Build Your Own Budget-Friendly Decking

Now that the weather is [finally] starting to warm up, if your anything like me, you are going to want to spend more time out in your garden, and what better way then to sit out on a DIY decking!

Decks are great for enjoying the summer sunshine, relaxing with family, and even entertaining guests. As the bridge between your indoor and outdoor life, they are a great way to extend the liveable areas of your home and increasing the value of your property, no matter the size of your garden.

If you’ve always dreamed of having your very own deck, the good news is that building one is possible with enough guidance – even on a budget!

Below are some steps to build your own outdoor sanctuary. So keep scrolling!


Image credit: Thomas J. Story

Step 1: Create your decking plan

Good planning and plenty of research is important to make the most of your available resources and avoid costly mistakes. Study the layout of your garden and where you would get the most from the decking.  Something important to consider is what the primary use will be for the decking – Will it be a hub for your thriving garden herbs, a centre for al fresco dining, a place to simply soak up some sun, or a combination of the three? What you plan on using it for can help decide where you should build it.

You can use decking to enhance your garden as a whole, too. Wood Magazine explains that even the most difficult problems like steep slopes and unsightly views can be easily solved through smart decking.


Image credit: Anthony Tieuli

Decisions like these will guide you when figuring out the size, shape, and layout of your project. Of course, smaller decks will be less expensive to build than larger ones, as is ground-level decking compared to raised or multi-level decking. (It might be worth noting now, that depending on your area and the size of the decking you will be building, you might need to look up your local laws and see whether you need to obtain any building permits)

Step 2: Lay down the foundations


Image credit: This Old House

Decks need a bottom supporting structure to ensure that the boards don’t touch the ground, which is especially necessary in our notoriously wet English climate. This is comprised of rim joists or beams, ledgers, and interior joists. A good foundation also ensures that the structural integrity of your deck will be strong enough for years of family use. I know that all sounds complicated, but with a little research anything is possible – and google is an amazing resource!


Image credit: David Carmack

To start, The Spruce recommends using stakes and a string to outline the shape. Using a shovel remove any grass and weeds within the area and level out the ground. If building next to the house – remove the trim and sliding where the ledger board will go.

As shown in the picture on the right, you cover the exposed sheathing with waterproof membrane to keep moisture out, and then install your ledger boards. These will anchor your deck to your existing house. Cut each joist to the right size you need and screw them together to build your frame. These will provide a level surface for your deck planks.

 

Step 3: Install decking boards

When it comes to the decking boards themselves, remember to choose carefully depending on how much you’re willing to spend not just during your construction, but also later on for maintenance. Decking boards and kits listed on Screwfix come in a variety of materials and finishes to suit every type of budget. A really popular type is composite boards, which are engineered from wood fibres and plastic that don’t stain or fade for up to 25 years. They’re typically low maintenance but can be a little more expensive initially. On the other hand, wood decking can be less pricey but will weather over time and have higher maintenance costs.

deck and garden of Chris and Mary Beddow
Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii

Image credit: Art Gray

Once the frame and foundations are in place, cut your decking boards.

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Methow Valley Cabin

These will be placed perpendicular to the frame using galvanised screws. Depending on the planks you buy, you may need to sand them down to get rid of splinters and rough edges.

An important step that you shouldn’t skip is to varnish your timber to protect your deck from rain and the sun’s heat. It will increase the life expectancy of the wood, and reduce your maintenance costs.

Step 4: Make it liveable

Image credit: Dominique Vorillon

The last step to building your deck is to make it comfortable for you and your family. Sunset Magazine suggests incorporating lighting, fencing, and railing to match your house’s style and suit your needs. You can also choose to add some shade by adding awnings or even training climbers to add shade through a pergola or trellis. Dress up your deck with furnishings, container plants, and even a hammock or two for the warm summer days ahead.


Image credit: Van Chaplin

Are you looking to add more to your backgarden?Maybe you’re thinking of adding a greenhouse and want to makeit yourself?

Check out my guide to building your own greenhouse. Where i provide a step by step review of how I am making it!

Alternatively, if you want to have a little project in the kitchen and enjoy the sweeter things in life, how about making homemade jam?

 

What ever you’re in the mood for making, have fun and enjoy the coming warm weather!

much love,

Mothers Day Special – Homemade Jam

Mothers Day Special – Homemade Jam

With mothers day just around the corner, I wanted to make the decision of what I would like to give my mother this year.

It was from her that I gained the love of homemade gifts, She has always instilled in my sister and I that money isnt everything, and sometimes its the effort that has gone into the gift that means more than the price tag.

