Tag Archives: backyard

Laying the Deck (With Sir Kreg Jig)

Let’s have a round of applause for rising temperatures and the arrival of spring!

We christened the deck with grilled burgers and a delicious dinner – which brings to mind that I haven’t posted on the deck in a while. Last I left of it looked like this:

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

This project was a big undertaking. Normally, laying down decking can be finished in a weekend. True to form, we decided to choose the most complicated way all for the sake of aesthetics.


We worked for many weekends until, literally, the snowfall stopped us – so there was never a chance to take an “after” picture until now.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

This is not a tutorial post – there are way too many steps and I wouldn’t even know where to begin. It all started with the proper tools, as many projects do. We used the Kreg Deck Jig. The tool comes with a DVD on how to use it. Basically, it’s a tool that guides the angle of the drill to create the look of invisible screws.

But let’s go back to the beginning.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

The Decking

We purchased Veranda composite decking from Home Depot in Nantucket Gray. Composite decking is more expensive than wood, but more durable, less maintenance (no sealing needed!) and will save money over time.

It should be noted that the color will fade within the first year, so you should make sure you like the color it fades to.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

And also be prepared for all your grass in the front yard to die. 😉

The composite boards are heavy. So heavy that you need two people to lift it – otherwise it may crack in the middle due to the weight. Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLivelyWe put down plywood boards as we worked our way across the deck, as our deck is one story off of the ground. I did not like walking across those rickety boards – that’s for sure.

The Kreg Deck Jig

The Kreg Deck Jig process was time-consuming, but fairly straight-forward once you got the hang of it. As I said before, this is not a tutorial, but merely a brief overview if you are interested in DIYing your deck.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

The spacers are very helpful. they show you how far to space the boards for expansion and drainage. But most importantly, they keep the boards parallel  to one another at equal distances. If you start to get crooked, you’ll notice and it’s not a good thing.

The spacers shown above are 1/4″, Kreg also includes 5/16″ for pressure treated wood since it expands more than composite. The kit (as shown above) only comes with 3 red spacers (1/4″ ) and 3 blue spacers. (5/16″). Three spacers won’t get you very far on 16 foot runs, so we bought a dozen extra spacers from Amazon. I highly recommend buying yourself some more spacers.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

Here is the handy blue box! Your new best friend! The Kreg Deck Jig.

Centered over every joist, you will pre-drill and drill a screw into each joist, on both sides of the board.

My job was pre-drilling the holes. The drill can be set to a certain depth, so it’s easy and there are no questions asked. If this girl can do it, anyone can. (Although I admit, I was nervous at first. I only made a mistake once!)

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLivelyUsing our feet and hands, we pushed the deck board in towards the spacers as well as we could, especially when setting the first several screws in. You’ll want to make sure it’s tight to the spacers to ensure a straight line.

The deck boards took us quite a number of weekends. In all honesty – it took up at least a month of our weekends. But DIYing the deck saved us a pretty penny, and it was actually fun.

Random Recommendations:

  • It’s helpful to have two drills. Since you are constantly pre-drilling and drilling, you having to swap out the bit every time would be painful and slow you down a lot.
  • Use an impact driver as the drill for driving the screw. You will have a lot more control and no stripping of the screws.
  • Buy an extra kreg drill bit and extra driver.


Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLivelyOnce we finished the decking (yahoo!!), we moved on to the railings.

The railings were pretty straightforward. We used the Veranda ArmorGuard Composite Railing in white. The post jacket will slide right over the wooden post.

Next we needed to decide how high we wanted our railing to be. Each town or county may have legal requirements on the height – especially if you are not on ground level like ours is.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

There are a number of railing specifications we needed to decide on:

  • How high do we want the handrail?
  • How much taller than the top railing do we want the post cap to sit?
  • How much space do we want between the bottom rail and the decking?

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

We made our decisions 50% on personal preference, and 50% based on standard measurements provided from a quick Google search. After we measured and marked – on both the wooden post and the post jacket, it was time to slice away!

As always, measure twice, cut once.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively(Notice our lovely yard from the pipe and excavation adventure we had last fall.)

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLivelyNext we attached the lower railings (with brackets) and cut the bottom middle spacer.

The nice part about these railings is that the balusters were pre-cut and spaced, so we only needed to pop the balusters right in! Next we attached the handrail to the post with the brackets.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLivelyWell lookie here, the light is at the end of the tunnel!

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

We still have a bit of work left to do. All the trim boards (which will be white) need to be attached. And, you may have noticed that we have no back staircase yet!

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

Soon we will have a concrete based poured (at the base of the patio) and then the structure can be built. Our GC will come back and build the structure, and we will do all the finishing work.

And about that patio….

Well, that’s just another story for another day.


