In the 25 years since we built our house, my wife, Sharon, and I had made piecemeal improvements to the backyard, like adding a pool, fountain, pergola and privacy fence. But, over the years things had fallen into disrepair, and the space was never really what we envisioned.
This time we decided to go all out and do things the right way, giving me my dream outdoor kitchen and Sharon the outdoor living area she’s always wanted. Our back patio renovation included:
- Extending the porch roof to cover the outdoor kitchen
- Building brick cabinets and concrete countertops
- Equipping the outdoor kitchen with a gas grill, vent hood and refrigerator
- Installing retractable screens and folding patio doors
- Building a new wood privacy fence
- Refinishing existing patio furniture
- Adding landscaping and lighting to unify the back yard
Watch our 4-part Outdoor Living web series for details on all of these projects.
Pouring Concrete Countertops
First, we built the forms for the concrete countertops from sheets of melamine. The plastic coating gives the concrete a smooth finish and releases pretty easily when it’s dry. Next, we added wire mesh and rebar inside the forms to reinforce the concrete. Tiny wires tied off to screws on the edge of the forms keep the metal in the center of the space so it won’t be visible on any of the slab surfaces.
To reduce some of the work and ensure a better mix, we rented a mixer to mix the concrete. We used Quikrete’s Countertop Mix because its formula reduces shrinkage and includes plasticizers that help it flow into the forms more smoothly. As the forms fill up, tapping the sides breaks up air pockets and causes them to rise to the surface. Then, we waited a week for them to dry.
After applying some fast setting polyurethane construction adhesive to the tops of the cabinets, we set the counters in place and removed the inside forms that created cut-outs for the sink and the smoker. To get the surface perfectly smooth, we changed the diamond pads on a wet polisher to finer and finer grits, from 400 to 800 to 1500. Once the countertops were fully cured after 30 days, we sealed them with a concrete sealer.
Watch How to Make a DIY Concrete Countertop for more info.
Building a New Fence
For a fencing project of this scale, I brought in a crew from my remodeling company, Lipford Construction. Their first chore was setting the 6×6 posts that anchor the fence. They dug 3-foot deep holes with an auger, which saved work and sped things up. But one of the most important things they did was lay the holes out along a line marked with a string, ensuring that each stretch of fencing was in a perfectly straight line.
The other important factor is using treated wood that is rated for “ground contact,” so they can withstand a greater threat from moisture and pests. As each post went into place, it was leveled and braced so that once the fast-setting concrete was mixed in the hole, there wouldn’t be any movement.
When all the posts were dry and connected together by 2×4 stringers, the vertical pieces of 1×8 went in place. When each section was complete, they chalked a line between the end boards and cut the middle boards to match. This way the slope of the fence followed the hill with a clean straight line. 2x6s were nailed on top of each section so they were centered on the stringer and flush with the 6×6 on each end. Beneath the 2×6 and just above the dirt, each panel was framed in with horizontal 1x6s. Finally, as a finishing touch we added copper caps to the posts.
Watch How to Build a Wood Privacy Fence in Your Yard for more info.
Vendors & Products from This Episode
W’d like to recognize the vendors and products that helped bring our outdoor living space to life:
- Retractable patio screens from Phantom Screens
- Treated pine for fence from YellaWood
- Design by Catherine Arensberg of Azalea Street Designs
- Overture folding door from Energi Fenestration Solutions
- Grill, side burner and cabinet doors by Napoleon
- Lighting and fan from Lamps Plus
- Materials for concrete countertops from Quikrete
- Vent hood from Broan
- Haven landscape lighting by NuTone
Other Tips from This Episode
Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Using a Pool Noodle as a Water Hose
Pool noodles make great Simple Solutions. This one involves using it as a water hose to fill buckets that won’t fit in the sink or under the faucet.
Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Ryobi Easy Edge ONE+ Edger/Trimmer
Ryobi’s Easy Edge ONE+ is is a lightweight trimmer delivers a 10-inch cut width with a rotatable shaft for easy edging capability. It is available at The Home Depot. Watch video.
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