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Beautiful Deck built by Sheila Shaw 2003

As a young child I was always interested in building and tinkering. You might say I was a regular “Huck Finn!” It wasn’t until many years later that I really started honing my building skills.

In the winter of 1998 I purchased a new home. Three weeks after moving in, I checked into Stanford Medical Center to receive my new kidney. One day while recovering, I can remember looking at my backyard and noticing all of this dirt. Something had to be done. Dirt, puppies and white carpet just didn't mix. That’s when I decided I needed a deck. After getting several quotes that were well beyond my financial abilities, I decided to do it myself. After all, I had plenty of time.

I cleared out over seven yards of the most unforgiving soil that one can imagine, placed 13 cement pier blocks, built the sub-structure, and laid the decking all in the middle of July. With an average temperature of 100º, what was I thinking? LOL. All in all, it took me a solid month to build and it was worth every back-breaking minute!

With the deck completed, I began to design the lawn area. The first step was to install a mow strip using cement with exposed aggregate. I went to our local library and checked out a few books explaining how this process worked. I also spoke with several people who were experts in this field. I was off and rolling. I recruited my friend to mix the cement while I laid it. All in all I laid over 175 feet, 6 inches wide of mow strip and thus another project complete.

With the mow strip now complete, the lawn area was defined as 1300 square feet and needing a sprinkler system. I sent the lawn design to Toro sprinkler systems and they sent me back a complete blue print of my new automatic sprinkler system. I would need three separate zones. So, with a pick and shovel in hand, I started digging. I dug over 300 feet of 12 inch deep trenches.

A patio was needed to make the yard complete. Once again, I chose exposed aggregate. By this time I’m feeling pretty confident with the process. With three yards of cement needed to complete the job, I hired a concrete pumping company to pump the concrete from the truck to the site. This was really neat to see.


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