Backyard Fence Project

Ok- only three weeks left till my pool is resurfaced. The pool is the reason why we’ve gone all cray with other DIY projects in the back yard. Can’t have a beautiful new pool with an ugly backyard!

The pool deck is done. The patio is done. Fire pit, planters, patio table: ready to go. Ugly worn out graying fence…..ugh.

My fence was replaced about 10 years ago. I know nothing about fences, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t sealed or stained. Now it is graying, dingy, and looks like it belongs at the Addam’s family residence.

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Of course, I hit Google and YouTube to figure out my options. Painting? Staining? Replace?

Replacing was not an option- already have a huge pool project on the financial books. So, I decided to pressure wash first, then decide what to either paint or stain.

Pressure washing was a huge P.I.T.A. I got through about 3 fence panels before I realized I wasn’t standing close enough to it, so I had to move in closer and start over. Pressure washing isn’t really washing- it strips the outer layer of dingy, dry, damaged wood, leaving the nice natural wood color.


Fence 1
It was not fun.


My Ryobi pressure washer (around $100 at Home Depot) came with a 15 degree tip, which was recommended for pressure washing fences and decks. I used that for the whole project, then later found I didn’t need to. A 25 degree works better and covers more area, but the 15 degree works better for tough to remove grit and grime. Ah well, what’s done is done (although it took longer). Tip: wear a hat and old clothes. The tutorials I saw warned against getting wet, but there was nothing I came across that warned of being pelted with soggy wood particles.

Power washing is very tedious work, and your hand and arm can get tired. I saw a tutorial where a guy stuffed a tennis ball in between the handle and trigger of the washer, which I thought was a great idea. However, since my chew- happy dog can’t keep a tennis ball for more than a day, I had to improvise:


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Thanks, ‘Mater!



Finally, finished power washing the whole backyard fence- after 2 days.


Then we got stuck deciding on a color and finish. We actually really liked this lighter, natural wood color, but wanted to do something a little different. I LOVE the look of black-stained fences- it makes any greenery pop, and I thought it would make the pool color pop as well. However, we decided against it because 1) we thought it would make the yard look smaller and 2) we get direct sun almost the entire day in the backyard- it would be way too hot.

Then we considered a basic brown, but then thought that would be too boring. So we settled on Behr’s Semi-Transparent Wood Stain and Sealer in Redwood.


Image result for behr wood stain and sealer redwood

And so, we painted on the stain. I tried to give our garden sprayer a second chance (see the previously reported debacle in my Patio Refinishing Project), which again, didn’t work. The tutorials I’d seen recommended spraying on over a small 3 foot-or-so area and then back rolling with a roller or pad, so thankfully we had pads and brushes! The stain is thin, and a little goes a long way (depending on the wood). Some areas actually sucked up more stain, but overall it went pretty smoothly and lightly. The pad worked the best. Tip: be sure to use a tarp to cover greenery at the fence line, or use a hoe to pull rock or bark away from the fence line.

Along the way, my hubby and I named the long, straight, uninterrupted panel of the good neighbor fence the “good side”, and the other panels of the good neighbor fence (with the cross beams) the “crappy side”. We used the pads for any long, straight boards and brushes for shorter boards. We used a 2 inch brush to paint the sides of any boards that stuck out (hey- my fence is over 10 years old- some parts look like a row of crooked teeth).  Tip: The painting was exciting and fun at first- until we got to the crappy side of the good-neighbor fence for the first time. Applying the stain to the very bottom was difficult. Use a smaller brush and knee pads! Use pads for the cross beams.

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Fighting with the palm



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It took us about a week to get the entire backyard fence painted- we worked several days during the week after work as well. It was hot though, so we took lots of water breaks.

And the final look!

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Before and after!


I’ve already started on the front yard fence too…..

Pool Brick Makeover

When we got the estimate for our pool resurfacing, I asked for the bricks surrounding the pool and planter to be removed and replaced with flagstone. That alone would have cost $5000 extra, on top of the resurfacing cost. Gulp. I decided I could live with the bricks, but wanted to give them new life. We could have waited till after the pool was resurfaced, but we’d have new tile and I didn’t want to worry about discoloring them.


Pool brick before
“Before” photo of the pool brick. And the Fatal 4-Way Handstand Competition
Pool brick before1
Note the sun-bleached and discolored brick

The poor, defenseless brick around my pool gets direct California afternoon sun, beating down on it, everyday, for the last 28 years. Most of it is sun-bleached. The brick-lined planters behind the pool gets more shade, and thus were a different shade of sun-bleachedness.

