extras, life

No Landscaping Professionals Needed Here!

Hello, readers! My name is Ashley Kempa – you may know me as Melissa’s fast-talking bestie from the north. My husband Zack and I are also living the DINK life and we’re so excited about Melissa and Joey’s new blog! For Zack and I, the biggest focus of our DINK lifestyle right now is planting roots – both literally (I LOVE my gardens) and figuratively.

Zack and I have been married for just over two years now, and the first year of marriage was focused on finding a home to begin our lives as “The Kempa Family.” While I was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, the area near our jobs is about an hour from my hometown so all new territory. We spent several months trying to find a house that was affordable, checked the boxes on our non-negotiables, and would help us to transition from DINK to BARK (Broke Adults Raising Kids – yes, broke…a topic for another day…*cough Daycare cough*).

Here’s what were in our non-negotiables (which have to be realistic based on your budget):

  1. Cannot be a total “gut-job”
  2. 3 Bedrooms with at least 1.5 baths
  3. GREAT school district
  4. Nice community
  5. Close to our jobs

So, here’s what we bought to plant those roots last July:

  1. A house that was owned by the prior owners for a very long time so it just needed some “New, Fresh Love”
  2. 3 Bedrooms w/ 1.5 baths
  3. GREAT school district
  4. AMAZING community
  5. Close to our jobs

My posts on this blog will focus on items number one and number four from the above list – how to add some new, fresh love into your house, and how to be a DINK in a family-friendly community!

But for this post, I’m going to focus on a recent project we did to our house…

DIY Landscaping

Zack and I are DIYers – aka we’re cheap, want to learn new skills, and love watching a vision come to life. The front of our house when we bought it had death-trap stairs leading up to our front sun room. If you were not paying attention or walking too fast, you could absolutely be on your way to an urgent care – hello, twisted ankle. Not good. Instead of paying over $1,000 for a landscaper to come out and re-pave our front steps, I knew we could do this for not a lot of money and learn as we go. Here’s what we started with:

Before

Before

Cute, right?

The first thing we did was tear out all of the bricks and railroad ties. This step only took about 45 minutes and the hardest/longest part was stacking all of the bricks. Even if you were going to hire a landscaper to do this for you, you’d be able to save some money just by tearing out the old yourself before someone comes in to lay the new.

Tearout

Next up, mapping out what we were going to replace these with. We chose to purchase large paver stones for two reasons – they were relatively inexpensive and the larger stones are easier to work with. My parents helped us draw out the dimensions of the steps and calculate how many stones and blocks we would need for the entire project. Having this prepared ahead of time saved us time in the store and money! We learned by slightly changing the sizing of the steps we could save by not needing as many stones and blocks.

Third step – HOME DEPOT.  First trip to home depot included checking the store’s inventory to make sure they would have enough of what we needed – very important! They did, so we began 1 of 3 or 4 trips to Home Depot to get everything we needed….and a few additional purchases like some herbs that got planted in my garden.  My parent’s dog, Mia, helped pick those out.  Isn’t she adorable?

Mia

After several trips, we had the blocks, mapped out our design, and we were ready to go!

Blocks

So, how did we do this?  Let me sum it all up by saying trial and error.  I followed these steps and repeated multiple times until I achieved success:

  1. Dig spot for blocks (thank you, Mom, for your help!)
  2. Lay blocks down
  3. Level in all directions
  4. If not level, lift block up and adjust by adding or removing sand/dirt.

Note: if you are starting from scratch and not working in an area where steps were already existing, you will need sand to level and hold the blocks in place.  Fortunately we did not need to purchase as there was plenty there from the bricks!


After about 6 hours of work, we had two steps completed:

Progress

The remaining last step and flat surface of steps were all completed by Zack – Rockstar! We waited for a few good rains to occur to help the stones settle. We’re now in the maintenance phase where we just adjust a few stones here and there. Aren’t the new steps beautiful?!

We spent $200 total on this project, took 10 or so hours total, and we used the great help of my Mom and Dad (thank you!). We learned how to map out an idea, budget for a project you want to tackle and got several good workouts in while accomplishing the finished project. We’re now already eyeing the entrance into our backyard through our fence gate. New stepping stones would look pretty nice over there…

Until next time, readers!  Be inspired to DIY and give your home some LOVE!

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