Friday, April 3, 2009

Courtyard Musings

Remember last year when I posted about the backyard? I decided getting the interior of the house done was a better use of time and funds. Now that Spring is here and interior is looking good we're thinking about the yard again. The design has changed a bit in a year, as we now have a dog so I modified the design to be able to accomodate him. We've even had a few contractors come by to give us bids.

Here is what the yard looks like today, as seen through my back window (I was lazy and didn't want to open the window or screen).

_MG_1620

It is 34' deep, by 13' wide. It is mostly a concrete slab with a small dirt area. The dirt area is currently used as Wally's potty, and houses a few city kitties. I tried putting veggies and herbs back there one year but the city kitties ate most of the fruits of my labor. Not good. There is a alley behind the house, and you can see across the alley the houses I mentioned in my last post. In the front right corner of the pic is my AC unit, and beyond this are some concrete blocks the neighbors gave me. The concrete pad for the back half of the lot is pretty much shot, so it needs to be redone. So that is the tour of the place. It's not pretty. Now here is what I'm looking to do....

I'd like to enclose the space with a 6' tall cement block wall. Not the most glamarous of surfaces, but it's relatively inexpensive and it will keep the vermin out. It also provides a good mounting surface to mount lights on. I considered a wood fence, but the vermin could still get in. I'd also like to use some raised beds in the area for some plantings, create an area for a grill and a prep/serving area, and enclose the AC unit and garbage. So here is what I've come up with.

backyard with garbage at back

It has a 6' perimeter wall, a 2' planting bed, the garbage would be hidden behing a 4' concrete wall at the back of the property and the AC unit is enclosed with a wooden slate structure that I would build. The brown slats in the middle are a table and benches that I would also build. The donut looking thing near the middle is a fire pit that we'd put there when we aren't eating (the table would move up to the benches for chow time).

I also did a minor modification where I deleted the 4' concrete wall, and enclosed the garbage cans in with the AC unit. I think I like the first design a bit better, but this would be a bit cheaper.

backyard with garbage with AC

We are really trying to keep costs down, and that for now we are focusing on getting the foundation work done with the finishing details coming later. Which option do you like better? What other suggestions do you have?

15 comments:

Patrick said...

Your backyard is bigger than my house :-(

Bar Crawl in Fells tomorrow?

Jen said...

City Kitties! Haha. Love it.

I think I like the first layout better... that way you're not walking past stinky garbage on your way to relax in the awesome back yard...

Frank said...

The second one is a better use of space, it creates a more open flow through the yard from back door to back entrance, and should give better perception of depth to your yard then having a 3ft raised bed cut off a few feet short of the end with almost a trench on the other side.

My second question would be why not make bleachers so we can pit wally vs steve in the back yard and make it a specator sport.

Jenny said...

Not only do I envy the inside of your house but now envy your backyard(even at its current state). I vote for design #2 because: less distance to throw out your trash in the rain and it is cheaper.

I agree with Patrick..come to bar crawl!

Jenny said...

If you are looking for $25 off coupon on a tree, our lovely governor has done this http://www.trees.maryland.gov/

Summer said...

I think both plans look great. Here's something to keep in mind though. I don't know what size your current trash cans are that I assume you are designing around, but the city is currently looking at switching to a 1 & 1 plan.It would change garbage pickup to 1x a week and recycling pickup to 1x a week. It has to be voted on by the city council before we switch to it.

Part of the plan is to issue trash cans to residents because we will be limited to 1 64 gal can a week. They haven't picked the can shape yet and it could be a while before we are issued cans due to budget. Just be sure you have some flexibility in your enclosure for when things do eventually change.

Anthony said...

I agree that the second option actually gains you a better spacial layout. If you are going to have a 'service' zone with the AC unit, might as well include the garbage in that zone. And like Jenny said, it's more accessible from your house to throw trash out (and with the new One plus One that Balto City is doing, you'll only be putting your cans out once a week anyway-not worth the extra cost to conceal them closer to the alley for once a week movement). I was curious about the steps up to the planting bed-is it only 2 feet high? do you need them for the dog?