I googled brick painting and staining, and was admittedly turned off by painting. Probably because many sites I came across had brick painted white, and I didn’t like the flat, uniform look. I looked up brick staining, as I thought it would give me a more natural look, and found I needed to find out if my bricks were sealed or coated first. That would determine if it would accept a stain.

So, I performed a water test. I assumed (incorrectly) that the bricks would be unsealed, as they are right next to the pool. Sealed surfaces= slick surfaces, or so I thought. The water test proved me wrong. I poured a little water on the brick and sure enough, it beaded up rather than absorb into it. Fan-freaking-tastic.

The wonderfully robust internet yielded a few options- test a bit of lacquer thinner on it, repeat the water test, and see if it removed the sealer. Nope. The next step would be to try a commercial sealer remover. As I gazed over the 264 bricks surrounding my pool, I quickly decided I would go with paint. I was not going to even try un-sealing 264 bricks.

We took a trip to Home Depot, and the staff recommended a bonding primer first, followed by the paint. I had forgotten I already had bonding primer from my last project, and ended up buying another one (I’m not bitter).

Behr Bonding Primer

I pressure washed the bricks pretty thoroughly, and hubby trimmed the razor-sharp rosebushes and juniper branches in the planter. I took a regular nylon paintbrush and painted the bonding primer on each brick. Each. And every. Brick. Don’t panic that it looks like skim milk at first- it dries clear.

Now the color. Behr has a wide variety of concrete and masonry paint, and you can choose which finish you prefer. I wanted a low-gloss color, so I chose the “Low Luster” base and had it tinted to “Red Brick”. Pretty fitting, I think.

Porch and Patio Paint-red brick


Home Depot staff advised to use a roller, per Behr’s recommendation. I completely ignored this and bought a paintbrush as I thought it would give me more control of the color. I’m glad I did.

I taped around the perimeter of the pool, and then thought I would tape the grout in between the brick. I got through about 7 bricks when I thought “Nope. No more”. It would’ve taken me all day just to tape. So I pulled a classic Amanda move and told myself “just be careful”.

Then I painted. And painted. And painted. Then painted some more. 264 bricks. In the heat. It was the most tedious DIY project thus far. After about 50 bricks I got smart and used a cushion for my knees. Which promptly became spattered with paint. Some of the bricks had gouges and it was difficult to get the paint into, but I kind of liked the look- it looked more “aged”.

After I got all 264 bricks painted (but who’s counting?), I debated about the grout. Should I leave it gray? It didn’t look too bad, but I decided it would bother me to leave it gray. I have an earth-tone theme going in the backyard. It would bug me. Then I lightbulb fired in my exhausted brain- my leftover concrete stain! I had a half a gallon left from the patio resurfacing project. It was the lighter “Saltillo Tile” color, and I thought it would look great with the brick red color.


Behr Saltillo
Looks darker than it actually is

I started by using a 1 inch paint brush to apply the stain between the bricks. It colored the grout perfectly, and covered the “oops” paint I got onto the grout (I guess I wasn’t all that careful sometimes). However, the flyaway bristles were getting the stain on the brick. I switched to a foam applicator and it worked much better. Warning: a little concrete stain in a foam applicator goes a long way. Press the excess against the side of the can first.

Foam brush

This was the easiest part of the project, although also tedious. Per Home Depot staff, sealing is not necessary if you use bonding primer. I didn’t want to seal it anyway until after the pool is resurfaced, do I can touch up any dings the brick might sustain.

Here is the finished project!

Pool brick 2Pool brick 3Pool Brick 4Pool brick 5

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Enzo figuring out the pool sweep



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Fire Pit Makeover

My husband and I are like two peas in a pod. We (brace yourselves) hate the outdoors. We do not like camping. We feel dirty when we set foot outside. Not to mention, bees seem to dive-bomb my husband regularly, and without provocation. And don’t get me started on spiders.

However, with out pool about to be resurface and the resulting DIY Backyard Overhaul we’ve been working on, we can’t wait to chill with a glass of wine by our new (to us) fire pit, in our new (to us) backyard.

A friend of my husband offered his fire pit table and chairs to us for a cool $200. At first look, it was not in my color scheme and looked like it needed a little TLC. But considering his friend paid $1400 for the set new, I couldn’t pass it up.

