Category Archives: Outdoor Projects

Building a Sandbox

Building a Sandbox - Emma in play zone

After seeing how much our kids loved playing in the sand at the beach this summer, we decided to take the plunge and build them a sandbox. At first I was worried that there would be sand everywhere because of it, but seeing how long they both played happily in it convinced me we should go for it anyway. We briefly considered making a rock box instead but went back to play sand because we thought the kids would enjoy being able to build with it as well as dig.

We looked at a few sandbox designs for inspiration (from here and here) and Dan combined our favourite elements and drew up a design of what we wanted.

Building a Sandbox - Design

We ended up with a simple box made of 2″ x 8″ with a barn doorish lid made of wood slats to keep the leaves and animals out and strong enough to stand up to the weather and the kids walking on it (because we knew that was the first thing Brendan was going to want to do.)

Building a Sandbox - Design with lid open

After playing around with the wood to get an idea of size we decided to make the sandbox 5′ x 5′. Big enough for both of them to have a good amount of room to play, without it being too big for our space.

Building a Sandbox - Deciding the size

Dan cut the 2″ x 8″ with a mitered edge at each corner and added 4″ x 4″ post in the corners for support. He screwed heavy duty lag bolts through the 2″ x 8″ into the posts to attached the corners together.

Building a Sandbox - Cutting the boards

Then we were ready to put together the lid. Dan picked up some cedar 2″ x 4″s for the cross pieces and 5′ cedar fence boards for the slats. He cut the 2″ x 4″ top and bottom pieces and mitered the top edges so the outside edge wouldn’t get in the way of the sandbox lid opening fully.

Building a Sandbox - Screwing the lid together

Then we attached the deck boards to the top and bottom pieces, spacing and screwing them in from the back. Dan ripped down two of the deck boards to fit the smaller space left in the middle of both of the doors. The sandbox was really starting to come together!

Building a Sandbox - Attached lid

We measured where we wanted the hinges and chiseled out a little pocket for them in the top of the 2″ x 8″ before screwing them in place, so the lid would sit flush on top of the box when closed.

Building a Sandbox - Putting on the hinges

Then Dan measured and attached the diagonal pieces between the top and bottom 2″ x 4″s to add more support and create more of a barn door look.

Building a Sandbox - Finished building

All that was left to do was finish it off with some weather protecting stain and attach the handles. So we brought a few test pots home and tried them out on a few different wood scraps and settled on a brown-gray semi-transparent stain from Behr called Boot Hill Grey (we’d love to also stain the play set the same colour down the road). I brushed the stain on one evening after supper and got it finished just before dark.

Building a Sandbox - Stain colour

A couple days later, Dan and the kids picked up a load of play sand from our local Home Hardware and filled up the sandbox with the wheel barrow.

Building a Sandbox - Sandbox beside playset

The kids love it just as much as we hoped! I still can’t get over how long they will play together in there.

Building a Sandbox - Kids building in the sand

The sand also seems to keep enough moisture in it that it’s great for building. It makes bucket sandcastles beautifully. And the lid holds up well to our little climber.

Building a Sandbox - Brendan walking on the lid

So far my worry about having sand in the house all the time has been kept at bay by keeping a small hand broom by the back door of the garage and brushing them off before they come in.

Building a Sandbox - Kids playing in the sand

We fit this project in between family vacations and a few other home projects but the actual time to put this together wasn’t all that much. We spent one evening building the box, another evening putting together the lid and a third evening to stain it before we were ready for sand. So its definitely a doable project and so much fun for the kids. I love that it’s one of those things that can grow with them.

Building a Sandbox - The play zone


Hydrangeas in Bloom

My hydrangea bushes have been in full bloom for a few weeks now and I’m loving them so much. They are such pretty flowers.

Front Garden with hydrangeas

With my first hydrangea bush at our old rental, I got about four or five blooms a year, so I’m so impressed with this first year of blooms on these after just planting them this spring. I can’t wait to see them all filled out over the next few years.

