D.I.Y. Our Entire Backyard Renovation

Holy Quaca, Mole.

We did it.  We finished our backyard!  Can you believe this?   

We moved into our home about three years ago at this point.  It's perfect for us and even better, here on the Western side of Los Angeles where space is at a premium. We had a pretty big backyard.

Our back yard was large enough to envision a more useable space.  However, the previous owner had dived the sloping yard into five, one foot high tiers in order to accommodate the slope.  After years of siting in the backyard and planning. I had made the decision that the yard should be divided into two separate levels with a four foot high retaining wall holding back the highest tier. 

The plans for this project existed in a few different capacities.  For most of the time they existed within my head.  However, eventually, as we got more and more serious I'd need Gaelyn's help to put these ideas onto paper.  Some of the first iterations of these plans are confusing to say the least, but at least it helped me actualize the sizes and make it work for us. 

We started this backyard project in the middle of April 2017 during Oliver's first Spring break from preschool.  I remember this specifically because we started this project by tearing out the existing concrete we had across almost 80% of our backyard.  No, I didn't personally tear out the concrete myself.  I did however try and start the process and man am I glad that this was one of the parts of the process that I paid someone else to take care of for me. 

The hardest part about a project like this is determining where the level line would come into play.  We had a natural need to make it level to the garage.  You see, the garage is about a foot or so higher than our back door.  So in oder to level the yard, we'd have to somehow create a retaining wall at the bottom to hold back dirt, and create a level space that matched the garage floor.  Get the lazers!!!

Now that we'd determined the height at which the floor of the garage hits the house, we knew the height that we'd have to work with in order for a deck to come off the house at exactly the right height.  This is confusing, but it makes sense.  Sorta.  Either way, we got started demolishing the existing concrete.

 SO, THERE'S NO CHANCE I'M DOING THIS MYSELF.

SO, THERE'S NO CHANCE I'M DOING THIS MYSELF.

So, I hired some guys who have done something like this before.  These. Guys. Were. QUICK.

This meant it was time to start building our first of a few retaining walls.  Get a wall in at the lowest point so that we could move some dirt down and flatten out the ground. 

Then rent a skid steer from our local rental house, and start moving some dirt around.  I knew that I'd have to get rid of some dirt.  I'm not sure I knew exactly how much dirt I would have to get rid of.   Either way, moving the dirt around with a skid steer is fun for about an hour.  Then it's more uncomfortable than anything.  

Then was the heavy lifting part.  We really needed to build a whole network of retaining walls.  We had to square out a plot of useable yard area, and provide enough drainage so that when the rain comes we had enough water removal from our flat area.  You can see in the next photo set, exactly how exhausting this was... for me. 

Once we had gotten through a majority of this work, we were ready for some of the fun stuff.  Deck, putting the cement back in, and then the sod.  This is when you can start getting truly excited about a backyard coming to fruition.  We lived for a few weeks with the deck, as we waited for the people we hired to come back and install the cement, sprinklers, and sod.  

We planed to coincide the installation of lawn and cement with us leaving town for a week.  That way while we were gone the sod and cement could set and cure. 

When we got back... Well.  What a change!!!!!

Like any good project, you're never REALLY done.  We had to add on a few more finishing pieces.  Put a few odds and ends together. We also wanted to build a seating area and fire pit in the back of the yard which we eventually got around to doing.  That was some hard work.  Mixing cement is no joke.

So, yes. This is never really going to be in a "finished" state, but we're in an extremely acceptable yard situation.  So, we're done for now. Hoping that our tree's and plants come in nicely and that at some point we'll be able to eat the fruit of our tomato plants. 

There's movie about the process to follow soon.  Just finishing up a few pieces and thought that it would be best to break up these posts into different pieces.  I hope somehow this kind of thing inspires you.  You can do it. 

John Jenkins

West Los Angeles, CA, United States