The “before”:

Fire pit 1Fire pit 2Fire pit 3

Frankly, I was worried about the chip- but I knew I could make this work. We decided we liked the black base, but I wanted to change the tabletop to a color more consistent with our earth-tone color scheme.

I researched the best way to touch up a fire pit, and came across Rustoleum’s High Heat spray paint- which can be used for fire pits, BBQs, etc. I picked up four cans of black, which was WAY more than we needed. We used only a can and a half. I found a bronze/ copper color (“Aged Copper” to be exact) but my local Home Depot and Lowe’s were out. I ordered 2 cans from Amazon.


We first cleaned the heck out of the fire pit. My husband hosed it out thoroughly, and used a duster to get all the cobwebs and dead spiders (OMG) out. After it dried, we placed it on a plastic tarp. Next, we taped plastic over the table top, as that was going to be a different color.

Then I went to town on the black spray paint. I used two coats. The chip on the rim was covered up nicely. We also spray painted the lid black.

The following day, we taped off the black rim and got to work on the tabletop. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

I liked the look, but it seemed something wasn’t quite done. The tabletop looked too…flat?

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Then I realized the “grout” lines and “tiles” were a uniform color. When we removed the tape after painting the tabletop, some of the black spray paint came off, and there were gaps between the copper and black color. Hubby had a brilliant idea to use a Sharpie to fill in those spots, which we did. Then I had the equally brilliant idea to use the Sharpie in the “grout” lines. Hey, it worked.


Just a few more Sharpie touch ups, and a fleur-de-lis stencil I’m not sure I like or not…

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Viola! A “new” fire pit!

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Before and after


Patio Resurface Project

Now that the pool deck was resurfaced, I couldn’t turn a blind eye away from the crap-tacular concrete patio. I tried…I even bought a large outdoor area rug for a great deal at Ross ($27, thank you very much) to cover it and pretend it didn’t exist. But alas…it didn’t match the color scheme and in all honesty, it bugged me.

So I pulled out the trusty iPad and I Googled. And Pinterested. And You-Tubed. I bought a magazine at Lowe’s that had an article about covering with pavers. I looked a little further into this, and found that 1) it was a little too expensive for what I wanted to spend and 2) it wouldn’t look right- the patio concrete runs right into a stamped concrete walkway- so it would end up being raised. Other options were to re-surface with concrete (like icing a cake), tiling, painting, or staining. I considered tiling, but the tiling job I had done in the past was not easy and after pricing supplies, I found it more expensive than I wanted.

I decided on staining. In hindsight, painting might have been a better choice because there were cracks and chips that showed through the semi-transparent stain I used, but I liked the look of the stain better. I had an ambitious dream to stain the patio to look like “tiles”. Thanks, Pinterest!

When prepping the pool deck for resurfacing (see my last post), I had already cleaned and etched the patio surface with Rustoleum Cleaner & Degreaser, then the Rustoleum Clean and Etch. I had a large crack in the concrete, as well as gouges that came from God-knows-where. I used a pre-mixed concrete crack filler to fill the crack, and the cement patcher to cover the gouges.

The crack filler was easy to use- just apply into the crack. No need to trowel, according to the instructions, but I wanted to flatten it as much as possible so I used a putty knife (and my finger). The cement patcher was a little more laborious for me. Only because I’m a newbie. I added the water per the instructions, but I mixed it in the bucket it came in which was a pretty dumb idea. Note to self: use a bigger bucket in the future. When mixing, it splattered onto my patio and I had a hard time getting it thoroughly mixed. I used a paint stirrer, but something more sturdy would have been a lot easier.

Regardless, I eventually got it mixed and spread over the gouges, and trowelled flat (well, as flat as possible). It dried quickly, which was good for my impatient soul. Then I sanded flat, and had my husband sand again.

Here is the prepped and patched patio:


Now for the staining. In my head, I wanted to use the darker color stain first, then apply a lighter “highlight” color. After further research, I learned that the lighter stain should go first. Behr has numerous colors the stain can be tinted to- I wanted a stone/ tile/ southwest-looking color, so we chose the Behr Semi-Transparent Concrete Stain in “Saltillo”, and the darker color “Moroccan Dunes”. The images below look similar, but the “Saltillo” is actually pretty light, which you’ll see in the photos below.


Next, I prepped the area. I bought some plastic sheeting to place over the surrounding areas as I planned to apply the stain with a sprayer. Then I was ready for the base coat.

