Thursday, July 23, 2009

Small urban backyard turned into Garden Room

The following article is a continuation of the "Gated Security" article. This small backyard is located in the Greater Toronto area. On average a 30 by 20 foot in size backyard will present some difficult options when planning a garden space. To add to that difficulty is a 12 x 8 foot deck that comes off the second floor kitchen which can sometimes create the feel of a dark and gloomy space underneath it.

Last year I was presented with a challenge to come up with an idea for a usable space that would address the poor drainage issues in this backyard. Below was the first stage of the project... a small platform deck. It is well below 20 inches from the ground level and is not attached to anything in terms of a structure, so no permit was needed. The deck allowed the homeowners to at least entertain guests in their yard for the remainder of the 2008 summer season.

Earlier this summer, the project came under way to the next phase of the design. All of the grass was eliminated and replaced with 3/4"-clear gravel to allow for excellent drainage of the yard. The soil here was heavily compacted by construction equipment during the subdivision construction and was never fine-graded to allow rain water to leave the yard properly. The effects of that did not allow for the soil to absorb water and so a drain pipe was put in place under the stone patio to help take water away.

The end result was a living room space....

Followed by a future dining room and BBQ area... the natural stone patio you see in these photos is a natural stone material known as Banas stone. It is brought in from India and sells for about $6.50 to $8.00 a square foot. This particular color of the natural stone is "Imperial Black"

All the plant material and decking came from a local Home improvement store. Although the plantings look thin and small, they will mature in the years to come and fill in to create a very lush looking space. The entire space was designed and created by a vision that kept things simple. Keeping a low budget in mind and the fact that free "family and friends" labor was provided... the yard was able to come to a complete state for around $5000 (Not including the furniture). Armed with a simple landscape design plan and the proper "do-it-yourself" knowledge, a 20 by 30 space can become a very pleasant garden room which acts as an extension of your house.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Gated security

A few years ago, a very good friend of mine had his fence built on contract. The Contractor was installing the fence for the whole neighbourhood and wanted to charge $300.00 for a gate. That cost is about the going rate for gates, but when I saw the span he wanted to build it for, I knew it was not going to be the right type of gate construction.

So, I advised my friend not to have the gate built and save his money. A few weeks ago I was tasked to complete the gate for him. While my day job is designing and consulting for my many clients... I do have a background in construction and woodworking. So I fired up the old tools and got busy....

The original contractor plan was a gate that was well over 4 feet wide. The issue was the width of that gate was not needed and would almost certainly fail in a few years. Any type of gate constructed over 42 inches wide would require metal brackets for the corners and a beefed up structural design. I knew for the price quoted he would not get that... so we shortened the area by putting in an extra post and I built a beefed up gate anyway...

Double fence board construction...sandwiched a 2 x 4 frame that included metal braces to give the gate extra strength. 10 inch hinges were used to hang this heavy door up. Yes, the construction is solid enough to lose the term standard outdoor gate...and call it an outdoor ...door!

The gate does not bounce or twist as you open it... it swings nicely on the hinges and locks up securely from the inside of the yard which provides added security to the yard as it cannot be opened from the outside. That was a request made to me by the homeowner!