Outside Space

The Finished Project

With the majority of our indoor work done, it was time to look at making our outside space a little more presentable. Originally our rectangular back garden had very little useable space due to the garage being built ‘longitudinally’ in the space.  This resulted in no more than a postage stamp’s worth of space.  Of course we managed, slotting our little bistro set into the space between the downstairs loo (more about that to follow!) and the back of the garage.

As it was

The obvious solution was to demolish the garage as-was and rebuild it transversely across the garden, making a much bigger and more useable space to enjoy.

Embracing the Concrete

This was a tiny part of the issues we faced.  A previous owner was obviously a big fan of the concrete slab.  All of our outside space was either a plain concrete slab or was some sort of mosaic of broken paving stones embedded in a concrete slab.  Fine if you like concrete I suppose!  However, gravity dictates that if you have a waterproof slab and then tilt it towards the wall of the house, any water running off the slab was going to flow up against the house too.  It was an object lesson in how to make the walls of your house damp.

Knocking It Down

Therefore, some really drastic remedial action was called for.  Spring started with a bit of good old-fashioned demolition.  Block by block and strut by strut the old garage came down and was carted away to breeze block heaven.  When the last blocks were dug up the garden looked HUGE.  It’s so deceptive when you have a building wrongly placed on a small plot of land.

Demolition Begins

Next, it was that dreaded concrete. No matter how you do it, breaking through 5” concrete is no easy task. When it covers the entire garden outside space it made it seem almost insurmountable.  However I had to dig a foundation for where the new transverse garage was to be built. So out came my trusty 24 year old SDS breaker and a shiny new breaker bit.  I’d pre-warned the neighbours that there was going to be a few days of noise while I was breaking the concrete and they seemed OK with it.  It was imperative that I did it in as fast a time as possible to minimise the disruption.  Finally, it was all broken and it too then all took a ride to breeze block heaven to be reunited with its old vertical friends.

Excavations of our Outside Space

Once all was excavated, it became apparent how many problems had been caused by bad drainage over the many years.  The ground below the slabs was absolutely saturated.  I only needed to dig down a few inches to be at the level of the water table.  So I persisted and after a while things had dried a little. I was then able to dig the footings down to the requisite depth.

The build begins on our outside space

The build went smoothly and relatively quickly, despite temperatures hitting the 30s in late May and early June.  It all took shape and things looked good.  However, and there’s always a but, isn’t there.. 

Backbreaking Work

Our house is in the centre of a block of old terraced houses with a narrow and winding back lane.  It’s on a slope too.  We can, at a push get our car, and even a short wheelbase Transit van down there. (at a push – and with an inch to spare each side on the bends). But a delivery of 3 pallets of concrete blocks, 42 square metres of paving slabs, 20 roof timbers and more than 150 bags of sand and aggregates?  Nope.  This meant wheelbarrowing what we worked out to be around 15 tonnes of materials along a steep lane for around 100 metres.  A better workout we couldn’t have hoped for!

An Unexpected Extra Project

The Dreaded Loo

The downstairs loo was a lean-to on the back of the house with a weird-shaped pitched tile roof above.  When we took away the back wall of the garage we noticed that the roof was sagging terribly.  On closer inspection, the timbers of the roof were rotten through. Not only that, but the whole roof was on the point of collapse.  The wall that the concrete slab was up against was soaked through. The whole structure was in a really sorry state.  So progress on the garage was put on hold while I built up the rear wall of the loo. 

The original internal ceiling was only 6 feet high, which made it necessary for our various sons and sons-in-law to duck to get in there. Secondly, it needed to be weather-proofed and insulated.  Once all was done, we had a much more pleasant loo. I was also secure in the knowledge that it wasn’t going to be a problem going forward.

Back to the garage.  A final push led to the new EPDM flat roof being in place and a milestone had been reached.

Finally, The Patio

The next stage was to replace what had been the big concrete slab with something a little more tasteful. So we plumped for Indian sandstone slabs.  It was a fairly daunting task laying patio stones over what was essentially the whole of the garden area.  It looks good now though.  The final touch was to timber clad the walls of our new outside space with Scandinavian redwood.  What a difference that made.

A nicely paved outside space
A rainy night in our outside space

What’s next I wonder.  Probably the last remaining un-renovated room, which was the old kitchen.  It’s going to be a ‘rip-it-out’ and drywall on this occasion due to the nature of its previous use.  There are cables and pipes all over the place.  Although in theory we could go back to the stones and re-wire, re-plumb etc. I don’t think the reward will be worth the effort for that room. So we’ll make it presentable in a different way.  Watch this space!

Mr C
Dad to 2 grown-up boys and 3 lovely stepdaughters, I'm Mrs C's right-hand man and 'Bamps' to 6 new 'grand-arrivals' Dylan, Harris, Connie, Toby, Rory and Seren. I enjoy a weekend away, a good film on the telly and a good restaurant. I also love a good rant when things aren't up to expectation or are playing on my mind.

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