Hydreangeas in bloom1

Hydrangeas in bloom2

So many big white blooms together. And I love that they last so long. They are the perfect front door flower.

Hydrangeas in front garden

I love the freshness of the white against our orange brick. They look so sharp. Our lilies are getting ready to bloom soon too so it should be fun to see a little colour added to the mix.

Front Garden in bloom

I’m so glad we planted the hydrangeas this spring. They make me smile every time I see them.

Read about planting the front garden here.

A New Back Door

When we moved into our house last fall, one of the things on our list to fix was the door on the back of the garage.

Installing a Exterior Door - Before

It was original to the house and was showing its wear. The door jam was especially bad as the wood had rotted out and was a bit of a tripping hazard. It wasn’t pretty.

Installing a Exterior Door - Before door frame

So we had been keeping our eye on the sales and when Home Depot had a shipment of doors come in a few weeks ago we finally got a pretty, functional replacement for it. We decided on a pre-hung steel core door, with a half window for light and retractable blinds inside the glass for privacy.

But first we had to get the old one out of there. Dan started by removing the door and then took the reciprocating saw to the edge of the frame and cut the nails between the door frame and the wall framing. Then he began prying off the old wood with the crowbar.

Installing a Exterior Door - Removing the old door frame1

Installing a Exterior Door - Removing the old door frame2

This part went pretty fast and we were left with the rough opening. It’s crazy looking having a hole in the side of your house, but now we had a clean slate to install the new door!

Installing a Exterior Door - Old door frame gone

To prep the opening for it, Dan cut and laid new, pressure treated wood on the step to go under the jam to give it a little more height. He drilled and screwed it into place so it wouldn’t shift during the installation.

Dan moved the new door into place from the inside and I held it steady from the outside while Dan made sure it was level with the opening.

Installing a Exterior Door - Fitting new door

Next we added wood shims between the new door fame and the rough opening to hold it in place. Dan put them through from the inside of the door and I put them through from the opposite side to get the best hold.

Installing a Exterior Door - Shims in new door frame

Dan screwed from the inside of the door frame through each of the shims to the wall to secure it in place.

Installing a Exterior Door - Screwing door frame

Now we had a fully functioning door again. It was still very rough around the edges but it opened and closed beautifully.

Installing a Exterior Door - Trying out new door

Next came the weatherproofing. Dan pulled out the tube of expanding foam and filled the gap around the door frame. (Here’s my husband’s tip for keeping half used cans of expanding foam from drying out. Put WD-40 on the length of a pipe cleaner and insert it in the nozzle. Ours was still good after nine months of storing it using the pipe cleaner trick).

Installing a Exterior Door - Filling gap with expanding foam

Now all we had to do was finish off the outside rough edge. Dan nailed brick moulding along the top and side edges to cover the rough gap between the brick and door frame.

Installing a Exterior Door - Installing brick moulding

He also cut and screwed in a piece of white metal flashing for the very top edge which worked out really well to cover up the awkward gap on top.

Installing a Exterior Door - Putting up metal flashing

He caulked around the edge to fill any gaps and added a square aluminium tube along the bottom edge of the door sill to add support and finish it off.

Installing a Exterior Door - Finishing off the door sill

We bought a new oil rubbed bronze door knob and deadbolt for the door and its so much better now.

Installing a Exterior Door - After1

And here it is with the blinds closed.

Installing a Exterior Door - After with blinds

We love the new door. We are no longer tripping over the old door sill and everything is definitely more air tight now. Not to mention pretty. It’s a nice surprise every time we come in from the backyard.

Installing a Exterior Door - After2

Anyone else ever installed a new door? It was all new to me so I found it interesting to see how it all went together as Dan installed it without a second thought. I’m a lucky girl.

