diy projects exterior & outdoor living

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - I’m pretty sure most homeowners have that one weird spot in their yard or outdoor space that isn’t functional or large enough to do much of anything with. Most of the time it houses trash bins, utilities- like an air conditioning unit, sprinkler system, or other necessary eyesores that come with homeownership. For the past two years, we lived with an embarrassing “side yard” I pretended didn’t exist. Although it was in plain sight of our newly renovated outdoor living space, I hoped visitors wouldn’t notice. I’m happy to share our latest project… we teamed up with Lowes and finally addressed the elephant in the room (or rather, backyard) and it made all the difference! Click through to see the transformation, get inspiration for your own odd lawn areas, check out three(!) tutorials, in case you’re planning your own 3-day project this Labor Day.  

*This post is sponsored by Lowes. All content, ideas, and words are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that allow us to create unique content while featuring products we actually use & enjoy! 

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - I warned you it was rough. This is a realistic picture of what we were dealing with. As you can see, it’s sort of a straight shot from our beautiful pergola, patio, and outdoor lounge area.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - The first step toward beautifying the area was to empty all of our junk out of the space. After that, it already looked better, but still not great by any stretch of the imagination…

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - I’m happy to report this is what it looks like now… SO. MUCH. BETTER! Quite the before and after, right? Despite the icky before images, it really was a quick project! Believe it or not, it kept raining in Utah last week (which is a rarity), so my photos kept getting delayed. We’ll take all the rain we can get, so I can’t complain… but I was so excited to share this project with you guys because I feel like it’s a common issue with a pretty easy solution. Despite the weather and delay in getting this posted, I hope some of you will tackle a similar project over Labor Day! This space took us less than three days once all of our time was added up.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - This was our to-do list for the project…

  1. Add a fence and gate to keep this area out of sight.
  2. Remove grass and add pea gravel (for zero maintenance and water conservation).
  3. Add decorative and functional stepping stones from one gate to the other.
  4. Build or buy a screen for the air conditioner unit.
  5. Pour a concrete pad for our storage container (which houses outdoor cushions during the winter).

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - I thought it would be easiest to break our to-do list down by the main projects. You’ll find three easy tutorials below: pouring a concrete pad (for a storage container), installing a fence, and adding stepping stones and pea gravel! We tackled one project per day. Let’s get started…


3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - You might remember this post about winterizing the backyard… our Suncast outdoor shed comes in really handy during the snowy Utah winters, but never sat level. This meant it wasn’t as water-tight as it should’ve been. The solution? Pouring a concrete pad to keep it off the dirt. Not only does it look much cleaner, but it will keep our cushions nice and dry since the container is sitting as it should.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Here’s what you need to get started:

01: dewalt power drill // 02: concrete edger // 03: wood stake // 04: concrete float // 05: lumber 2×4 // 06: garden hoe // 07: all purpose gravel // 08: quikrete concrete // 09: true temper wheelbarrow // 10: suncast storage shed

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 1 // Build the form. Begin by building a quick concrete form. You’ll notice Emmett building the frame around the base of our storage shed, to ensure the size fits perfect. We used 2x lumber and screwed it together with our Dewalt power drill.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 2 // Secure the form. Next, attach the wooden stakes to the sides of the form and push them into the ground to secure the frame.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 3 // Add a layer of gravel. Using Quikrete all purpose gravel, empty a thin layer of gravel evenly into the bottom of the form.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 4 // Mix up the concrete. Next, mix your concrete by adding water per the instructions on the package. We do our mixing in our True Temper wheelbarrow… it’s easy to clean, so we just treat it like a giant mixing bowl.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 5 // Add the concrete to the form. Once you’ve reached the appropriate consistency, empty the concrete from the wheelbarrow into the form.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 6 // Screed the concrete. Using a 2×4, screed the top of the concrete before it cures. This is the easiest way to achieve a perfectly flat and level surface.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 7 // Smooth the concrete. Next, use a concrete float to smooth the surface. If it’s curing too quickly, mist it with water to help with the smoothing process.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - The above image depicts the smoothing process… the left side has been smoothed and the right side has yet to be done. It makes a big difference and gives the pad a finished look!