With that in mind, I wanted to come up with something that is both something I know she would enjoy, and something that I could make for her at home. In the past few years I have often opted for experiences, giving the gift of memories with her family rather than something she could keep, but this year I wanted to try something a little different.

My mother LOVES cream tea – although she doesnt drink tea, so its more commonly substituted for a nice coffee. I have previously gifted her an afternoon tea with myself for some quality Mother/Daughter bonding but I thought I would go one step further this year, and actually make her a homemade cream tea.

The idea is to present her with:
– Homemade scones
– Homemade Jam (3 flavours: Strawberry, Raspberry and Blackcurrent)
– A nice tea/coffee cup
– and some shop bought clotted cream

I have a week and a half to get everything sorted, so I made a start last night with my first ever attempt of Strawberry Jam!

I followed the recipe for this from the side of the jam sugar I bought from the local supermarket. Which I halved, so i wouldnt end up with a mountain of jam I couldn’t store anywhere.

Here is the original recipe I followed:
– 800g Strawberries / raspberries
– 1KG Jam Sugar
– 1 Knob of butter
– sterilized jars

It seemed simple enough, so I cracked on with my fingers crossed I wouldn’t be left with a strawberry gooey mess at the end.

The first stage was to wash and cut the strawberries before putting them into a large saucepan. From here you need to start crushing the strawberries – using a potato masher works great! Depending on how many fruit lumps you like in your jam is going to depend on how much you crush your fruit, I kinda went for half crushed.

This was also the stage where I washed my jars, with soapy water and stuck them in a large saucepan, and covered them with water. The pan needs to be pretty large, as you need to have your jars raised off the bottom of the pan. I used my pressure cooker (without the lid) which worked great, it gave me plenty of room and there is a stand and tray that comes with it which allows me to have the jars raised off the bottom. I boiled mine for 15 minutes, and then turned the hob off. leaving the jars in the boiling water until a couple of minutes before I needed them.

Next, I added the sugar. The recipe says 1KG to 800G of fruit, but I halved this, so I added 500G of the sugar (as i was using 400G of strawberries). I gave it a little mix round, allowing the sugar and the fruit juice to combine a little before I put the hob on a low temperature and started stirring it all together. The instructions tell you to continuously stir it and not to let it boil until all the sugar had dissolved. This didn’t take too long, a maximum of about 3-5 minutes.

Something I wasn’t expecting to add into jam, but is needed at this point (according to the recipe at least) is a knob of butter! Continue stirring until it is completely melted and then slowly start increasing the temperature until the jam is boiling, and stirring doesn’t stop the bubbles. Allow it to boil for 4 minutes –  i continued to stir intermittently at this point, just to stop it sticking or burning on the bottom.

Once the four minutes is up, some people suggest testing the jam is ready by putting a bit on a previously frozen plate and test if it ripples.. but I didn’t bother with this bit (for one thing the recipe didn’t call for it) I turned off the hob and let it sit for a minute while i sorted my jars out.

I was only using 2 jars, as I plan on giving my mum 2 strawberry, 2 raspberry and (after some sneaky recon) 2 blackcurrant. So I didn’t want to fill my supply of jars up with strawberry – their not cheap! This did leave me with quite a bit spare, but I have an old pickle jar which I sterilized with boiling water and was planning on using over the next few days.

Once I safely removed the 2 jars from the pan, I sat them down on a clean tea towel, upside down to drain out. After a minute I moved them onto the draining board and poured in the jam ( I had poured the jam from the pan to a measuring jug to make it easier to dispense into the jars).

Leaving a cm gap at the top of the jar, and cleaning away any dribbles I popped the lid on, and screwed it up – not super tight, but tight enough.

One thing I did notice, which i am going to have to work on, is that once it was all cooled I was still able to push the lid (where you can test if a jar has been opened or not) I am hoping this wont effect the quality of the jam, and that it will last.

All in all though, I am pretty pleased with my first attempt! I will definitely be doing this again with any fruit I grown during the summer.. although now I know just how much sugar and butter is in it, I may not spread it so thickly on my toast!

EDIT: I have since made the raspberry jam as well, it has come out a lot less runny then the strawberry, and I must say, after trying them both – I think the raspberry is a firm favourite!

I have really enjoyed making it, and it was the perfect little project to do while the snow was coming down! We had a fair amount – though not as much as other people from what I hear!

I would really love to hear other peoples experiences of making jam, is there an unusual combination you tried? Or if anyone has any tips for me please feel free to comment!

