Backyard Renovation, part 1

When we bought our house, we renovated it from top to bottom. EVERYTHING was torn out except for the bricks on the fireplace. Carpet, light switches, doorknobs, lighting and plumbing fixtures. Everything. The house cost $131,000USD, which is pretty cheap for an urban area in the US. Something that size in suburban Los Angeles or Seattle would cost over a million.

We never got a final price tag on the renovation, but since I did all the work myself, we saved tens of thousands of dollars. We probably spent around $8,000 renovating the interior, and that includes kitchen appliances, a nice TV and surround sound system, as well as all the carpet, tile, natural stone, hardwood flooring, lighting and plumbing fixtures, doorknobs, paint, tools, and lots of tool rentals. A contractor friend of mine said he’d have charged about $75,000 to do the kind of renovating we did. (We ripped out bathtubs and toilets and put in giant walk-in slate showers…that kinda thing.)

After taking a couple of years to rest from the renovation (it took 2 years of pretty intensive work), it was time for the back yard!

But I’m not wealthy. And the interior renovation really drained the proverbial coffers. So if I was to successfully renovate the backyard, it would have to be done even more cheaply than the interior. Not an easy task, when you consider that we wanted to completely clad the ENTIRE back yard in flagstone, build an outdoor fireplace and bread/pizza oven, add a hot tub, an outdoor kitchen, a pergola, and a beautiful stone retaining wall dropping down into my big organic garden.

Ebay had been an enormous help in keeping costs for the interior renovation low. But for the back yard I’d be buying heavy, bulky things like stone and concrete and heavy timbers. Things you can’t buy on Ebay because shipping costs are prohibitively expensive.

So I turned to Craigslist, which is becoming more popular in the Dallas area. My goal was to get as many recycled items on Craigslist for free or cheap, and only purchase the bare minimum of materials at Home Depot. My contractor friend said that he could quite easily take over the project for me and get it done for $80,000. (And that included a hefty discount because we’re friends.) So let’s see how things go, doing it all myself…

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