Friday, 16 April 2010

Dressing the backyard

Landscaping the backyard has been the priority of late. With winter fast approaching we wanted to make sure we weren't going to be walking around in mud once again during the wet season. (especially having recently acquired a new puppy).

We wanted to hide the slim line water tank PD had installed using a material that would blend in with the surrounds. We chose to go with the Merbau and the treated pine frame. Here the holes have been dug and posts are ready to be set in place.

Once the posts were in, some rails were added along with a splash of 'Feast Watson' Merbau decking oil.

Next we added the the Merbau planks.

And 'viola' - the tank is gone!

We decided to go with a different landscaper to help us with the remaining works in the backyard. This time we enlisted the services of Ben Proctor from 'Vision Designscape Solutions'. He was really helpful in providing ideas and nothing was too difficult. We had decided earlier that we wanted install instant turf using a buffalo grass called 'Palmetto'. Ben had to re-route some of the house drainage as it sat too high in the ground and would have been damaged during the soil preparation. Additional 'aggie' pipes were also included to assure us that no problems would arise during the wet season. The downpipes from the Shed and additional aggie pipes around the retaining wall were all linked to the storm water drain.

Once the fresh top soil had been laid, Ben went about installing the drip line irrigation. The existing water tank (no, not the one shown earlier, another one, used for irrigation) was tapped into to provide water to the lawn and also to feed the garden beds which will be shown later.

A double solenoid system was installed under the deck which runs back to an automated timer running off the tank and pump. One drip line feeds the lawn while the other feeds the garden beds. The solenoids are shown below.

This is the solenoid timer/controller - a Hunter 6-station outdoor controller.

Here you can see the drip lines being tested.

Once the system was connected the turf was brought in and laid. A sand pit for the cherubs was also included which is nicely tucked away in a corner. Something which can later be removed and more turf added to fill the void once they grow out of it.

Next, we needed to finish off the top level by installing the steppers and garden beds. 500x500mm concrete pavers were used to create a path from the Alfresco area to the shed and side of the house.

Weed mat was laid around the pavers to minimise maintenance.

River pebbles were used this time to fill the areas around the pavers.

The downpipes of the shed were plumbed into the aggie drains.

Then the top soil and mulch were carted in and filled into the garden beds.

Once in, we set about selecting the plants and having them installed.

A feature Agave (or Foxtail Agave) was included close to the deck to prevent little ones stepping off accidentally.

Six 'Silver Sheen' Pittosporums were added to line the wall.

Dotted throughout the garden bed we also incuded smaller agave's, Blue Fescue and Guzmania Bromeliads (below).

Along the fence line we included eight 'Strelitzia Reginae' or 'Birds of paradise' plants with 'Arthropodium cirratum' or White Night. as fillers in between as shown in the pic below.

Along the Shed wall we added some espalier fruit trees; a lemon, an orange and in the middle, an olive tree.

Once all the plants were in we installed 6 low voltage halogen lights running off a dusk timer which can be set to remain on for 2, 4, 6 or 8 hours or till dawn.


...and after.

So that takes us to where we are now, a low maintenance, purposeful backyard where the Cherubs can finally run around with the dog and kick a ball or two.

A massive thanks to Ben (and Blair) for their efforts in turning this backyard into our little tropical paradise.

Friday, 19 March 2010

The Rear Deck

***Warning: Seriously Large Post Ahead***
You may want to grab a coffee - this could take a while....  ;-)

The backyard had commenced in our last post with the 'Great Wall' being erected. It was now time to start on the deck!
Due to the sloping block we had decided that we wanted to create a level area to entertain with; something that would provide enough space to dine on and also lounge around near the Spa and something that would capitalise on our views. We had some pre-conceived ideas about the deck style and seating and the fact that it needed to come up around the Spa, so that it was immersed halfway, therefore making the Spa edge a form of seat to ensure it was at a sociable level when you were sitting in it. It also needed to incorporate a Spa fence for safety reasons and something that would not hinder our visibility.

