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Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Courtyard Project - The Walls Are Built

No sooner had the paint dried on the walls in the kitchen that we have turned our attention to the front of the house design and getting the courtyard project underway.

Let's take you back and show you how our house looked before the renovations .... If you can tear your eyes away from ugly for a second you can see how the huge tree took up all the land at the front and the land was sunken and uneven making the whole area un-usable wasted space. This part of the project that we have just completed is to fill and level out the land and build a limestone and brick courtyard around the front of house which means we can make use of all that space, add security and privacy, and an outdoor room.

Before the exterior renovations - Go here for progress to date

The courtyard was approved by our Local Council earlier this year but we have been waiting until the Winter weather cleared to start on outside work.

Last month things started to progress when Spring arrived and with a break in the rain we organised for the concrete footings to be poured for the base of the courtyard walls. Although we did the footings for our garage ourselves these footings were a lot bigger around 38M2 this time so we had help digging out the front and pouring the concrete

Then we had to find a limestone company to build the courtyard retaining and walls from limestone and bricks. We discovered that most bricklayers aren't equipped for this type of work as you need a bobcat to move the big metre long limestone blocks and the smaller blocks are also too heavy to lift with your hands trust me, I couldn't even lift 1 block and Mr P struggled to move the leftover blocks one at a time on a trolley!

The smaller limestone blocks used for infill

We contacted 3 companies for quotes, 2 came back verbal and the 3rd was in writing and we choose the 3rd as they specialise in retaining blocks of land (which was our biggest challenge with the angle of our land) it's a small family run business, they seemed to know what they were talking about and were keen on the job and could start the following week. We got the quote down from $13,800 they added in to retain the driveway as well and reduced the quote to $12,450.

They organised all the materials: the 1 metre limestone blocks, smaller blocks, pillar caps, etc. All we had to organise was the sand to be delivered. Let me just say, it was a nice change to not have to do all the running around and just let these guys get on with ordering the supplies and doing the work.

So .... this is how the Courtyard project has progressed these last few weeks

Once we signed up with the limestone lads and paid a deposit, they started the following week and were at the house bright and early cranking up the bobcat and the wet saw and cutting blocks and building the courtyard walls. They finished building the courtyard in just 6 days all up .... I still can't believe how quickly it was built!

Bobcat ready and rearing to start work

The large metre long limestone blocks were delivered and the retaining wall around the base of the courtyard were built on top of the concrete footings that had been poured a few weeks before.

First row of retaining blocks laid

The next day they laid another few rows of retaining blocks and when I say a few more I mean enough to hold up a small village, mountain, or to fill in some sunken uneven land such as ours! They also laid the first row along the entire border of the courtyard walls.

Second lot of retaining

Can you believe it is 4 rows of blocks deep!

On the weekend we spent a few hours waterproofing the inside of this wall to protect it from water damage as it will be under the ground so deep on this side. We applied the waterproofing with a cheap paint roller kit and paint brush.

Applying the waterproofing

Doing a great job as always babe :)

We also laid a drainage hose which we covered with a few bags of gravel. We then connected a pipe to the drainage hose and will connect it all to our soak wells once we have installed them.

Laying the drainage hose

Covered in gravel and connected to the pipe

When the guys returned on Monday morning we asked them to go another row higher with the retaining wall at the front of the courtyard, as you can see the front row was still quite low compared to the level of the land. We were worried about it not being strong enough to hold up the weight of the sand that will lean on it from the front and also when we install the fence panels the sand will fall through which won't look very good or be supportive enough.

Retaining with 1 row of blocks

Retaining with another row of blocks - much better, safer and stronger

We had one of those shit happens moments when we ordered the sand and specifically told the driver to dump it on our driveway in front of the garage door ... and they did the total opposite and dumped it on the other side of the house right in front of the bobcat! The next day I was stressing about the guys not being able to get the bobcat out and thinking I'd have to start moving the sand by hand with a shovel! But luckily they just used the bobcat to pick up the sand and dump it over the top of the wall until they'd moved enough to get the bobcat out. Phew there's nothing these guys couldn't do!

Sand blocking the bobcat in

If you can't go past it you go over the top!
The pillars were then marked out as to where they would be built evenly spaced across the courtyard. We were a bit worried about the height of them but it couldn't really be helped due to the staggering height of the retaining walls and we wanted to keep the pillars all the same height which aesthetically we think will look better.

X marks the spot!

Pillars built

Once all the retaining walls and the pillars were done, the smaller blocks were laid in between as the infill. Doing it this way makes the pillars look 3D and they become the feature in the wall.

View from inside the courtyard

View front outside the courtyard

View from the driveway side

Next we decided what caps we wanted for the top of the pillars. We didn't want the pyramid style we wanted something a bit more modern like a flat style. The limestone guys ran around until they could find us some flat caps that we liked, ordered them in and fitted them in a day.

Fancy flat caps fitted

All the caps fitted

The last day they did the tuck pointing which is filling in any holes or chips in the bricks and making them all smooth and pretty. And without stating the obvious there was also truck loads of sand dumped and then leveled out with the bobcat in the centre of the courtyard to fill and level it with the front of the house - remember how it looked before? It's so much better now it's added more living space and I can't wait for it to be all landscaped and ready to sit and watch the sunset with a glass of vino!

Tuck pointing all done

Courtyard walls built - ready for the fence infill panels now

This weekend's task is to measure between the pillars so we can order the fence infill panels. We have already worked out our exterior colours and will get the jarrah look metal panels to match our garage door. We will also get a gate made for this part of the courtyard which will give us more security and privacy. The fence and gate will be a DIY kit that we'll order and install ourselves.

A new gate will go here

There's something missing - the mailbox was meant to be built into the brick pillar of the fence according to the plans but the pillars weren't wide enough which meant they would have made them weak or possibly damage it if we had them cut in a mail box. So we are going to attach a mail box to the fence panels instead which I think will look really sleek and modern.

Now we are working on the driveway which is booked in to be poured next week so I'll share the progress on that part of the project soon.

For updates on the Courtyard project (and everything else happening in the Jarrah Jungle household!) follow me on Facebook and you'll never miss a thing!

[All images my own]
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  1. Great job done!
    Thanks for sharing.

    Have a nice day.

  2. WooohoOO!! Michelle that looks awesome! I am so excited for you :) You've turned a scrubby, bumpy ugly wasteland of a yard into a very functional space that will give you an awesome entertaining and dining area. It might have cost you $12,500 but I think doing this would easily add at LEAST $30k to the value of your house. Can't wait to see what you do next. Well done you! :)

    1. Thank you! I start to skip when I walk towards the front of the house now instead of hiding as I cross the road hoping nobody will see me! Such a change and that is the plan to add some value to the house. Fingers crossed it works :)

  3. Oh wow, it's all happening so quickly now. What a good job by the company. I bet you are hanging out to have the driveway poured and then hardly any (compared to now) sand being tracked into the house!

    1. It has been happening so quick and the driveway they are starting this weekend to pour next week. You have no idea about the sand ... Mr P had to piggy back me the other day I was all dressed up in heels and didnt want to get dirty. And my car has almost got bogged a few times too. Not fun. But will be all done soon :)

  4. Michelle, what a lot of work but it looks like the result will be well worth it! Cheers


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