In Progress

Patio Saga

Sometimes, even the best-laid plans can go awry.  Or, in the case of our patio, the apparently-not-so-well-laid plans.

Recap:  With our landlord’s permission, and agreement to split the cost 50/50, we were going to install a brick patio to fix this big mess in our backyard next weekend.

We’d already drawn up plans in both Google Sketchup, and provided an estimate of cost to the landlord ($300-$400).  On Sunday, as Ryan headed to the store to get some tools and make sure they had all the supplies, I started digging.

Just as I finished breaking ground around the perimeter, Ryan returned from Home Depot with some bad news.  I’d totally miscalculated just how many bags of crushed granite we’d need to create the bed below the pavers.  The granite alone would cost over $350.   Add in the pavers and other necessities, and we were looking at a cost of about $600 + for the project.

“. . . scrrreeeech!”

We put the brakes on THAT immediately.

Sure, we could have skimped on the gravel bed and kept things within budget.  But doing a half-assed job would be unfair to our landlord.

So, after a moment of pathetic self-pity, I remembered just how many wonderful things we already have to  enjoy, and be thankful for, in our little rented home. I put my big girl pants back on and  looked at the bright side . . .

  1. Yay!  No backbreaking manual labor!
  2. Yay!  Saving money, finding a cheaper solution.
  3. Yay!  Finding a much more temporary, rental-friendly solution that could help my readers.  Because let’s face it, installing a brick patio is NOT an option for most renters.

. . . and then I started flinging options at Ryan.

Let’s revisit our needs:   The porch was too narrow for our outdoor dining furniture, and we wanted to move it to the yard.  The ground formerly known as patio-central was still scrubby, uneven, and the opposite of attractive.   So what options did we consider?


Ha! You laugh.  The mention of Astroturf only makes you think of tacky outdoor areas.  Or the Brady Bunch.  But it was the first solution I thought of to easily cover the ‘area formerly planned as patio’.   Astroturf has come a long way.  It can be a much more realistic grass color and texture now.

The cheapest version comes in all sorts of colors – fake green, gray, blue, brown, taupe.

Frankly, I was dying to use this option.  Just because it’d be funny as hell to tell you guys “hey, I used Astroturf.  No, really.”   (And it’s got its merits:  Enviro Girl mentioned it last week as a viable no-water lawn alternative.  And designer Brian Patrick Flynn used it in his backyard.)

How would we do it?  We’d grade the ground to draw the water away from the house and the astroturf.  Then we’d lay weed cloth over the area.  Finally, we’d lay the astroturf, and set 4×4 boards all along the perimeter, covering the edge of the ground cover.  We’d anchor those with rebar.  Or something like that.  But are you with me?

A mulch bed

Sure, it wouldn’t be gorgeous, but a mulch bed would at least look tidy, and be easy to maintain, and keep graded.  (Water runoff is an issue for this area.)   But it would probably be too soft and potentially dusty under the table.  Next!


“What if we bought a bunch of sheets of plywood, laid them down side to side on the ground, and anchored them in place with rebar and a border of 4x4s?”  Ryan looks over at me with that “I thought I had a smart girlfriend, but maybe not” look that he gets . . . all too often.   Ok, so that’s ridiculous.   It would look totally lame, and it would buckle and warp with every change in the weather.

Portable Wooden Decking Squares

I suddenly remembered seeing these snap-together decking squares at Ikea.  And now I know why people would buy them.  Snap together your own wooden “deck” right overtop of your cruddy ground?  And then dissemble it and take it with you when you move?  Hell yeah.  What a great idea.

But it’s probably expensive.  And Ikea was almost sold out of them last month. And did I mention expensive?

An outdoor carpet!

Duh!  Why didn’t I think of this much sooner??  If we could find one large enough that the table and chairs could all sit on it, that would do the job.  And if it got mucky, we could just hose it off.   

That’ the winning solution. It’s so easy to install it’s crazy.  I did a little happy dance at how my Labor Day Weekend immediately became exciting, now that no manual labor was involved.   The toughest thing I’ll have to do is find an outdoor carpet and put it on the ground. Wahoo.

Now you tell me:  are there any other solutions we should have considered?  Do you think I’m absolutely nuts for considering Astroturf?

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  • Reply Jen on the Edge at 9:24 am

    Instead of a mulched bed, what about an area with pea gravel (the nice stuff, not the driveway stuff)? I’ve seen this done in a number of British gardens and it always looks nice, especially if you put in a few plants (succulents, groundcovers) around the perimeter to keep weeds at bay. To keep weeds out of the gravel itself, roll out landscaping cloth first, then cover with the gravel.

  • Reply Jane at 9:41 am

    That’s an interesting idea and we’ll definitely look into it. I think we still want to do the rug, but maybe we could border the area beyond the rug with the pea gravel and succulents. Make more of a ‘space’ that way. Thanks!

  • Reply Alexis L., The Studioist at 10:29 am

    The outdoor rug sounds promising; I look forward to seeing what you select. We have considered Astroturf, too. Though I hate the idea, if we buy the home we are currently negotiating, the yard is largely shaded by mature trees and grass will not grow. So Astroturf is at least on the table, though I doubt we would do that. I second the suggestion on pea gravel; pretty and not terribly expensive.

  • Reply Sunny's Life in Rehab at 10:38 am

    Hi Jane,

    Wow, bummer about the brick! We put in a patio without digging in an afternoon last December, and it still looks fantastic. It was also very inexpensive. See what you think:

  • Reply Mikalah at 11:09 am

    Man, I hate it when things don’t work out the way I planned! So, kudos to you for putting on your “big girl pants” and being flexible! I think those other alternatives (well, maybe except the plywood- which I had to laugh about because that’s totally something I would think about!) would work great. I really like the idea of an outdoor rug! I think it would really section off the space and give it a more cozy feeling.

  • Reply Jeannine @ Small & Chic at 4:49 pm

    The solution is to use feathers from inside pillows like Julie did on the first episode of Design Star.

    I personally like the AstroTurf idea…but I wouldn’t know where to stop/start.

    I think the idea that might be forming might look awesome…the outdoor rug bordered with some nice gravel and some greenery. I admire you for knowing how to tackle the patio job in the first place, but I think the new plan being portable will be nice and it will be easier to clean/maintain, too!

    • Reply Jane at 9:13 pm

      You’re so right! How did I not think of deconstructed pillows as the perfect solution? 🙂

  • Reply jenifer at 2:07 am

    new reader, came through via ana’s awesome site. now i’m terrified to build having read your time with the tables in your bedroom. scary!

    anyway, this i do know about.

    i would definitely do pea-gravel, and probably border the things with more nifty herb boxes. under the gravel, instead of plastic to keep the weeds down, we use wool (here in NZ). namely, old wool blankets. it’s wild, but it works and it doesn’t smell lie wet wool (and let me tell you, it is wet here).

    you need lots of gravel.

  • Reply Jane at 10:14 am

    Jenifer, thanks for the suggestions! Please do NOT be scared to try building. It requires patience the first time, but my second project (the table in my basement) was SO much easier once I knew what to expect!

  • Reply Backyard & Patio Makeover: Part 1 | The Borrowed Abode at 11:18 am

    […] week later we put the brakes on that plan when we realized we’d underestimated the costs by about […]

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