Friday, April 25, 2014


Nearing end of our project, even with our gorgeous new sod in place, things were looking pretty dismal in the backyard. EVERYTHING was covered in a thin, tan layer of dust, thanks to a full year of dirty yard work... the walls, the furniture, everything. And with the majority of the dirty work done, it was time to get things back in shape.

Enter our good friend the power washer.

My in laws own this little beauty, and it comes in handy frequently. Here's Ryan cleaning up our outdoor furniture. He also washed the walls, the windows, the fence, the barbecue, the dog... it was such a nice sight to see our backyard looking a little more like a park than, say, the okay corral.

And an action shot of washing the stone. The sprayer nozzle has multiple settings, and we used a lighter touch with the stone than the furniture or the siding because of it's delicate nature. The jets of water did a great job bringing the color back to our beautiful slate.

Another thing that needed some serious attention was the deck. When we first moved in, this deck was a sad shade of grey. One of the first things we did in the yard our first summer at 231 was use the power washer to bring back it's natural color and seal it with some oil, but a year (and pretty intense project) later, it was in need of a little TLC.

The power washer made short work of all that dust, bringing the original color back to the redwood.

Next, the deck got a coat of wood finish. We like the Australian Timber Oil from Cabot, because it seals and protects the deck, while giving it some light color, but doesn't stain it. We used natural here, but a deeper color, called Mahogany Flame on our tree box

We used a swiffer fitted with a spongy pad to apply the sealant, which goes on milky but dries to a beautiful natural red color. You can see along the edge of the deck in the picture above that we had already cut in the edges using a brush.

Here's another close up pic.

And while Ryan was working on the deck, I had a project of my own going, adding polymeric sand to the cracks in between the stone on the patio.

Polymeric sand is fun because it brushes right in to the cracks, but when it is activated by water it hardens. This is an important step for a number of reasons. First, it looks a lot better, but it also keeps weeds from growing in the cracks, and water from seeping through the cracks to erode your base, among other things.

There may definitely be an easier way to go about this, but for me it was a hands and knees project. Here were my tools:

The first step was removing any debris that had accumulated in the cracks over time. I used an air hose, hooked up to our compressor, to shoot air into the cracks and remove the dirt, rocks and twigs that had fallen in. A pointed trowel was handy for the lodged in there, tougher to remove pebbles.

Then, working crack by crack, I poured a line of poly sand from a ziplock bag with one end cut off, used a brush to spread it in, then finished things of by hand, working the sand into the cracks by rubbing back and forth. In the videos, folks usually just brush it in with a broom, but our cracks are small and I wanted to make sure I got sand in each one.

The before and after doesn't come out well in the photos, but in person it made a big difference to not have cracks showing in between the stones.

Once I was finished with the polymeric sand, it was time to seal my stone. The folks at American suggested this multi-purpose clear acrylic sealant, which worked wonders on the stone, bringing out it's natural color, and adding just the slightest hint of sheen.

For me, applying the sealant was another hands and knees process with a sponge. Since the stone is porous and uneven, I wanted to do a really good job getting the sealant in every n
ook and cranny this first time around. The next time I seal the stone, I think I'll use a larger mop.

Our 800 square foot patio took me about four hours, and a gallon and a half of sealant to finish. But, as you can see in the photo below, adding the sealant was totally worth it. How gorgeous are the patterns and colors in that natural slate?

Here's one last "in process" shot, as I was completing the sealer. You can see the natural finished redwood color of the deck in this shot, as well as the difference between sealed and unsealed stone. It's fun to look at a shot with the redwood box framed with pressure treated wood, but not yet complete as well.

Just for fun, and to show you how far we've come, here's a before shot from when we bought the house.

And a couple of photos of the patio base in progress.

And here is a shot of the completed patio and lawn area (taken in December).

It's remarkable just how far we've come. And that we did it all on our own.

There are still a few things left to do, including finish the planter boxes, build our outdoor kitchen, run power, add drip irrigation, and do some landscaping... but it feels OH SO different and is OH SO rewarding.


  1. holy cow! that slate make my heart pitter patter. gorgeous. y'all have definitely put your blood, sweat and tears into that yard and what a difference it has made!

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