Enter 'Travis' from 'Travis McLean Decks and Pergolas'. Travis had been doing some post handover work as part of our three month inspection for PD. He mentioned that he ran his own decking business and offered to put in a quote. His figures, ideas and knowledge impressed us so much we signed him up straight away.

The Materials
After designing the deck and getting council approval, he provided us with the materials list which I set about fulfilling. Once again another quick call to Craig (Australian Lattice and Timber) to send over a truckload of goodies! The shots below show 'some' of the materials. (The roofing/plumbing materials came later). 680m of merbau was received, some of which will be used in additional structures to be included in later posts.

All the holes were dug and the posts laid. The outside feature posts are 90x 90 Cypress Gold pine, while the unseen stumps 'below deck' are 100x100 Cypress pine.

The upright post seen below were used to support the Spa fencing so they needed to be very straight and square.

Bolt down post supports were used around the spa on the concrete pad.

With all the floor joists down, the merbau planks were spaced to ensure uniformity across the deck. You can see in this shot and the one below it, the sub-frame of the corner seating and planter box. All boards were pre-drilled and hand nailed using S/S twist shank nails.

The structure starting to take shape.

The 'Cherubs' during construction.

The merbau was meticulously recessed around the spa walls.

Flooring nearly there.

Here you can see the lift-up lid frames in place using Stainless Steel hinges.


In the corner we included a planter box. I was able to find a plastic planter tub at Bunnings which fitted exactly in the space  - so happy with the end result.


Next the roof structure had to be erected. Not an easy task for one man!



Deck complete.

In this next series of photos, you can see the final product.
Two coats of Feast Watson natural decking oil have been applied to give it some additional colour. For the upright posts we used the same branded product but chose a 'Merbau' colour to blend in with the merbau decking.

The seating completed and planter box filled in the corner.

The tops of the seats lift up to allow for storage of various Spa toys and foldable deck chairs. Stainless Steel finger pull rings have been recessed into the lids.

The roof has been installed. We used a mix of solid and opaque sheets to allow light to come though.

And the Glass Spa fencing attached.

The 10mm toughened glass is held in place using Stainless Steel 'D' clamps at a height of 1200mm to meet pool fencing regs..

The exposed timber of the roofing in the pic below will later stained as per the upright posts in the pic above.

While building the deck we also added some deck lighting. We shopped around a lot, especially online! The most efficient and economical type we could find were these LED lights from a brand called Micromark. Great light and very cheap to run. The main box comes with 2 Stainless Steel lights and also includes the transformer which can handle up to 10 lights. You can buy the additinal lights individually. We used 8 in total. The cable length is huge too - 10m. You simply bore a 55mm hole and drop it in.

The connector unit and transformer have been mounted under the deck below an access hatch for easy access.

Each light is 70mm in diameter and includes 12 bright white LEDs providing ample feature light.


Glass Fencing
The Glass fencing required was relatively easy to install between the pine posts but I needed to get some expert help to install the glass panels between the house and the brick pillar and to also include a self closing gate. After a few calls and emails to various Glass fencing companies,  I decided to go through Dean from Krystal Glass Fencing who was able to supply a glass gate and the relevant fittings. He also put me in touch with one of his engineers, Neil, who came out to install the 50x50 SS posts and glass gate.

The Holes were bored through the concrete and then the posts inserted. Once squared up and aligned the holes were filled with grout and left to dry for  few days.

And here is the finished gate with the additional post awaiting the glass to be mounted.

A total of 4 access hatches were well crafted into the deck to allow access to the various spa pumps and plumbing.

Well, there you go, I said it was long. I hope I haven't bored you with too much detail, and I hope that by going to this length it may have helped some other person who may be planning their own backyard deck.

We have to mention a special thanks to Travis for the excellent work he has done. We are very pleased with the outcome.

The next post will include additional backyard work involving plantings, instant turf and more garden structures. Till then, happy building  :-)