Build your own greenhouse – Part 3

Build your own greenhouse – Part 3

This week I had some help from family again, and it has really made a big difference! My aunt has some good experience of DIY projects, and with her guidance I was able to make some important decisions about how I was going to construct the greenhouse.

The first decision I made, was how the frame would sit.

Because of the way I want the plastic-panes to eventually sit in the frame, a lot of the basic design was predetermined  – but the biggest decision of the day was how the bottom would be fixed to the sides.

I had previously pre-cut the four bottom planks, but i hadn’t really thought about how the four corner posts would join to the bottom. If I didn’t want to re cut the planks the posts would sit against the inside corner, creating a sort of lip – which isn’t something I wanted. Instead, I would prefer having the wall of the greenhouse sitting flush, so we re measured how long I wanted the overall greenhouse to be, and then re-cut the bottom planks accordingly. Where I’m using reclaimed wood, not all of the posts are the same width, so the length of the bottom planks would need to adjusted individually to allow the overall length to match.

This then helped with the decision of how we were going to fix them all together –  again, due to the fact I am using reclaimed wood, the thickness made it hard to use screws, so we decided to use brackets. (brackets look like sheets of metal, that are used with nails, when you hammer the nail in, it causes the metal to ‘bite’ into the wood, and therefore holds it together tightly – the more nails you use, the stronger the join).

It was also at this point that we worked out what wood could actually be used for the main structure, and what supplies I would have to go and purchase. We were able to use reclaimed wood for thebottom and the four main posts, but I didn’t have long enough timber to use for the inner posts or the roof, so when visiting the local DIY store I picked up 10 x stick timber which was on offer for £2.57 each. I also took the opportunity to check out pricing for plastic sheeting (my first years plan to help spread the over all cost) and the congregated plastic for the roof.

Once we had all the supplies we needed, it was time to start building.

We used one 3in screw in each join, just to keep it held together tightly, then used the brackets to secure them all. Once the greenhouse is fully constructed, I will go along and tidy up the joins, cutting and bending any overhanging brackets.

While sorting all of the above, it also became clear that one of my pre-laid slabs needed moving – something I was not looking forward to! But with four of us working on the project it didn’t take too long. Two of us started building one of the walls while the other two moved the slab.

All in all, we only actually spent a couple of hours building so only managed to cut and construct one wall, however the planning is just as important as the building and now there are clear plans set in place I know we will make good progress from here on out.

In other Garden news:

I planted a raspberry plant today, and sowed some parsnip, onion and tomato seeds this morning and plan to have them out in the tunnel and trough. With the weather forecasting snow next week I’m hoping the tunnel will protect them from the worst of it. so fingers crossed!

Now that spring is just around the corner I am looking forward to the slightly warmer days and sowing my own veg from seed. Last year I stuck to buying starters which worked really well – but in the long run it would be nice to grow from seed!

 

I would love to hear from anyone thinking of buying a greenhouse, or just starting out on their homegrown adventure! Please, feel free to get in touch!

Starting on my garden

Now that Christmas is out of the way, it is time to start working on my garden. I have a lot of things I want to achieve this year – and a lot of it depends on the seasons.

Last year I grew a handful of things in a small patch at the top of the garden. The ground is uneven and had to be cleared of a lot of stuff that the previous owners had dumped, including old metal hangers, carpet and glass. At some point someone liked the patch, as there is a lot of good top soil there. It has just been mixed into a lot of stones. When clearing all the rubbish, and fighting back the jungle of weeds there was also old lining that had been left untended (meaning the weeds had grown on top of it and unfortunately through it) I am still fighting back the large number of weeds but i think with constant tending I am starting to win.

What was left of the vegetables grown last year has been a little forgotten about over the last few months, and what remains has been growing by itself. I have a scattering of garlic, broccoli and Brussel Sprouts. The Brussels and Broccoli had been attacked quite heavily by the caterpillars, and if I’m honest, I had written them off, leaving what was left until I could get back out and clear the patch ready for the new year, but after the weather turned colder they seem to have survived the army of ‘pillars and are doing a good job on their own.

One of the last things I did last year was to plant the garlic. They were just from bulbs that were starting to sprout in my kitchen. I didn’t want to waste them, as they were past the point of eating, so I planted them to see how they would do. My last attempt of growing garlic wasn’t amazing – they grew.. but were tiny!! strong – but small.

One of the big jobs that I want to complete this year is to change that patch into a raised bed. At the moment it is pretty unsightly, it sits right next to the house and the small patio section that we have. I would love for it to be a little tidier, and making it a raised bed will help with my homegrown garden.

