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Our Backyard Makeover Before and After Pictures

This year was the year of backyard renovations for us! We tackled a several major backyard projects and today we’re sharing all of the backyard makeover before and after pictures! Enjoy!

A full source list is provided at the end of the post for your convenience!

2020 has been everything but expected. We expected in start our big backyard makeover as soon as the weather warmed up in the spring, but we ended up not being able to get started until July.

We had several months of no childcare and then were never able to start our littlest in daycare as planned, so we were working with a limited schedule and our renovation projects fell a bit behind schedule.

Add to that all with the crazy emotional journey that we’ve ALL been on this year…. here we are finishing up the backyard just in time for December!

Definitely seems crazy to be sharing landscaping and outdoor projects at the same time as holiday crafts, but 2020 is just that…crazy.

Needless to say, this backyard makeover before and after update has been a LONG time coming.

This backyard makeover before and after article contains affiliate links, but nothing that I wouldn’t recommend wholeheartedly. Read my full disclosure here.

Backyard before pictures

Let’s start at way back at the beginning… all of the super embarrassing before pictures that will make you cringy.

Here’s what the backyard looked like right when we moved in.

shows a before picture of the backyard with overlay text that says before
Backyard at move in

There was no fence, which was an issue with our dog. We put some temporary wire fencing attached to an old wood pallet there in the middle. But it looked horrible and there was, of course, no privacy to the alleyway behind our house.

There was some low quality grass that had not been taken care of and didn’t come back very well at all in the spring, so we didn’t waste the water taking care of it. We knew we wanted to do a big makeover back here, which would include grass.

shows another angle of the backyard before renovation
Backyard at move in

Backyard upgrades (2018 – 2020)

Over the last two and half years we’ve completed a number of upgrades back here that helped make the backyard more useable and functionable for us (even if we didn’t tackle the whole big backyard makeover yet).

shows a new fence in the backyard
New wooden fence installed last year

Last year the yard got a big upgrade with a new wooden fence along the edge of the backyard enclosing it from the alley way with a big functioning gate as well. Finally some privacy and getting rid of the temporary wire fencing that was falling apart!

shows new backyard patio with large farmhouse wooden table, string lights overhead hanging from trees, fence in background and macrame hammock
We also added a fence to the side yard to enclose it from the front yard.

We also built a fence along the side yard wrapping around the wood deck and enclosing that area from the front yard. Again WAY more privacy and room for the kids and dog to run around!

shows the patio being stained with penofin oil

We completely sanded down and refinished the neglected wood deck. Learn how to restore a deck here and then see how the refinished deck held up with an update one year later here.

shows a picture of a light blue garden shed next to the back fence in backyard

Logan built this simple garden shed to hold the garden tools (like shovels, rakes and lawnmowers). See how we have the garden tools organized here!

shows a giant chalkboard on the back fence with doors opened and life roof with succulents on top

We also added this fun outdoor chalkboard with doors, complete with a live roof above with succulents! This has held up very well 2 years later and our kids use it all the time! Learn how to make this weatherproof outdoor chalkboard here.

But it still needed a backyard makeover…

Even with those small (and still meaningful updates), what the backyard REALLY needed was some attention with a big backyard makeover.

shows a before photos of the backyard

After the grass died back here (it wasn’t anything special to begin with!), it was just a schedule of maintaining the weeds when they got too tall and the rest was just a dirty mess. We were always having to clean our shoes and change our clothes after playing out there because it was SO dusty!

messy backyard that needs a makeover with weeds and debris laying around
Side yard last summer
shows a before pictures of the backyard before renovating with mess and trash
Side yard last summer

It was simply a mess! We knew that we were going to tackle the backyard renovations in 2020, so we kinda just “let things go” back here while we continued to work on the interiors.

shows a before picture of backyard with dead weeds and trash
Here was the state of the yard this summer right before we started the renovations
shows a before picture of the backyard with unlevel ground, dead weeks and trash

It all started coming together when we made a plan. You can learn more about our family friendly backyard plan here.

Our Backyard Renovation Plan

shows a rough drawing plan of the backyard plans

But (as with most things in 2020) things changed. As soon as we ordered the playset and did some more measuring (for what seemed like the 1000th time), we made the mutual decision to move the playset over and extend the grass area.

This was for a few reasons:

  • We could have a better safety perimeter around the playground
  • We could see the playset from the deck and seating area on the paver patio…And there’s just something appealing about being able to sit there while the kids played without having to get up and peek our heads around the corner to check on them.
sketched out backyard makeover plan with arrows showing changes and text overlay that says moving playset over here, there's more room for a good safety perimeter and you'll be able to see it from the deck and fire pit area
Here’s the very official revised backyard plan

And so the backyard renovations begin…

Phase 1. Level out the entire yard and clear the weeds

shows a man leveling out the dirt in a backyard

We started off by clearing all the clutter and junk up. Several trips to the dump later, we brought in a rented mini track loader to move dirt where needed and level everything nice and flat.

shows a bobcat skid steer leveling out dirt in backyard for renovation

We used this mini track loader (may also be called mini skid steer) all weekend to level out the backyard.

