Budget-Friendly Backyard Makeover

Our Tailgate HQ Backyard Makeover project took 7 months from creative concept to execution. It was truly a labor of love. Victor and I did most of the work but we had special help from my grandfather (who is a strong and healthy 93-year-old man!), Victor’s parents and our 8-year-old son Andrew.

Since we were doing the project ourselves, we knew we couldn’t finish it in one weekend. So, we planned it so that after each step the backyard would still look presentable for our guests.

One of our Airbnb rentals in Atlanta is Tailgate HQ/Conference Basecamp/Downtown Tourist. It’s 1,534 sq ft 3 bedroom/2.5 bath. We wanted to extend the living space outdoors to give our guests another space to enjoy. Here’s what the backyard look like before. Pretty sad, huh? Just patches of grass and dirt. Cue the Wild West music and rolling tumbleweed. A guest would look at this and just be underwhelmed.

Victor suggested a backyard makeover not just for aesthetics but to also drain water away from the house. The ground isn’t soft. It’s hard clay so there’s standing water around the house after it rains and it would get messy. The backyard doesn’t get a lot of light either so it’s challenging to grow grass. To persuade me, Victor would go look at rocks and send pictures of just rocks. But I couldn’t visualize this backyard transformation that he was talking about. So he took measurements, sketched out his vision on the whiteboard and provided pricing info.

“Ohhhhh, I see it now.” I said to him. So together, we created a Pinterest board and budget for the project.

Our project goals for the backyard makeover

  • Add value and extend living space outdoors for guests to enjoy
  • Drain water away from the house
  • Reduce backyard maintenance

Step 1: Plant shrubs

We started off by planting some shrubs along the back fence and the left side. Like I said before, it was just patches of grass and dirt. We needed more greenery and lucky for us my grandfather happen to be visiting us at the time. He happily said ‘YES’ when we asked for his help.

Victor, my grandfather and Andrew hard at work. I was at home tending to our 4-month-old baby boy Alexander.

Step 2: Fix the fence and gate

There were three posts on the back fence that were rotted and needed to be replaced. It also appeared that our gate needed to be fixed too.

Step 3: Order rocks

Victor selected the rocks he wanted in advance: Medium Slate, 57 Stone and 89 Stone. I placed the order with Cummin Landscape Supply and they conveniently delivered it in three large bags. We had them placed in front of the house so that guests could still use our driveway.

Step 4: Build box around the shrubs and walkway

To better define the space, we built a box around the shrubs along the back fence and the walkway to the gate. We hauled and dispersed the 57 Stone, 89 Stone and Medium Slate. This time Victor’s parents were visiting us and we put them to work too. Can you sense a pattern here? Visit the Tran’s = Go to Work.

Step 5: Lay out landscape edging and fabric. Distribute rocks and pine straw.

Next, we laid out landscape edging and fabric. We hauled and disperse medium rocks and pea gravel. It was like raking a zen garden.

Step 6: Assemble patio heater and fire pit

We waited until Labor Day sales to order the patio heater and fire pit from Wayfair. I really wanted the silver patio heater to match the decor but it was out of stock. I couldn’t let a good sale go by so I settled for teal. We also relocated the outdoor furniture from our house to our rental.

Step 7: Install poles and cafe string lights

We had the notion to do fancy patterns with the lights. However, our engineering side told us that it’s best to stick with the K.I.S.S. method – Keep It Simple, Stupid. A simple square pattern worked just fine. We plugged it into an automatic Dust/Dawn timer so that guests wouldn’t have to fumble around with the lights.

Here you can see 11-month-old Alexander hopping around in his Pack N Play and Andrew trying to help keep him entertained. We don’t always take our kids with us when we’re working but when we do they’re pretty good.

The Final Product

Whew, after multiple steps and months, we finally finished! We completed the backyard right at the start of football season. Looks more inviting, right?

Budget Breakdown

So here’s all the details on what we spent on this backyard makeover.

  • Shrubs & garden soil (Home Depot) – $331
  • Wood (Home Depot) – $33
  • Rocks (Cummin Landscape Supply) – $163
  • Pinestraw (Cummin Landscape Supply) – $40
  • Metal stakes and edging (Home Depot) – $94
  • Woven landscaping fabric (Home Depot) – $77
  • Firepit (Wayfair) – $80
  • Patio Heater (Wayfair) – $141
  • Cafe String Lights (Target) – $30
  • Dusk/Dawn Timer (Home Depot) – $10
  • Propane Tank (Family Dollar Store) – $50
  • Total Spent: $1,049

Is it perfect? No, but we’re pretty pleased with how it turned out given that we did the work ourselves and stayed within our budget. Like programming, we take an iterative approach (agile anyone?) to our home improvement projects. Here are a few additions for 2019:

  • Lighting
  • River rocks
  • Large containers/planters and low-maintenance plants
  • Painting fence
  • Replace wood-burning firepit with a propane firepit

Thank you for reading about our backyard transformation! Leave us a comment or a suggestion for additional backyard enhancements in 2019.

–Victor & Ann

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