Backyard Makeover – The Plan And Demo

For the past year I've been working on plans for our backyard makeover. It has been a journey full of dreaming, frustration, and creativity and got very close to not happening at all, but I'm excited to share that demo has begun and we are on our way to a complete backyard transformation.

I've learned a lot. How expensive everything related to a backyard renovation can be, what to look for in the people you hire to do the work, and what questions to ask that weren't obvious before this whole process.

This post will be a work in progress and will be my way of bringing you along in the journey for the biggest home renovation project we've taken on so far. Granted, we aren't DIYing our way through this one, but there is still so much to share!

Our Backyard One Year Ago

In the thirteen years we've lived here this backyard has served us well. The big grass area has been great for the kids and over the years has hosted a swing set, many family dodge ball games, and countless water balloon fights.

The outdoor patio area has been a true extension of our living space. You may remember me revamping it years ago when we added the outdoor living room and I was even featured in Better Homes And Gardens Magazine for those DIY Outdoor Curtains made from dropcloths!

But more recently the patio cover has started falling apart, the drainage in the backyard has gotten worse over the years causing the patio to flood from even the littlest bit of rain, and we started spending less time out here.

Goals Of Our Backyard Makeover

As someone who makes over interior spaces I know that the first step when starting any makeover is to figure out how you want to use the space and identify the goals of the space you're redoing.

For our backyard we wanted:

  • A true outdoor living room that is fully covered so we can sit out there even when it's raining.
    • Ideally this area will include a fireplace and a TV with a nice comfortable couch and seating plus a small dining space.
  • A Jacuzzi or hot tub.
  • A big grass area for playing soccer (kids' request). And a wall or something solid to kick the ball against.
    • We also envision this outdoor grass area as a place to set up our big projector screen for movies in the summer.
  • A fire pit area.
  • Everything to feel updated, clean, and new with a California Coastal slightly resort feel.

Backyard Design - Part One

We love spending time outside and here in Southern California we have that opportunity most of the year, so the decision to invest in a backyard makeover is something that we know will add to our quality of life and how we use our home, not to mention the overall value of our home.

I talked with a lot of people who had gone through the process of making over their yards and many suggested we get plans done first so when we get bids we have a direct apples to apples comparison on price.

So that's what we did! We worked with a company that draws up plans, but doesn't do the work.

I know... it's absolutely beautiful and totally stunning but completely out of our budget. Our first quote came in close to what we paid for our house in 2010!

backyard design planPin

What we learned about the process of working with a landscape designer

The number one thing we learned is that if they aren't doing the work they often don't look into how much things will cost at all. Sure he asked us what our budget was, but in the end the quotes we got far exceded it by more than 100%.

Backyard Design - My Version

Don't get me wrong, the initial design did help me with the overall layout of the backyard remodel but the scope of the work had to drastically change to fit our budget. I wasn't going to give up so I kept at it and took ideas from this initial plan and created my own.

I still liked the idea of having one plan and getting several quotes so I could compare pricing and quality to one plan. Each person you bring in to work on a landscape design will have their own ideas and will usually create a plan for you but that doesn't give you the opportunity to compare everyone against one plan.

What we knew we could take out of our backyard design plan to save on budget

  • Moving all of the walls back. Retaining walls are so expensive. We have a pretty big yard so moving all of the walls back to get more yard didn't seem worth it.
  • Getting an above ground hot tub instead of building one in. The pumps and plumbing for an in-ground hot tub are really expensive. At that point you might as well put a pool in, which we didn't want to do, so going with a prefab hot tub is way more cost effective.
  • The raised sitting area toward the back of the yard. Again the materials and scope of work for that is expensive, so we kept it simple.

What we kept from the original plan

The different zones or areas that met our goals:

  • covered outdoor patio/ living room
  • large grass area
  • spot for a hot tub
  • a firepit area

Here's what I came up with

MY backyard design planPin

Meanwhile I had stopped having our gardener maintain the yard and turned off the water because I thought everything was going to happen a lot sooner than it did so over the summer our yard turned into a very dirty and embarrassing place that we weren't able to use at all.

Backyard before - just before demoPin

Finding People To Do The Job

I first attempted to sub out each part of the job myself, but I'll admit it was really overwhelming because I don't know much about landscape design so it was difficult for me to figure out the best steps and how to get everyone to work together.

In the process of calling and meeting with different subcontractors, I found two different companies that do everything. Each were able to give me a quote and would manage the job completely, start to finish!

One stood out as being really fun and easy to work with and we tweaked things just a little to better fit our budget and at that point I knew that demolition was in sight! - I had dreamt of the day the Bobcat would show up and start ripping everything apart for almost a year!

Backyard Remodel - Demolition Begins!

A couple weeks ago the Bobcat showed up and it was like Christmas! So much concrete was removed and the clean slate for what will be an amazing backyard started taking shape.

I remind myself daily that it has to get worse before it gets better and that all of the dirt and jack hammering noise will be worth it. - I'll definitely owe my neighbors a bbq for all of the chaos once it's complete!

Stay Tuned...

I'm excited to share this journey with you in (sort of) real time. I'll be updating this post as progress is made and sharing what I learn along the way so stay tuned!