Our new deck and patio are complete! Well, almost. Of course, there is one outstanding issue we can't seem to get the construction company to complete - removing some piled up dirt under the stairs - but that's really the only thing left. It's kind of a bummer because we have to keep walking the dog until that gets done, but I'm hoping they'll do it this week. Then we're going to put down gravel and try to train the dog to do his business there. I hope it works, because I really do not want to have grass.
We do also have to wait until spring to stain the deck because the wood has to be seasoned, but that doesn't stop us from using it. The new deck furniture should arrive by mid-December.
The deck seems huge! Our old one was barely big enough for the grill and a tiny table. Now it is a real outdoor space, which we mostly plan to use for grilling and dining. The stairs, which we didn't have before, will allow the dog to go out from the main level of the house and get to the yard, instead of me having to take him down to the basement and hang out by the door until he is ready to come back in.
We did one kind-of interesting thing with the deck. We installed a gutter system under it so that the patio underneath will stay dry in the rain. This system also creates a ceiling on the bottom of the deck that is a more finished look than bare wood beams, and will allow us to install low-voltage lighting or a ceiling fan down there in the future.
We installed lights on the railing of the deck and on the stairs. I'm not expert enough with the camera to get a good night-shot, but the lights make the deck a very attractive place when it is dark. That was a cheap feature and it makes a huge impact.
The patio is just concrete. We have such a tiny yard that I didn't want to break it up with part-hardscape, part landscape, so we basically paved over the whole thing except for a small area for Toby. Concrete is not my ideal surface, but we wanted something low-maintenance and inexpensive, so this was the best option. We plan to put potted plants around the perimeter to make it look a bit nicer, but really, it's just a little bit of extra space for Sam to play in, and for storage. Because it is fenced, she'll be able to go out there on her own as soon as the weather allows.
Even though it's practically winter, we've already had a picnic breakfast out on the deck and we've played tag on the patio. The dog loves to go out on the deck and just bask in the sun, and we've even started letting the cat out there. We bought an outdoor storage bin for the patio and moved a ton of stuff like charcoal, rakes, bush-trimmers, etc., out of the house, freeing up more space inside. Really, the backyard was a total wasteland before, and now it is functional and clean. Clean, oh joy, clean!
This was an extremely expensive project. I never imagined I'd ever spend this kind of money on a house - I'd never even bought a new appliance before we moved here. But it is totally worth it! I'm sure it will increase the value of the house, but we never count on that. We only invest in things that we will get the value out of while we live here, and it looks like this one will pay for itself in that regard very quickly.
Samantha and I also enjoyed watching the whole construction process. The two main guys who did the deck-work, Nelson and Nicolas, were friendly and very responsive to my constant questions and perfectionist tendencies. When they were done, Sam was actually quite sad to see them go, so she dictated a letter to them, which we were able to deliver by hand when they had to come back for a follow-up visit. Nelson has kids so he gets it, and he read the letter out loud in front of us. That moment is just one of the ways that having a child can turn an experience like this into a touching memory that I'll savor forever:
Dear Nelson and Nicolas,
I love you. You built our new deck for us. I like it when you put it together right. I don't like it when you don't come to our house. I miss you.