We used this mini track loader (may also be called mini skid steer) all weekend to level out the backyard
Dirt leveled out in backyard during renovation
We removed a chainlink fenced area over here by the shed, which made the yard feel much larger

It also worked great for picking up large pieces of broken concrete and some chainlink fence pieces. We were able to load them in the front bucket and have the machine lift them up into Logan’s truck, which definitely saved our backs.

Man using rotary spread to lay grass seed down in backyard on dirt to seed a new lawn

Phase 2. Plant new grass

Next order of business was planting grass seed. We marked off the yard with stakes and used this grass seed. It was ready to mow and able to walk on after about 4-5 weeks.

New grass being watered with sprinklers
New lawn grown from seed after 5 weeks of growing
@makingmanzanita

4 weeks after planting!! Check out Pt 1 to learn how to plant new grass seed! #landscaping #backyard #grass #renovation #millennialhomeowner

♬ Backyard Boy – Claire Rosinkranz
Man using rotary spreader to fertilize new lawn in backyard with fall lawn food
Man setting up new wooden playset in backyard

Phase 3. Set up playground.

While the grass was growing, we switched gears to the playground. It took Logan a day or two to assemble it and the kids were SO excited to play on it.

Wooden backyard playset with swings and slide getting assembled in backyard
shows wood stained backyard patio with outdoor dining furniture with outdoor rug, umbrella and string lights with fence in the background

Phase 4. Refresh wood deck furniture & decor.

With the whole backyard getting a makeover, the wood deck furniture needed some love. The table we had made years ago was damaged (we left uncovered for a couple years, it was bound to happen).

We replaced everything and it was looking so pretty and cozy! Learn more about how to create a cozy patio here (which includes links to all the sources).

Landscape fabric laid out along edge of fence in backyard before putting down gravel
3/4 minus gravel along edge of fence in backyard

Phase 5. Add edging & gravel.

Next we added landscape fabric and 3/4 minus (sometimes called “state spec”) gravel to the back area along the fence. This will prevent weeds from popping up and still provide a nice walkway and even driveway for our storage trailer, which is parked back here.

Large pile of 3/4 minus gravel in driveway
Curious how 12 cubic yards of gravel looks?
Man using jack hammer to remove concrete pad and ramp by backdoor in backyard during renovation
Broken up concrete from jack jammer in backyard

We also removed the concrete pad and ramp at the back door, which was damaged. We rented a jack hammer to tackle this job.

Once it was out, we put down landscape fabric and gravel. Next year we plan to add a wood deck there, so stay tuned!

shows a before and after picture of backyard makeover with a paver patio and fireplace added

Phase 6. Install paver patio and fire pit

Next we added a gorgeous paver patio and fire pit in the area next to the wood deck. It was a lot of hard work, but it turned out so good.

shows the paver patio and fire pit with chairs and blankets around it and dog laying in front with wood deck, outdoor dining furniture, hammock and fence in background

Learn how to install the paver patio here and here’s a separate breakdown that shows how to add the fire pit.

shows a kids swing set with rubber mulch getting spread out

Phase 7. Add rubber mulch to playground area.

Last but not least (for now that is) we added more landscape fabric and black rubber mulch to the areas where the swing set is. We’ve got a whole post coming about why we decided to go with rubber mulch for the playground cover, so definitely check that out too!

shows part of a kids swing set in a backyard with black rubber mulch with fence in background

Are you ready to see the finished backyard makeover pictures?

shows the paver patio and mulch with deck in background
shows a view of the wood stained deck under edison bulb string lights in backyard with wooden table and striped umbrella
shows a swing set with rubber bark and paver patio in foreground
entire view of family friendly renovated backyard for little kids with wooden swing set with rubber ground cover, grass area, wooden fence, paver patio with fire pit for entertaining and wooden deck with plenty of seating for dining outside
shows a kids swing set with slide and roof and rubber bark base in residential backyard
shows paver patio and fire pit with chairs and swing set in backyard with fence and grass shown in background

Doesn’t it look SO GOOD?!

What’s planned next for the backyard…

I can’t wait to finish the finishing touches when the weather warms back up in the Spring. Here’s what we’re planning to do then.

shows paver patio with curved edges and gravel by backdoor
We want to add a wood deck near this back door over the gravel section there and add flower beds along the edge of the house
shows a kids swing set and rubber bark base
Add a privacy fence behind the playground to block the view of the trailer
shows a shed in the background of the fireplace and yellow boots propped up on fire pit
Build a firewood storage rack near the garden shed
shows the paver patio and wood stained deck
Gravel the part of the yard that wraps around the edge of the deck (under the hammock shown here)
shows paver patio and fireplace
Build wooden outdoor furniture to go around the fire pit

Seeing that last of projects makes me so excited to get back out here once the weather warms up and continue working on our backyard makeover before and after transformation!

Are you ready to see another look at those backyard makeover before and after pictures?

shows a before and after photo of the backyard with overlay text that says backyard makeover before and after
shows the backside of the house before and after pictures
shows a few different before and after photos of the backyard with overlay text that says backyard makeover

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