By: Thomas Boni
Frank and Suzanne Hicks are empty nesters who have raised five kids in their home over the past 28 years. Frank loves to tinker with smaller, creative projects, but Suzanne had a grander idea in mind for their backyard that had “gone to the dogs.”
We helped the Hicks family create an outdoor entertaining space that takes advantage of their shady backyard, featuring a natural surface pathway that ends in a patio for their picnic table. We also incorporated a fire pit and a few of Frank’s unique projects along the way, including a prep table made from a slab of cedar and a rustic iron chandelier.
Creating an Outdoor Surface with Paver Base
For the pathway and patio we used compact-able paver base from Pavestone, which packs tightly together to create a solid surface. We started by laying out the path, then cutting the fiber cement siding we used for forms to contain the paver base.
After a little excavation we installed fiber cement form boards on either side of the path. Because these remained in place to retain the paver base, we staked them on the inside of the form, just a few inches below the top. After we tamped down the soil, we were ready to spread the paver base material.
We filled the forms all the way to the top, so the only part visible was the narrow edge. After compacting the base with the tamp, we had a stable finished surface for the pathway and patio. We installed for landscaping light, as well as mosquito protection.
Watch Using Paver Base as Outdoor Surface for step-by-step instructions on this project.
Building a Fire Pit
The fire pit kit we used from Pavestone consisted of wedge-shaped blocks in a variety of sizes and a metal ring to line the pit. The ring helped us mark the center so we could lay the stones based on the color-coded plan.
The narrow edge of each wedge lined up on the outside of the circle we marked on the ground. Between the rows we applied construction adhesive to lock the blocks together.
Watch How to Build a Backyard Fire Pit from a Kit for more info.
Incorporating Homeowner Projects
We loved working with the Hicks because they had lots of fun projects we could incorporate into their outdoor entertaining space.
We wanted the dining area to be the destination for the winding pathway, but first we had to rehab that old picnic table, to which Frank had made numerous interesting repairs over the years. We removed the damaged parts of the table and rebuilt the supports before Frank and Suzanne primed and painted it.
Above it we hung Frank’s rustic chandelier from the overhanging tree branch, creating a stunning focal point for the dining area. Frank made the globes for this fixture from mason jars using a neat trick. Watch Cutting a Glass Jar with a String to see how it’s done.
His potting bench, turned bar, sat on an unlevel deck; so we removed the deck and gave the bar a more accessible home along the walkway. And, we added some braces to the tree trunks to support a slab of cedar, giving the illusion of a floating prep table among the trees.
Other Tips from This Episode
Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Using Plastic Rain Gutters as Flower Boxes
Here’s a tip for dressing up your porch railing. Use plastic rain gutters as flower boxes rather than building them out of wood. Watch video.
Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Weber Genesis II 3-Burner Propane Gas Grill
Now that the weather is warming up, I’m ready to fire up the grill. What I love about the new Genesis II grill from Weber is that when you turn the knob, it starts up immediately. It is available at The Home Depot. Watch video.
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