I had purchased a garden sprayer, because based on what I read online,  it was preferred over a paint sprayer. The dude who works in the paint department at my local Home Depot said I can use any garden sprayer- so I bought a high-quality one. Note: make sure it has a fine mist option. You’ll find out why later. Mine did not.

I put some of the stain into the sprayer, and pressurized it. I nervously started spraying. From what I saw online, using a circular motion while spraying created a stone-look. Mine looked like a paint-spatter-look, since I did not have a fine mist option on my sprayer. Hmmm. Good thing I though ahead, and had a paint roller waiting. I ended up back-rolling the paint and came out with a uniform base color (note the Saltillo appears lighter than the pic above). Then I had to wait 24 hours before taping.


OK, here’s the terrifying part: taping out the design. I knew I wanted a border around the perimeter of the patio. I couldn’t find any 1/2 inch tape anywhere, so I ordered from Amazon. From what I understand, automotive stores may carry 1/2 inch tape for detailing. I found it easier to just order it. I measured 4 inches from the edge of the patio, and taped a straight-lined border. For the “tiles”, I wanted a diagonal layout. So I started in a corner and taped diagonally 18 inches apart. This was challenging- to keep the measurements uniform. I recommend having a second person helping and measuring with you. Also, make sure the tape adheres well to the concrete.



Since I wanted a darker border, I started by using a nylon paint brush to paint the “Moroccan Dunes” around the border. I used two coats for this step.


By this time, the sun was starting to go down, but I didn’t care. I wanted to git-er-dun. After the border dried, I poured the darker stain into the sprayer and got ready to spray it on. I guess I’m a DIY optimist, because for some reason I thought the sprayer would work this time. It did not. It looked like a murder scene, thanks to the reddish-brown stain we chose. Luckily, hubby was standing behind me and I sent him in to get another roller- a sponge-textured one (I wanted a stone-look, dangit!). I quick put the sponge roller on and it looked like Sponge Bob wandered through the afore-mentioned murder scene. Plan C: I ran in and got a regular sponge (the kind you wash your car with) and started spreading it out. Looked much better, although my foot prints showed, and I was tracking them everywhere. Now I looked like I wandered through a murder scene. Didn’t matter to me, because once I got the hang of applying via a sponge, it was starting to look really awesome. Even though I was a mess.

After it felt dry to the touch, I removed the tape. Some of the darker stain seeped under the tape into the “grout” lines, but I just went the next morning and touched it up with the Saltillo (light) stain.


Tape still on- and it’s dark outside!
With the tape removed
Crack still visible, but I can live with it
You can sort-of see the darker color in the “grout” lines, this was before I touched up with the lighter stain


I let everything dry for 24 hours, then used Behr Low-Luster Sealer to seal it. I chose the low-luster sealer because we have a pool, and the wet-look would most likely result in wet kids slipping and falling. However, I applied two coats of the sealer, and when I later let my dog out, he skidded on the newly refinished surface!

Here is the patio a week later- we love it!

Patio Final




Pool Deck Project


Several summers ago, we were swimming in our pool and I noticed a reddish brown stain on the wall in the deep end. I tried to scrub at it, I poked and prodded at it, and couldn’t figure out what it was. My pool serviceperson said “Well, you do need to resurface your pool”.  The 28-year-old plaster was crumbling and eventually would get into the pump system, ruining it. That mystery stain? Rebar coming through the plaster and creating a pretty magnificent rust stain.

The financial worry felt like a ton of bricks had fallen on my head. How much was this going to cost? Why the heck did I allow myself to buy a house with a pool? Of course, the frugal part of me was wondering if I can do it myself… HA! Nope. Long story short, we just now signed the contract for the resurfacing job to get done. Which led to the inevitable Backyard Makeover Domino Effect. After the initial sticker shock, we began to get super excited- no more decades-old 80’s pool/ pool tile! Maybe we CAN transform this dumpy backyard into an oasis! Maybe we can finally enjoy being OUTSIDE!

After cleaning up and getting rid of old backyard crap, we decided to figure out what to do with the concrete pool deck. It is exposed aggregate, which is beneficial because it helps prevent slipping when wet. So whatever we did, it had to maintain that same slip-resistant property. We couldn’t afford for it to be ripped up and replaced, and besides having a few rust stains it was in great condition with little to no cracks.

Concrete staining or painting would need to be sealed, which could get slick when wet. I did tons of research and decided to go with a product found at Home Depot, called Behr Granite Grip. It comes in 2 colors, gray and tan that can be tinted to several different shades. We had ours tinted to Copper Marble, and got two big 5 gallon tubs.


