While you’re at it…

Brace yourselves, this is a long one!

For a long time, it felt like the outside of the house was letting the side down.  Despite our best efforts to banish the ivy and brambles from the front hedgerow, we were fighting a losing battle… the concrete drive was cracked and uneven… the stairs to the side of the house were lethal… old brick walls with accident-waiting-to-happen written all over them… lots of steep slopes… and the remnants of old veggie patches that offered ankle-turning opportunities at every step.

A reminder of what it used to look like…

20160523 How it was

Since last May, we’ve been planning what to do next.  We scoured Pinterest for inspiration and came up with a master plan, which we then broke-down into smaller (more affordable) chunks that would be split over the next couple of years.  We’d been speaking with the team from Brickhurst to plan a start date and everything was lined-up to start shortly after Easter.  Unfortunately, it was not to be… high demand for ground workers and other project commitments meant we’d need a different team to help with the outside of the house.  We were really sorry that we wouldn’t be working with Jon and Shaun again, but it couldn’t be helped.

Cue a flurry of activity to find someone else who could step-in at short notice and take-on the project.  We spoke with five contractors before settling on Esse Landscapes.  By this time, not wanting to encounter availability challenges for future phases of work, we’d decided to do the whole lot in one go.  So, at the beginning, this meant the following scope…

  • Driveway and drop kerb to road
  • Vehicle/ pedestrian gates and front wall
  • Stairs to side and steps to rear
  • Pavers, decking and retaining wall screen
  • Re-level/ seed lawn
  • Remove lots of unwanted shrubbery!

Steve’s core team of Bobby and Jamie started on-site on 23rd May with the aim of working from the bottom of the garden back towards the road.  On day one, they quickly tore-up the bottom half of the lawn (ably assisted by Ben)…

20160525 Ben Digger   20160525 Day One

The next week, the sliding gate arrived from Arden Gates in Solihull.  Designed to match the balustrade around the retaining wall, it weighed c100KG and was delivered by a lone delivery driver with a dodgy shoulder.  Good job the builders were in…

20160526 Arden Gates 120160526 Arden Gates 3

A week later and we were celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary (hooray!) with a boozy lunch… only to come back to a burst gas main and a few hours’ wait for the emergency response team to come and fix it.

20160603 Gas Pipe   20160603 Gas Man

Two weeks in, the old pavers had been removed, a new concrete slab poured and new pavers were being laid…

20160621 Excavator   20160621 Pavers

The stairs to the side were next (now much less life-threatening)… 20160621 Stair slope20160711 Stairs

…Then came the steps to the rear.  Hats off to Bobby and Jamie for using a single paver for the sides.

20160706 Steps   20160706 Rear steps

While the kids have enjoyed being surrounded by the changing conditions that come with a building site, the inherent danger has its drawbacks.  So putting in some new swings was a good way of showing them the fun that lies ahead…

20160709 Swings

With the pavers down, Pat the joiner could crack on with the decking.  We opted for the same Yellow Bilau hardwood that’s on the upstairs deck, but first the framework was needed over the top of the old wall…

20160711 Decking frame   20160722 Frame and Deck

And then scope began to creep…

An afternoon at the kids’ (grown up) cousins made us realise that trampolines are ageless.  When we were living overseas, they had a small jumpoline (Ben’s trademark), but they need something bigger now.  And it would be tricky to position one above ground and it not dominate the view.  So we decided to bury one.

We also decided the lower part of the back garden was too steeply-sloping to be much good for anything, so we opted to level it off.  This meant more groundworks… bigger machines… 40 tonnes of top-soil… and 42m2 of turf.  Ouch.

20160725 Topsoil20170727 Looking up

So, lots of levelling and raking.  And we now have a flat lower lawn with a less severe slope connecting the top and bottom halves of the garden.  It hurts now but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

20170727 Bunker practice   20170727 Trampoline pit

Yesterday the turf arrived and half of it was laid before we had a torrential summer downpour overnight (sound familiar?) that made for treacherous conditions today.

20160801 Turf   20160801 Turfed slope   20160801 Turf laying   20160802 Wet turf

(Looks like we’ll need some drainage at the bottom of the trampoline pit)

20160802 Swamp

Then late afternoon, the final big delivery arrived… block pavers and kerbstones for the drive.  Quite a milestone as it means the back garden is 90% finished.  As you can see, the front hedge has gone (ready for the wall to be built) and the front garden looks pretty industrial.  So picturesque.

20160802 Block Paver Delivery

So now you know; you’re up to date – two months’ progress in one blog post.  The next post should have some more finished images.


One Comment

Add yours →

  1. Colin Archibald August 3, 2016 — 7:15 pm

    Hi Guys.

    WOW you’ve been busy. It’s looking great. Well done. Still some summer remaining to enjoy it all.

    Love to ALL. Dad & Jennie. xxxx

    On Tue, Aug 2, 2016 at 7:13 PM, The Upside Down House wrote:

    > Mr Upside Down House posted: “Brace yourselves, this is a long one! For a > long time, it felt like the outside of the house was letting the > side down. Despite our best efforts to banish the ivy and brambles from > the front hedgerow, we were fighting a losing battle… the concrete d” >


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