Project Backyard

For an urban backyard in downtown Toronto, our yard isn’t bad. We have a detached garage, main and second floor deck, and a 12′ x 26′ stretch of grass and garden.


Here’s what we’ve done since we moved in:

When you live somewhere for a little while you also notice how you use the space. We love entertaining, and our backyard is perfect for it. It gets loads of afternoon sunshine and the large wall beside us protects the backyard from wind, so its always temperate and lovely out there. It also buffets the noise of the street, and our backyard is this little oasis in an otherwise very busy neighborhood. The one problem that we’ve noticed, is our small deck does not accommodate very many people. Seating 4 is tight, when we have more than two guests, people end up sitting on folding chairs on the grass. Not ideal.

The other thing we’ve noted is our path to the garage has dropped about 4″ in the middle since we moved in. It looks like the patio stones were laid right over dirt, and every time we get a big rainstorm, the dirt is washing out from under the path. This winter we had an epic lake that made getting to the garage almost impossible.


The lack of seating areas & the sinking pathway have made us decide to turn some of our tiny lawn into a patio. It was  a hard decision, as we have a dog and (maybe) future kids who we want to enjoy a backyard with grass and flowers. We also really didn’t want to be one of those families who just paves the backyard (seriously, there’s a house down the street that has TILED all of their yard, front and back.) We decided to compromise and take a small section of the yard (about 1/3) and make a patio large enough to add more seating, but leave some room for the dog to run around and do his business.

Here’s the plan:

  • Salvage reclaimed bricks as a patio material. You may remember earlier this spring we managed to gather about 330 reclaimed bricks from a local house under construction. We need about 510 total, however before we could get all the bricks we needed, they hauled them away in a dumpster.  So we’re about 180 shy. (anyone have any spare bricks?)
  • Dig down a total of 10″ the entire area of the patio and path. This sounds like such backbreaking work, that my shoulders hurt just thinking about it.
  • Lay down 6″ of this cool rock product called High Performance Bedding. It’s small (1/4″) sharp pieces of rock that makes a perfect bed for patio stones. It requires no tamping, or sand layer. Just dump it, screed it, and brick it. The biggest problem with this scenario is getting the rock into our backard. The backyard is ONLY accessible through the house, or via a man door from the garage, which you can get to from the back alley. I found a great place that will deliver the rock for a reasonable price, but they can only guarantee that they can dump it on the street in front of our house. Alley way deliver is up to the drivers discretion. If they dump the rock in front of our house, we will need to wheel barrow it either through our skinny hallway house, or walk it around the block through the alley way. Yeah, not cool. So I am on the hunt for someone who can at least get it into our garage for us. Got any rock guys you can recommend?
  • Lay the patio stones in a cool pattern (leaning towards a modified basket weave, herringbone would be awesome, but requires a ton of cutting, and extra bricks.)
  • Fill the cracks with either sand or polymeric sand. We would like to use the polymeric sand, but am a bit leery, especially on old reclaimed bricks.
  • Make two new flower beds ( a large one along the fence, and a shallow one against the wall where the ivy grows.) Then landscape them with perennial plans, shrubs and grasses, and a few annuals for colour.
  • Make a new set of outdoor drapes (and this time wash them before hemming them, as it turns out drop cloths shrink one hell of a lot in a hot washer & dryer.)
  •  Build an outdoor sectional sofa and tables. (I am reaaaally excited for this project!)
  • Grow some sort of lawn for the dog. The back of the yard doesn’t get that much sun, and grass just hasn’t done well back there. This year we are going to attempt to grow a clover+grass lawn. We are going to add a good amount of new top soil, and seed with a grass & clover mixture. Clover grows well everywhere, and stays green even in drought conditions. Its soft on the feet, doesn’t turn yellow from a dog peeing on it,  and requires little mowing. Its one downside is that its root system isnt super deep, and therefore can be damaged by excited dogs running about. To counter this, we are seeding the clover with grass to give it a bit more of a hearty composition. Wish us luck, this one is a bit of a gamble.
  • Enjoy a lot of bbqs with friends and family.

Check out my Backyard Pinterest Inspiration board to get some idea of what I’m planning.


I cant wait for our backyard project to be done! Hopefully we’ll get started in late May/early June (barring finding the missing bricks!)

Author: Kristen

Kristen & her husband El Granto & their Vizsla Odin live in a converted Storefront in downtown Toronto.

2 thoughts on “Project Backyard”

  1. I would really love to see how you guys build the sectional! My husband and I are looking into outdoor furniture, but I can’t justify spending a small fortune on an outdoor sectional.

    1. That’s the exact reason we’re going to make our own! We have found some plans that we’re going to base our design on, but are going to modify them to use store bought cushions. Check back in the next few weeks for (hopefully) an update.

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