Outdoor Chairs

As we’ve been turning our focus to our outdoor spaces with the summer weather, we toyed with looking into some furniture for the backyard. We already had a couple lounge chairs from family which were perfect for reading and watching the kids. We even had a table, also from family, but no dining chairs yet to put around it. So this spring we improvised and ate dinner outside with our plates on our laps. It worked, but was a little messy with the kiddos, so we didn’t do it as often as I would have liked.

Brendan in Chair

I looked around at a few places for outdoor dining chairs and saw a few I liked, but seeing as we don’t have a deck yet to put them on, it wasn’t really high on our list. Then Dan happened to see some on sale at Home Depot as he was picking up some supplies for a project and gave me a call. We decided to go for them, as they were just the style we were looking for and were only $18.00 a piece. So he brought four of them home for around the table.

Outdoor Table and Chairs

We pulled the table out of the garage where we had been storing it and set them up in our backyard. We had an impromptu barbecue with family the other weekend and it was so nice to have the extra seating. They are so comfy and I love that I can leave them outside without having to worry about them getting wet. We get so much use out of them because they are always there and ready. Supper in the backyard is happening so much more now that we have an easy place to do it.

Brendan Eating Outside

The downside is that we have a lot more furniture to move when we mow the grass, but at least it won’t be forever as it can all transfer to the deck once its built. And the fact that we are able to enjoy our backyard that much more now makes it worth it to us.

BBQ and Outdoor Eating Area

I’d love to spray paint the table to freshen it up and match the chairs eventually, but I’m thinking I may wait until we have the deck built before I tackle that. Right now I love that we can enjoy our backyard to its fullest, even without a deck.

What about you? Anyone else as excited as I am about dinner outside?

Eating Outside

A Playset For The Kids

I love spending a good portion of our summer days outside. Now that we have this, even more so.

Building a Playset

Last fall, my brother-in-law had a neighbour who was passing on their old playset so he picked it up and brought it up for us, soon after we moved. With unpacking and getting settled in we didn’t have a chance to assemble it before the snow came. So this spring, the kids were so excited to get their playset put together and I was so excited to turn the pile of wood by our backdoor into something useful and fun.

We decided to place it in the back corner of our lot as it can be seen from anywhere in the back yard there, as well as from our big side yard and back french doors where we hope to have a deck someday. It was a bit of a puzzle at first as Dan spread it all out and figured out what went where and what wood we might still need. He ended up buying four pressure treated 4 x 4 posts for the supports and then we were ready to start assembling.

Building a Playset - Deck and railing

We worked on it off and on in the evenings, first digging the holes for the posts and getting them in the ground. The platform was all in one piece so we just had to attach it to the posts using spare wood as cross pieces and some heavy duty lag bolts to anchor them. Next we added the railing, which was already in three sections so we played around with them a bit and cut them to size so we could attach them between the posts.

Building a Playset - Adding the slide and ladder

Then we were ready to put the ladder and slide on the front. I freshened up the slide by spray painting it with Krylon’s Fusion for Plastic in a bright yellow. It took three bottles to do two good coats and although it didn’t have perfect coverage, it did really help brighten it up so it doesn’t look so faded anymore.

The kids were so happy about this step because it meant that they could finally start playing on it! That slide got a lot of use and Brendan loved being able to look out and wave from the top. Emma loved it so much she asked if she could sleep out there at night (which is really saying something coming from the girl who doesn’t like to sleep alone at night).

Building a Playset - Brendan climbing down ladder

When we had a free Saturday morning, Dan added the monkey bars and swing set under them, which came together pretty fast compared to the first part. The pieces were all there and we didn’t have to do much fiddling around to get it to fit together, which was nice.

At this point we debated between leaving it as it was as more of a fort, or adding a roof for more of a house look and a little shade from the sun. We were both leaning more towards adding a roof so we decided to go for it. Dan built the frame with leftover wood and I held it up as he attached it to the posts.