I’m in the market for some type of deck furniture to store my potted herbs on. What do you keep on your deck?

The One with the Deck


We’ve spent the last two months-worth of Saturdays working a big outdoor project and I’m excited to share a sneak peek with you today. (I can’t wait any longer!) We are re-doing our deck!

First I should probably rewind.

Our house already had a deck. With the exception of some damage from a big tree that fell a few years ago, it was in decent shape. I wasn’t in love with the red color, or the “walk the plank” concrete walkway we had patched up to get to it. But it was perfectly sufficient for hosting a great number of barbeques overlooking our perfectly manicured backyard. (Delusional.)

Here’s a before shot to jog your memory:



You might notice in this pic we also re-sided our house this summer!  Never a dull moment in these parts.

The problem we were facing wasn’t with the deck… it was with an old, crumbling, lawsuit-waiting-to-happen stairwell that was built into the hill of our backyard. Unfortunately it was acting as a retaining wall, so we didn’t feel great about trying to remove it entirely. And hiring a stone mason was going to cost us some big bucks for something, frankly, we didn’t even want.


After pricing out a lot of different options, and brainstorming of all the different ways we could try to fix the stairs, we decided to put the money towards something we’d really enjoy and would add resale value to the house – a new deck! We left the crumbling stairs just the way they were, and extended our deck so it covers them up – bye-bye problem!

(We will definitely make sure to clean up the stairs under the deck once we’re finished. Safety first!)     deck5

Since our existing deck was perfectly fine, we just ripped off the top decking boards (which another worker at our house ended up taking to build his kids a tree fort with – yay recycling). We brought in the pros to build the joists and extend the structure. I never thought our deck was small, but now that we’ve doubled it in size it feels huge!



I covered all the old joists with flashing (it’s like tar paper) to prevent water and ice from getting into the nail holes from the old top boards.

Then we started the top!


For the last many Saturdays Moose has been out there laying decking – sometimes with the help of some selfless friends (you know who you are) and sometimes with me. The reason it’s taken us so long to finish the decking is that we decided to use a hidden-screw method. It looks great! But it’s pretty time intensive.

We also decided to do a picture frame border, which you can see in this picture below:


The tough part is almost done – then we will have the facings and railing to do. Once our patio (yup – another post that’s coming) is in we will have the staircase structure built and then finish the steps.

You can see in the photo above we’re doing a two-tone white and gray deck. It will end up looking like this inspiration photo with the color combo we chose:


I’m hoping we will finish it in time so we can squeeze in a few outdoor autumn dinner parties before it gets too cold out – we have a lot of people we need to thank!

Can you dig it (We can dig it): A Backyard Saga


In case you don’t understand today’s post title, just start singing “Whoomp there it is”. Nothing like a little Tag Team. Anyways. About digging.

We’ve had projects here-and-there going on inside the house, but, outside the house. That’s a different story. Let’s just say we’ve left no surface untouched and no rock unturned. I’m not even quite sure where to begin. Spoiler alert: this post doesn’t wrap up neatly with a bow. It’s more a “what’s been going on around here” update.

I’ve only posted on our yard projects here and there. I’ve mentioned how much I like to ignore our backyard situation, how we had one massive tree fall on our deck, how we’ve had to cut down too many other trees (due to an invasive species maple tree, we learned, that was going to kill everything else), and the copious amounts of lumber we had to deal with.

There were two problems with our yard when we bought the house:

1. It was severely overgrown and neglected. Everywhere. Dying trees, invasive weeds, and overgrown gardens (complete with a Zen Garden walking circle in the middle of the backyard – yep, we discovered that when the snow melted.)

2. We had major pipe problems that needed to be fixed. We’re talking 100 yards of pipe here people.

In the last year, our yard has been excavated extensively. We have dug up and replanted the little bit of landscaping that we planted multiple times. Our two walkways have been demolished so I have gravel pebbles all over my house as a result.


We’ve finally finished putting in the new driveway (we have a LOT of driveway with this house) and I can park wherever I’d like now.


In quite possible the only regrettable home decision we’ve made thus far, we decided to take our wires underground. We ran into ledge (read: an outcropping of bedrock) and needed professional assistance.

If there was one thing we underestimated when we bought this house – it’s earth-moving.  New walls can be built, floors can be installed. But earth-moving – that is no laughing matter.

Without going into much detail of our situation (because it’s a very long and not very exciting story 2.5 years in the making), we still have a lot of yard work in front of us. backyard3

We have high hopes that next year will be the year of the grass! Could it finally be here?backyard4  backyard6   backyard9Dressing to match our projects – of course.

Those bright blue pipes are drain pipes – of which we (*ahem, not me) have installed many of over the course of the last year. And I think we’re just about done! (Cue the happy music!)

