I've been so looking forward to the day I could finally write this post and that day is finally here, you guys! I am excited to share all the ins and outs of our backyard build. From April to August, we worked on the projects almost every weekend. Between Covid, coaching sports teams, and lots of forest fire smoke... we were met with a few challenges along the way but now I'm here sitting down underneath my beautiful pergola and relaxing in the space I truly envisioned from the beginning.
*This post is sponsored by MicroPro Sienna, but all opinions are my own.
Alright, so let's go allll the way back to the beginning so you can truly see how we got to where we are now. Our backyard is small… I mean, pretty small for backyard standards here in Calgary. We hardly had any grass and the majority of the space had pavers laid down from the previous owners. Oh, and a big ugly round fire pit. So, there was nothing visually appealing here, nothing that screamed “come on over and relax”. Our goal was to make this as much of an outdoor living space as we could, using the existing space with pavers for the new deck build while keeping as much of the grass for the dogs.
Just because your yard is small doesn’t mean you can’t have an inviting, private little oasis of your very own, am I right!?
So, in 2020, we took out the first itty bitty deck that came with the house, which was only big enough to hold a bbq and a chair or two. We replaced that with the first deck we ever built and we loved it! It was a nice new space that went over as far as the dining room window. We also built a privacy wall and a railing along the edge of the deck and now we use it for bbq-ing and dining.
Our goal for this year was to complete the second phase of our deck build by extending it out even further, creating a relaxing lounge zone with a pergola and a second privacy wall. We couldn’t wait to get started, so we were thrilled when our order of MicroPro Sienna treated wood arrived from The Home Depot in April 2021!
The first thing we did when it arrived was slowly load it into the garage, board by board. We were sure not to lay the pile directly on the garage floor. Instead, we laid it on top of some 2x4's to protect it from the ground.
Power Tool List
We then started to drill the holes for the piles in our backyard. Curtis is a health and safety officer so everything is always very well thought out (and probably done a little extra). He drilled 12 piles, all of which were dug to four feet. We rented a one-man auger from The Home Depot, which took all the hard work away from digging the deep piles. It cost about $140 to rent it for the day, so we made sure to get it all done that day.
In each hole, Curtis inset a 4 foot by 10 inch wide concrete form. He mixed the concrete in our wheelbarrow to pour into each form to set. The post holders were then carefully set into the concrete of each pile. We also had masonry string attached to vertical wood shims at the end of each row of piles to ensure the height and length was consistent with each row.
Then came the landscaping fabric. We laid it all out and cut the circles for the forms to come through.
Then, we poured the gravel on top of the fabric to avoid any critters making a home sweet home underneath our cozy deck!
Once the major groundwork was done, it was time to start chipping away at the pile of wood in our garage and get going on the fun stuff!
To start, the post holders would become the ground support for the deck. We placed our MicroPro Sienna 2x8x16's horizontal to the house and attached them all together with 3” nails to make our support beams.
We made sure to apply Cut-N-Seal to all our end cuts, which ensures the exposed, cut ends of the wood are properly sealed and protected from rot or decay. This is a very important step for anyone building with pressure treated wood. It would be shame to have all those pieces get any damage from missing such an easy step.
Our next step was to create the cross joists using our 2x8’s so we could start to raise up the large 6x6 pergola posts. Curtis attached them over top of the beams using nails.
Curtis used hurricane ties to attach all the 2x8's to the beams.
Now, we are all set and ready to place our 6x6x12 MicroPro Sienna posts into place to start the structure of the pergola. I was surprised at how easy this process was. All you have to do is set the posts on the ground and then affix them to the surrounding joists and beams by drilling large holes and then feeding the carriage bolts through at the base. I thought the posts would go into the ground for some reason?? I guess that's why I am just the extra set of hands around here and Curtis is the main brains and builder, lol!
In order to make sure our pergola posts were standing perfectly straight, we used the extra boards we had on hand and nailed them into the bottom of the beams and then into the post until our level line was straight up against our 6x6 post. We did this with all 4 of our 12 foot posts until they were all set into place and ready to affix to the upper rafters. Again, another thing I learned… how to properly straighten posts!!