Now we are more settled in our home it would be great to host some little get togethers over the warmer months, but I don’t want to have people in the garden if it looks like a mess! Our garden has so much potential – I just want it looking/working at its best!

Another large job i have planned is to build myself a little greenhouse. I have found a patch which would be ideal for it. It would get full sun, but also be tucked out the way and would be protected from the worst weather.

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As you can see, I have started clearing the space – there’s a climber growing along the wall and there were lourels running all the way upto the shed. So far I have cut them both back within an inch of their lives but the plan is to cut them down completely (I was due to do it this weekend, but mother nature had other ideas… mainly rain and snow!) I only had a hand saw, but with past knowledge of just how hard a job that would be – and how long it would take – I invested in a chainsaw yesterday.

The lourels run down the whole right side of our garden and along the back. They are a brilliant natural fence, but because they have been left to grow on their own, they have got way out of hand and honestly take up more space then I like. I am losing 3ft along both border lines and it makes a big difference. Another reason for me wanting them gone is they are taking up a lot of space in an area that I am planning on dedicating to chickens. (I have owned some previously and when buying this house the intention was always on getting more, it is just a case of being ready for them. There really is nothing better than fresh eggs, they are also great for left over green waste and are honestly a joy to have. I could spend hours with them)

So while the weather has its wintery-way and I am forced to stay indoors I started measuring up and designing how i wanted the greenhouse to look. I’ve made the decision to make it out of wood and hard plastic. Not the most common materials, but I like the idea of a wooden frame, on the principle that it is going to look a lot nicer and more natural. The hard plastic will be in replacement of the glass that is usually used. This is more for safety. Footballs are often sent flying into my garden, and I wanted something that wouldn’t break so easily – but it is also down to being able to customise the shape and size of the panes myself instead of having glass cut professionally and then delivered.

Once the weather clears up my first task is to cut down the trees in the way and dig them up the best I can, or kill off the roots if i can’t dig them up. Next I need to level out the ground, making the frame out of wood means I need to put something down so that the wood doesn’t rot quickly. My plan is to have either slabs, or bricks.

I already have some reclaimed treated timber which i plan to construct the main supports from. These will be screwed into the wall of the shed to add stability and then build from there.

Another big job on my list is to clear out some of the rubbish that has been left from when we originally tidied the garden. Alot of it is going to have to be taken down the tip, but there is a lot of burnables including the left overs from a large ivy plant that was left to grow up an electrical pole in the garden.

I bought an incinerator with the idea of burning as much as I can, and saving us having to take natural waste to the skip when we don’t need to. Ash can also be good for soil and compost heaps if the pH levels are off. It is also easier to get rid of then bags of branches and logs.

Lastly, over the next few weeks I need to stock up on any seeds i need for the spring sowing. I have most of the first batch, either from purchasing over winter or by finding my stash that I saved from previous grown plants. What i have left to get I will be buying from my local garden centres or my D.T. Brown Seed and Plant Catalogue. Hopefully by the time spring is here, I will have my greenhouse ready for some serious vegetable growing.

If anyone has any advise about starting my 2018 vegetable garden, leave me a comment. I would love to hear how other people are getting ready for the growing season.

and you’re welcome along for the ride!

Dreaming of the Good Life..

Now i enjoy Netflix, Amazon and Spotify as much as the next person (and i use them all) but there is something about sitting down to a home cooked meal where the veg was grown just a couple of meters from your table, or curling up to watch a film under a blanket you made.

I have always prefered a homemade, unique gift to something that everyone from your friend to the stranger down the road owns. I’m not saying that i don’t buy new things from the highstreet, i do! I just don’t get quite as much enjoyment from it compared to when i watch someone open a present that I spent the last few day making, or the glow of pride I get when someone asks where i got my oven gloves, or the snood my niece wears.

I think at heart I’m Barbara Good from ‘The Good Life’. I may be able to go and buy everything i need from a shop, but why would i want to, when i can grown it right there in my back garden? After a busy day at work, where the pressure is high and the hours are slow, i crave the simplier and quiet world of my garden or craft room.

That being said, I’m not a homesteading queen or a diy goddess – I’m just someone who likes to get creative, and get my hands dirty! For the first time, I have my own space to enjoy and learn all the wonders that comes with growing your own, improving your home – but most of all.. enjoying the journey!

This blog will be companion as i learn how enjoy growing my own back garden allotment (fingers crossed) and make more homemade beauties that friends, family and hopefully myself can enjoy!

and you’re welcome along for the ride!