We chose this product because of the ease and cost. After prepping the concrete, you simply paint it on. I wasn’t sure it would work on exposed aggregate, so I bought a small can and tested it on my side walkway. It worked beautifully!

As part of the prep, the concrete needed to be thoroughly cleaned. There were several options I read about online- TSP, muriatic acid (which was pretty frightening to read about- it’s hydrochloric acid), Simple Green, and commercial cleaners and degreasers. The surface must be cleaned, scrubbed, scrubbed, and scrubbed again- otherwise the color won’t adhere properly to the surface, and can cause discolored areas.

Moreover, the surface needed to be etched. It took me time to figure out what etching was (finally just googled it- could’ve saved me time if I’d thought of that from the get-go). Etching basically roughs up the surface so the concrete will accept the paint or stain. I sent an inquiry to Behr customer service to see if exposed aggregate needed to be etched since it’s rough to start with. The answer is YES.

I finally came across a product at Home Depot from Rustoleum, which is one of my favorite DIY products. It’s a concrete and masonry cleaner and degreaser. It has to be diluted, so follow the directions on the container. As for etching, well, here’s where my newbie-ness comes into play. Rustoleum has a cleaner and degreaser, and also a cleaner and etcher (with added components to rough up the surface at the same time as cleaning it). The containers are almost identical. So I actually ended up cleaning the concrete, then having to clean and etch.  Note to all you DIY-ers out there- just get the Clean and Etch.

rustoleumcleaner                                             Rustoleumetcher



After applying the cleaner/etcher, you have to scrub with a long-handled scrub brush, using about 10 million tons of elbow grease. Trust me- my arms and shoulders were super sore the following few days! Rinse it a MINIMUM of three times, and let it dry. The surface should feel like 150 grit sandpaper. Just keepin’ it real though- I don’t know what 150 grit sandpaper feels like compared to other grit sandpapers, so I just felt it and yup, felt like sandpaper. Done. Just needed to keep the kids and a crazy dog off of it for a day.

We did not have any cracks or chips to repair, so if anyone out there has them, you would repair the cracks after the etching. There are a couple products out there from mixing your own concrete (in a small bucket- apply with trowel, putty knife, etc.) or premixed in a sort-of squirt bottle for filling cracks. Let it dry and sand down lumps or ridges.

Here’s a few pics of the concrete after cleaning and etching. There were rust stains on the concrete which did not come up. I didn’t worry too much about them because 1) the color we chose is similar to rust-color 2) they were small 3) I was too lazy to go out and buy the recommended Krud Kutter to try to get it up.


The next step was to tape off the areas we did not want painted. We used painter’s tape for concrete- which I never knew existed and probably have picked up in the past on accident and ruined an interior wall or two, but whatevs. It adheres well which I needed. We taped around the pool coping and bricks, and covered over the additional copings (is that what they’re called?) and pool deck drain (the horizontal black lines in the picture). We also taped over our current pool fence holes- we had the fence replaced a few years ago and new holes were drilled- the old ones we left uncovered.

Now the fun part. Well, not so fun. Keeping two young kids away from wet paint and a wide open pool was not fun OR easy. Not to mention the numerous interruptions we had  to break up fights going on inside. Regardless, we started by painting the Granite Grip with brushes alongside the taped areas and borders. This was super exciting- I knew from the first brush stroke I was going to love the color!


Then came the rest of the surface. Behr is pretty clear that one must use a 1/4 inch adhesive roller for the Granite Grip. We got a couple long-handled rollers as well. The problem: Not easy to get the first two coats on with a long handled roller on exposed aggregate. More pressure is needed to get the product evenly spread, so we ended up on our hands and knees covering about 800 square feet (just a guess) of rocky, sandpapery, jagged concrete. I’m not bitter.


A note about the first coat: The first coat of the Behr Granite Grip is NOT what the final color will look like. Behr is very clear about that. The second and subsequent coats are more accurate. We did 3 coats after the initial border-painting. Also, the surface became smoother after multiple coats. On the last coat, we were able to use the long-handled roller, giving our backs, butts, and quads a break!

This product dries fairly quickly- ok to have light foot traffic after 24 hours, can move furniture back after 72. We had to take the dog on walks and despite my neighbor behind me spraying a hose over my fence onto the newly painted surface, it went off without a hitch. Took us about a day to complete (after the surface prep).

And now, the final look! We keep looking dreamily out the window….and planning the next project. =)