard looks extra large because it’s still open/shared between my property and the one to the north of us. It’s really skinny but quite long. My lot is a standard Chicago width.

  6. K-Line / Jun 4 2016

    PS: My soil is entirely clay (had to have it excavated). There is NO way your soil is clay. You can completely see its sandiness. I’m on a flood plain and there’s a creek with tributaries that run all over (buried underground). We’re at the crest of a hill, so it’s not problematic, but a lot of houses are impacted. Doesn’t affect the million dollar sale prices though.

    • Liz / Jun 8 2016

      I know right?! I totally have sandy soil. If anything the crew were the ones who brought in the clay to use as fill. :|

  7. Verna / Jun 4 2016

    I have renovated three homes and I will say this…The work you do yourself will always, ALWAYS be superior to a contractor because no one will care about your home as much as you do.

    I’ve never had one job done to snuff the first time. and in the end, it costs them more time and money to fix things. I could go on for days about this, but you’ve already experienced it first hand.

    I take time off of work and rent equipment if I have to.

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