A Backyard Renovation Horror Story

I’ve always been a do-it-yourselfer who is handy around the home. I love to take on projects, and I enjoy the process as much as the final product. And while I have been able to create some masterpieces and renovate parts of my home with style, I had an unfortunate experience with my backyard. Maybe my first mistake was not differentiating between my backyard and the interior. I thought that if I applied the same type of thinking that I did for regular renovations, I would be able to pull off a backyard job with no problem. This type of thinking is what led to one of the biggest renovation horror stories of my life. I’ll share it with you now in hopes that you can avoid anything that even comes close.

No Plan Ahead – whenever I did a smaller project in my home, I always played by ear. Or if it was in an area where I had worked before, I already had a general idea of my previous plans. In other words, I was never starting from scratch. But when I was working on my backyard, I had no other projects or renovations to draw on. This was the first time I was doing anything back there which is something I should’ve realized because if I did, I would have known I needed to structure and organize better.

A Clean Slate – since this was the first time I was working in my backyard, I thought it would be smart to start from scratch. So I basically got rid of everything that was already there. HUGE MISTAKE. I basically gutted my backyard without thinking about how I could salvage certain elements. A lot of money was wasted because I could have used older elements in my new design.

The Exploding Wallet – when you have a big pit in your backyard, and you’ve thrown away a lot of usable elements, you’re going to be in trouble. Again, lack of planning hit me hard because I didn’t anticipate how much everything would cost. It was clear that I should not have bulldozed everything while hoping that things would just fall into place.

Too Fancy – I made a mistake that a lot of first-time renovators do. Instead of progressing from step to step, I wanted to change my backyard overnight. I had plans for a fancy patio, an outdoor fireplace, a big expensive barbecue, and a playground for the kids. In retrospect, I should have turned them into smaller projects rather than trying to fit them in within a short amount of time.

The Contractor – I might like to do things myself, but I also know when to ask for help. I finally decided there were aspects of the job that I just couldn’t handle. Before my budget ballooned, even more, I decided to call a contractor for some professional help. This was also the first time I had done anything like this, so it was a learning experience. The first contractor I met with was an expert in backyard renovation, but he was also a master of up-selling. I could barely get a word in edgewise as it was clear from the start that he wanted total control and more significantly, to rack up the price tag. I finally had to let him go and do a much more thorough round of interviews for workers to get my backyard track.

My Backyard Now – I wish I could say the story has a happy ending, and it might one day. But for now, my backyard is a work in progress that is still unfinished. There are patches of dirt where there should be grass, and I still haven’t implemented outdoor lighting. My sprinkler system works, but until I actually put in a lawn, there’s nothing to sprinkle. I did put a lot of energy into the patio area so that I could at least set up a barbecue and grilling station. But the rest of my backyard looks like it was touched by the apocalypse. This has definitely been a difficult experience, and I’m hoping that you can learn from some of my mistakes. A backyard job needs as much thorough planning and forethought as anything you do inside.

This has been a contribution from Frank Mason. Frank Mason is a contributor at gasgrillsandbbq.com where everything related to the backyard is discussed, especially as it pertains to the wonderful world of barbecue. You can check out his site if you’re looking for more backyard tips or to buy the best propane grill.