For the most part, our yard has been very brown the last two years. This was largely in part to the trees (no sun for grass to grow + dying trees and weeds = no grass).

Someday we will have grass! And I will never take it for granted. I will happily mow the lawn. In perfectly parallel lines.

We’re kind of at a middle-point with our curb appeal right now. It always gets worse before it gets better, and we’re 50% worse, and 50% getting better.


All this stone is being put in for our patio prep!

When I stand in my backyard I kind of feel like Scarlett O’Hara at the end of Gone with the Wind (spoiler alert) surveying her war-torn, beloved family estate.

“As God is my witness, I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over I’ll never be [grass-less] again.”

Melodramatic? Obviously.

But after three years of digging, digging, and digging, I can’t WAIT to have a backyard!


On the plus side? We have TONS OF HUGE ROCKS in our yard we will be creating a retaining wall with. Like this one here (I stuck my foot in so you can see how huge it is), this bad boy would have cost $200 at a landscaping warehouse. And it’s free, compliments of our backyard and some backbreaking labor (thank you husband).

Moral of the story: When choosing your fixer-upper, pay attention to the yard! Moving walls and renovating the house is a LOT easier than changing the earth!

Someday My (Patio) Will Come

patio inspirationvia

Dinner al fresco. Ice cream among twinkling fireflies.  Morning coffee and a magazine.

All that comes to mind when I’m dreaming up our someday patio! (I do love to imagine the end result, don’t I?)

Today I’m talking patio inspiration.

The current area where we will be putting a patio tucks into a corner of the back of our house. When we bought this house, there was a considerable amount of water damage to the concrete foundation – which we have fixed. To help prevent any more water issues, we will be grading the yard away from the house, and also putting in a patio to help. (If the Moose says we “have” to install a patio, I don’t ask questions.)

There are three things I’m looking for in a patio:

1. Budget friendly
2. Organic feeling
3. Low maintenance

It’s been surprisingly difficult to find realistic patio inspiration ideas. There are a lot of “builder basic” patios out there online. And the photos I’ve found on Pinterest and Houzz are glamazon outdoor living rooms.

This is a collection of images I’ve saved all with features I’d like to consider when we’re ready to do our patio:

patio inspirationvia

We’ve discussed creating our patio using three different methods: 1. brick, 2. pavers, 3. stampcrete (or stamped concrete).

We have yet to price everything out, but generally brick and pavers are more expensive (and very DIY labor intensive), and concrete is less expensive. Concrete will also give us more protection from the water issues our home has experienced in the past.

I really like the pattern in the image above – hard to believe it’s concrete! You can also stain concrete. But, I think we’re leaning towards the natural gray you see above.

patio inspirationvia

I like how this patio has a decorative border around it. It’s a nice finishing detail that really makes the stonework sing.

A lot of patios have a small stone walls, or raised planters to add privacy and designate the patio space. But I tend to like the more organic feeling patios that feel like they grew there themselves! A border is a nice way of making that distinction while still staying ground level.

patio inspirationvia

Glory Cottage, that’s right! I would love to sit on this patio all day long!

I like the abundance of potted plants on this patio.

Maybe a potted herb garden will be in order?

patio inspirationvia

There is just something lovely and romantic about pergolas.

I like how this pergola makes the patio feel so connected to the house. Since our patio will be tucked into a corner (kind of like this patio), it’s creates a cozy little nook.

patio inspirationvia

Again, we’re thinking of lots of ways we can better connect the patio to the house.

We have a walk-out basement, which will lead to the patio. But that means we have exposed concrete bricks where our (supposed-to-be-nice-and-pretty) patio will go. We’ve talked about a number of ways to cheer it up, and one of them is ivy.

There’s something so New England about ivy. We would, however, install vertical trellises so the ivy grows on that instead of creating problems with the roots weakening the concrete foundation.

patio inspiration
There are two things I love about this patio.
One: if the pergola is too much of an investment, I like the mini-pergolas over the doors. That’s another way to add character without breaking the bank.
Two: I love the shutters! Too often shutters are only on the front of the house, but adding shutters to the back windows on the patio is another way to make the outdoor space feel united to the rest of your house.
Plus, I’ve never been one for outdoor artwork.
patio inspiration
Again with the pergolas. If we don’t want to do a full-fledged pergola, this modified pergola is a great way to get partial shade and still having a patio open to the skies.
Plus it’s an excellent place for hanging plants!
patio inspiration
As if I needed to add more fuel to my pergola fire.
This could be a great way to add a porch swing to your patio. (We currently have one sitting in the basement waiting for some TLC. It was going to go on the front porch… but maybe the patio would be a better place for it?
Such tough decisions. :p

It looks like I have a lot of research work cut out for me!

Do you have a patio or outdoor living space?

What’s your favorite part about it? Any recommendations?