My Home Remodel, Part 14: Backyard Bliss

deck, Thermory,
Bart and I got married in our backyard, overlooking Black Hawk Lake.

Before my husband Bart and I started thinking about the details of our kitchen remodel, we dreamed about improving our back deck. We have a wonderful backyard overlooking Black Hawk Lake, which is a glacial lake. It’s so beautiful back there, we actually got married in our backyard. We’re fortunate to live in a secluded part of town bay, so boats don’t speed past our house. Instead, it’s a spot where friends tie their boats together and share laughs while letting their kids swim or jump on Maui mats, or listen to our town’s summer concert series performed from historic stone piers. (This drone video showcasing the concert series basically starts above our house.)

Once our daughter Clare was born, Bart and I wanted to spend more time on our deck, listening to concerts and having friends over, rather than going out on the town with an infant. But our deck was incredibly hot in the summer months and a little cramped. Plus, the wood didn’t look great and the plastic railing was out of whack. The first item on our agenda was building a roof structure over our deck to protect us from the elements while setting the stage for our kitchen addition/remodel. We had that roof built in August 2019. (Read more about the roof in Part 4: The Outside Receives an Update.)

Thermory installs with a clip system so all the fasteners are hidden.

We started our kitchen project in September 2020 with Bart dismantling our existing deck so excavators could dig out the basement we placed under what would become our kitchen addition (where the deck once was). While our kitchen project was beginning, I ordered our decking material from Thermory. I met with representatives from Thermory during A’18 in New York City. I had never heard of Thermory before that appointment but I walked away knowing that would be our decking material once we started our new deck project. It’s certainly a bonus of this job to learn about all the innovative products and materials available in the industry!

Thermory offers real wood decking and cladding that has gone through a heat and steam process to modify each wood fiber, making it more durable and stable than traditional wood boards. The products are third-party certified for rot-, fire- and termite-resistance, strength and stability, as well as the reduction of formaldehyde. Thermory recommends oiling your deck with Cutek Extreme to maintain the color because the wood will gray like any wood over time. However, if you let it gray, it’s like a hardwood floor. You can sand it down to reveal the original color. If these benefits hadn’t already sold me, Thermory also is installed with a clip system so the fasteners are completely hidden.

Our deck and custom cable rail as it looks today (with a little morning dew on the stairs).

I ordered Thermory’s 1×6 ash standard decking material in fall 2020. The contractor who completed all the structural work on our kitchen would be building the deck for us. He was juggling multiple projects at the end of 2020 and he winters in Florida, so he stored our decking until he could install it this past spring. (I have learned home remodeling is a hurry-up-and-wait process!)

Once March rolled around, our contractor had glowing reviews for Thermory. He said he wished he knew about it five years ago when he installed his own deck. He loved the clip system, which made the installation efficient and easy. It only took about five days for our contractor and his assistant to install the deck frame and deck itself, including the skirting, which also consisted of Thermory.

I decided I wanted a cable rail for the deck so we could maintain our views of the lake and yard, so our contractor worked on building custom posts, also from Thermory. While he did that in his shop, I oiled the deck with Cutek Extreme. Thermory recommends mixing colourtone to match the wood—in my case, walnut—into the oil to enhance the natural character of the wood (without obscuring the wood grain) to further delay graying. I painted it onto the skirting and mopped it onto the deck floor. It took me about six hours to do all of it but I like to paint and it was a beautiful April day to be working outside. We stayed off the deck for about a week after I completed this process. I’m pretty sure it only took a couple days for the oil to soak in and dry but I wanted to be sure!

The landscaping crew gave me a bit of grief about the pattern I chose to lay our pavers, but I think it turned out beautifully.

During our remodeling process, our backyard grass took a beating while kitchen cabinetry and materials were loaded through our Nanawall doors. We knew we’d need to reseed the grass. To the right, or the west side, of our new deck, Bart and I had always wanted to create a patio. We decided now, while our yard is torn up, was a great time to finally install that patio with firepit.

Bart and I met with a local landscaping contractor, the same firm that excavated our basement, to discuss possibilities. We chose Colonial Pavers in Moonlight Gray from Rochester Concrete Products. Our landscaper would use a dark gray brick around the perimeter of the patio, which would also create the firepit and connect to a flowerbed in front of our new deck. The flowerbed would extend from the west side of the patio along the west side of our house around to the front, as well. (Don’t even get me started on my new obsession with flowers! We’ve been buying lilacs, azaleas, hydrangea, garden phlox in every color and even a hardy hibiscus. Fingers crossed in a couple years the flowers will be gorgeous!)

We’re ready to entertain from our new deck and patio space!

The crew tilled and compacted the ground where our new patio would be. Then they put down a mat before laying gravel and installing the perimeter brick and pavers. They started work in June, during a stretch of very hot days—a couple days were more than 100 F. I felt bad for them while I watched their progress. I think the weather motivated them to get done quickly because the entire project only took four days. Apparently, the most difficult part was the pattern I chose for laying the pavers. The crew gave me a little grief for that, but I’m absolutely thrilled with the pattern and think they did a wonderful job creating another spot from which we can enjoy our beautiful backyard and its view. We are also so grateful to finally have the space to entertain our friends. In fact, our first big summer party is happening in just a few weeks. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by!

The back of our home as it appears today. Next up: reseeding grass that was destroyed during our remodel.

Read the previous posts in my home remodeling series:

About the Author

Christina A. Koch
Christina A. Koch is editorial director and associate publisher of retrofit.

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