Building a Playset - Adding the roof

This proved a whole lot harder then it sounds as that thing was heavy and a little awkward. It also got a little cockeyed during the first installation so we had to take it down, secure it better and then get it back up there again. Our wood clamps ended up saving the day for us as they helped me hold it in place as Dan secured it and we finally got it up there and looking good. Dan bought fence boards for the roof and nailed them on the frame the next evening, overlapping the ends.

The roof is my favourite part. It makes we want to play house and make some mud pies (am I the only one who did that?). The kids have spent hours out here. They love it! Emma has learned how to pump all by herself on the swing and Brendan loves climbing all over it.

Building a Playset - Emma on the swing

Emma and I have great plans for adding some kind of flag and I’d love to stain it someday to unify the old and new wood, but I’ll have to wait until at least the fall so the new pressure treated wood can weather first. We’re also looking forward to adding a sandbox to the mix!

Do you have a play area in your yard for your kids? Where was your favourite place to play as a child?

The Front Gardens

This spring I couldn’t wait to play around with the front gardens.

Front of House Before

Front Garden Before - Left side

Front Garden Before - Right side

Mostly because I was dying to add some hydrangea bushes. Annabelle Hydrangeas are my favourite and we had put one bush in the front garden at our old rental, but it didn’t really do much (I don’t think it got enough sunlight there). This time around I was determined to find the perfect spot for them. Since they are supposed to like morning sun and afternoon shade (so they say) I deemed the front gardens as the perfect spot. They get sun all morning but by the afternoon they are covered in shade from the house.

Front Garden - Removing old border1

To get the front garden ready for them Dan first pulled up the old scalloped stone border for me as it wasn’t really our style. We also put down more mulch as the landscaping fabric was showing through in a few spots and went with a darker colour than before for a little more contrast.

Front Garden - Removing old border2

Then it was time to move around some plants to make room for the new ones. I moved one of the trees to the side of the house and the other to the back by the garage door. I love how they add a bit of colour and height around the house. The boxwood and lilies I used in the new garden arrangement and the others I passed onto my mother-in-law for her garden.

Front Garden After - Dwarf Alberta Spruce

I brought three large Annabelle Hydrangea bushes and two small Dwarf Alberta Spruce trees to add to the front garden. One of the dwarf spruce I planted in a large clay pot to the right of the door and the other on the left in the garden. I’m hoping that once the one in the garden gets a bigger they will frame the door nicely.

Front Garden After - Hydrangeas and Boxwood

By the time I was ready to plant the hydrangeas Dan was home from work, so we finished planting them together after supper. We put them along the back of the wall with the boxwood in front. The lilies went between the boxwood and the dwarf spruce to help fill out the empty space around it until it gets bigger.

Front Garden After - Hydrangea bloom

Front Garden After - Hydrangea plant

I love this little arrangement. I’m hoping that as things fill out it will look even better but I’m so enjoying having the hydrangeas out front and watching the blooms start to form. I can’t believe there are so many this first year! The boxwood work so well with them and I’m really pleased with my stately little spruce by the door.

Front Garden After - Left side

I didn’t touch the second front garden on the right side of the house besides adding a little more mulch as I’m still trying to decide what to do with it. I’m thinking something that flowers to go along with the boxwood that is already there. Maybe some peonies or more hydrangeas? We’ll have to see.

Front Garden After - Fern in pot

I’ve been loving potted ferns lately so I picked up this little guy to go in the large clay pot by the garage entrance and a few ranunculus and bacopa to go in my smaller pots. The fern is going strong but the smaller pots are not doing so well anymore so I brought them around to the back to see if I can revive them in a more shady spot.

Front Garden After - Ranunculus and Bacopa in pots

Front Garden After - Right side

So here’s where we are at. It feels so much more like our home when we pull in the driveway now. I love that about projects like this. Anyone else working in the garden? What do you have in your front garden?