Even just seeing things as they stood now, I was getting very excited! I could already see the size and structure taking shape.
Next up, he cut angles on the ends of all the cross beams to give it a more modern, dramatic look. I just love it already!! Have I said that yet!?
After the majority of the pergola was built, we started to construct the deck itself by attaching the rest of the 2x8's across the beams. Again, we used the hurricane ties to affix everything securely into place.
Just look at how far we've come so far! I’m so glad Curtis took the time to notch out all those 2x8’s to fit snug across the top of the pergola. Not only does it make them more secure, it looks nice! Curtis used his oscillating Dewalt tool to make all the notches. That tool is amazing... I even got in there to use it a few times.
Next on the ‘to do’ list is to start the construction of our privacy wall. We wanted to make a wall similar to one we made last year. A wall with 4x4 posts and shutters that pivot on louvers to control the light and privacy.
Now that the lower portion of the wall was partially done, we could at least get to laying some deck boards down. This was an important next step as our dogs kept getting stuck during this build… poor little things! Their wee wiener legs wouldn’t allow them to jump up through all the decking so we always had to set them down and pick them up so they could go pee. Needless to say they were so happy to have a safe and solid surface to walk on and no more fear for the rock pit of doom down below!
We didn’t get fancy with hiding the deck screws. I know that more experienced builders would have some ingenious way to do this, but we are just your average homeowners trying to get this done properly! Aesthetically, it may bother some people but honestly I’ve never even noticed it.
I should also mention that our original plan for this build was for it to be a step or two down from the first deck. But, being inexperienced at this, we realized after all our footings were done that things weren’t going to line up the way we had expected. Instead, the new deck was lining up flush with the old build, so we ended up with one long deck all at the same level. In hindsight, I am glad this is what happened as to me it feels like one huge living space, rather than two separate sections.
After the decking was all laid down (and the dogs were jumping for joy), Curtis started working on the louvers for the upper portion of the privacy wall. I get asked about these all the time. Here is the product we used to make them. It’s a genius concept of using your own decking and then just attaching these unique brackets with a pivoting system on the ends to allow them to move up and down. It all works together as one unit, rather than each board moving independently.
The privacy wall was attached to the pergola with leftover 4x4 posts and more Simpson Strong Tie brackets. We used both these and these ones. I think this was a genius idea on Curtis’ part. I like how it all feels connected now rather than a lonely floating wall. It also provided much more stability to the wall after all being affixed together.
There were now just a few last things to finalize. We added 45 degree angles to each corner post of the pergola. I like how these angles changed the look of the structure. It really added such a pretty feature by breaking up all the horizontal lines. Curtis just used large bolts to attach them to the pergola posts.
Then we decided to affix the pergola rafters with another type of hurricane tie. I decided to spray paint them all black so they would match nicely with all the other black accents.
The last thing on our list was to build the stairs! Curtis built two box frame staircases. I don't know how, but we managed to both miss taking pictures of this process... argh!! Curtis tells me he simply built two box frames and then laid the deck boards on both of those frames. He constructed it all on the deck and then brought it down carefully in front of the deck to attach it all to the front.
Here’s a picture and a great article I found, which basically shows and explains the same process we used to make the stairs.
You guys, once those stairs were set into place I may have done a happy dance or two!!
I couldn't believe we finished!!! It's so gorgeous and I wish you could all see it in person. The size of it is perfect for our small yard and that stunning warm brown colour of MicroPro Sienna is a showstopper against the grey and white colouring of our house.
Here's a few pics I took once it was still all set up in August...
And now that fall is officially here and the days are getting much cooler, we are still out here enjoying this space and taking it all in before it's covered in snow!
Well, if you've made it this far I thank you!! Sorry I know this was a long post, but there's just so much to cover in a build like this and I didn't want to miss anything. Having said that, don't ever feel like this is something you couldn't tackle yourself in your own backyard. The most important advice I can give when taking on a project like this is don’t be afraid of making some mistakes along the way. An extra set of hands is a bonus, and a few basic tools, and just plan ahead!
If you have any questions for me or Curtis about this build please leave it in the comments below.
Hope you all enjoy the rest of your day!