One thing that has seemed to work here in Patterson Place with the 'city kitties' is to use the board on board fencing and staplegun metal mesh (the kind with the small squares-not the big chicken wire kind) at the bottom 2 feet of the fence down to the concrete. It needs to be an accurate job, but has worked in yards here to prevent the rats from coming in and not having to use conc. block. Also easier to install than the blocks. I was wondering if the chain link is you property or not, too, because if it's yours, you could use those existing poles and rails and attach the wood fence panels to them with metal pipe-clips that wrap around the poles and screw into the wood. That has been done a bit to save cost because you're using the existing poles in concrete rather than busting them out, diging new foundations, and setting new wood poles.

Just some other thoughts. The raised bed is great. we built 2 of them in our yard (out of recycled brick) and love them. Good luck with it all! (and yes, I'm also jealous as your yard is about twice the size of mine!)

Dru said...

2nd option, you'll be glad you did it come winter and have to only go a few feet to the cans...

Patrick said...

Who wins? City kitties or the vermin? Nothing says Hi Neighbors like a 6 ft cement fence/barricade!

the 'rents said...

Definately option A - keep those garbage cans out of sight and smell. Would it be possible to build another raised bed 3.5-4' above the garbage area? Even if it were just slats, potted plants or planter boxes could sit on top of it. Question ... where is WallyJ's potty space? Maybe you could build a 3' wide dog run at the base of the 4' concrete block wall. Also ... where is the grill? That's an integral part of a courtyard!

momnipotent said...

Have you toured around the neighborhoods to see what a concrete block walled yard would feel like? Seems a bit prison-y to me, definitely not hawt. Also, wouldn't you need good reinforced footings underneath that? The wall probably needs reinforcing too. Are you sure that would be less expensive than fencing? The small section of existing wood fence is much more appealing to me, or the white vinyl type. I like Anthony's idea of the wire mesh. Maybe you can go see Anthony's raised beds. Brick sounds attractive.
I also vote for the trash cans towards the alley.
I always vote for things that you can take with you when you move, therefore the built in benches wouldn't be my choice. Definitely plan for a WallyJ spot, like the 'rents said.

Rachel said...

I really enjoy your blog.
Some thoughts: Both garbage cans close in winter/far in summer comments have merit. Perhaps you could plan a slot for them in back in summer, but leave them near the back door in winter - ugly, but you're not using the yard due to cold.
You might find the raised beds easier to utilize if you don't make such a big one. Plan on 4' wide max, skip the steps. You may end up making a "U" of raised beds instead of an "L".
Having struggled with maintaining a large amount of wood fencing on a corner lot, I second the suggestion to keep your metal fence poles if you go with wood. And if you go with concrete, where your plan says lumber posts, use metal or you'll have them rotting in solid concrete and nearly impossible to easily replace.
Consider taking out all your concrete pad up to the AC unit and putting in grass where your table and chairs go. My grandma had this in her inner city rowhouse yard and it softened the concrete block and was like a miracle to take your shoes off in the city.
Last thought - it doesn't look like you use your yard much now. Before you commit to the project plans, go out every day for at least a week and spend 10 minutes - drink your coffee out there, toss the ball for the dog, read the paper - and see how it feels in the morning, evening, where the sun falls, where you feel comfy, where "observed". It will inform your placement of trees and raised beds, the back gate, the eating area, the dog goes bonkers area - everything, really.

Summer said...

Hmm... Momnipotent has me thinking about my yard... we have a concrete wall on one side of the yard, but it's only about 5 feet tall. We found it ugly, but once we put the 1 ft. wood fence on top, we loved it. 6 ft concrete walls may be very oppressive. Maybe you could do a hybrid of some sort?

we're not getting as many rats now that our wood fence is just barely off the patio. Before, we had a board on board fence, without the wire, and the rats ran through it all the time. Now the entry points are much smaller. They could probably still get in if they wanted to, but it hasn't been as friendly for them.

lauren said...

can I hire you to do my backyard when you are done with yours? ;)

oh and who did you use for your roof? I need another estimate - the one I got was ridiculous.

Corey said...

Lauren - I dropped off a card at your house. The company name is Kelbie - they originally quoted me about 3500, but came down to around 2800 for the final price.