Rookie Homeowner Mistake- Back Yard Renovation

When Louis and I bought our first house 2 years ago, we knew the yard needed some work. We put off this tedious task for as long as we could and opted to camping and traveling. Can you blame us?

To get ready for our wedding celebration (a year after we officially married), we looked around the backyard and discovered Dakota had killed all of our grass with her pee.


What our grass used to look like…

Prepping the yard

The project started when Louis found out one of his coworker had a roto-tiller we could use. An hour after tearing up the yard and struggling with the roto-tiller, we realized there were too many shallow tree roots for the roto-tiller to be effective. We knew in order for the sod to develop properly, we needed to use a pick-ax to dig out all the tree roots within the top 6” of the ground. It was backbreaking work. We made a decision to hire a day laborer to help us with the work. Two days and 300cuft of dirt removed, we were no where close to being done, the yard looked worse everyday.

IMG_20130611_063828[1] IMG_20130611_063821[1]

At this low point of yard renovation, Sam made a HUGE mistake and hired the day laborer to finish the rest of the yard at a lump sum amount. This is where things made a turn for the worse. While it’s a good idea to hire a PROFESSIONAL contractor for the lump sum amount, we learned days later that a day laborer will agree to anything for multiple day jobs. We also noticed the work progress slowed down once we hired the guy to work on the entire yard. On day two while operating a stump grinder, he managed to break one window and one glass door by with the machinery. We were furious and decided to withhold half of his pay and asked him to not return the next day.  Since he had no work insurance and we were left with paying for the property damage ourselves. At this point, none of the sod or paving stone had been laid in the yard.

Cost for prepping the yard:

4 days of paid labor and soil dump transport= $560

Tools for yard preparation = $170

Roto-tiller and Louis and Sam’s labor time= FREE

Window and Door Glass Repair = $390

Landscape Design

We went through a ton of landscape design ideas together but had a hard time settling on one. Everything went out the window when the job fell onto us to finish the yard in one day. We decided to go with the easiest design and divided the sod and stones into two separate sections. The work took one backbreaking, labor intensive day to finish but in the end we finished both the front and the back yard. Now we wait and see how the sod adapts to the new soil…


We know, the paving stones still need to be leveled…

Cost of Materials

1 pallet of paving stones from Lowes (168 pieces at $0.88/piece) = $145.2

512 sq feet of sod delivered = $280

10 bags of sand at $3/bag = $30

In all, the yard renovation cost us about $1,600 with property damage. In attempt to save money with cheap labor, we ended up spending more than we would have with a legitimate contractor. This is one expensive lesson that will be engraved forever in our minds.


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