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 8 // Finish the edge. Before the concrete is totally set, use a Marshalltown concrete edger, running the tool between the edge of the finished concrete and form. This will provide an eased edge, separate the concrete from the form, and give the entire pad a finished look.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 9 // Allow it to cure. Once the stone is totally cured- remove the form. You’ll notice Emmett carved “The Gibsons” into the corner before it was set up. Ha! I sort of love that he did that.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - I think it turned out pretty nice and I love that it will keep the plastic shed and cushions housed inside of it nice and clean this winter! Onto the next project… installing the fence.


3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - I’m not going to go into great depth on this one because you can find our entire privacy fence tutorial in this post, but it’s a very easy and straightforward process! We added a short, four foot fence and gate to the end of our side yard to keep things hidden and private. Check out the finished result below.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Here’s what you’ll need for this portion of the project:

01: level // 02: post level // 03: garden hoe // 04: unisex work gloves // 05: freedom fence panel // 06: true temper wheelbarrow // 07: concrete mix // 08: post cap // 09: fence post // 10: vinyl gate // 11: post hole diggers

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 1 // Dig the post holes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this is the most difficult part of the process… digging the holes. Luckily, we only had to dig four holes for this Freedom fence, but a Kobalt post hole digger and gloves made the job a lot easier!

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 2 // Set the posts. Level the post and fill the hole with concrete. Repeat this process until all posts are set and cured.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 3 // Insert the panels. Once the posts are set and sturdy, you can begin installing the center panels.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 4 // Build and install the gate. Lastly, you’ll want to assemble and install the gate if there is one. Again, I have very detail instructions for installing a fence and a gate in this blog post, but it’s really an easy repetitive process that makes a big impact!

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard -

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - I love that this back section is gated off. It keeps our utilities and storage hidden, while keeping the dogs out. All of our friends know we’re a dog friendly family and an invitation to our backyard typically includes four-legged family members. Now that they can’t run into the side yard, the dogs are always in plain sight and we can keep an eye on them at all times. Ready for the final project? This is definitely my favorite of the three!


3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Here’s what you’ll need for the paver stones and pea gravel pathway project…

01: pea gravel // 02: paver base // 03: metal shovel // 04: kobalt rake // 05: sta-green weed barrier // 06: pinnacle patio stone

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 1 // Level out the dirt. Using a flat shovel, scrape and level the ground as best as possible.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 2 // Lay the weed barrier. Once everything is nice and level, lay down the Sta-Green weed barrier and trim the fabric to fit your space.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 3 // Add paver base and position the pavers. Next, add a layer of paver base and position your pinnacle patio stones in the desired pattern or layout. We weren’t as meticulous about leveling these as we were with our paver patio (see that tutorial here) because we didn’t mind an organic look in the side section of our yard… pea gravel is very forgiving and it helps camouflage imperfection.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - The above image shows what the patio stones look like once we had them set in the paver base.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 4 // Layer on the pea gravel. Lastly, you’ll want to dump the bags of pea gravel on top of the stones and paver base.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Step 5 // Spread the gravel around the pavers. Rake the gravel until it is even spread around the pavers. Once you have a thick layer, dust off the stones to reveal the pattern or spray the excess pea gravel off of them with a water hose.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - I’m really into the final aesthetic of this project, but guess what I love even more? The fact that it requires ZERO maintenance. That’s a huge deal! Living in Utah, water conservation is a big concern for us. Lots of people landscape with gravel, stone, and materials that don’t require water. This part of the yard will look the same regardless of the amount of rain we get… and that’s something Emmett and I are both pretty happy about. We won’t have to worry about irrigation or a sprinkler system.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Lastly, I wanted to quickly touch on one more thing we tried to disguise or clean up… the air conditioner and sprinkler system. Both utilities live in this portion of the yard, so the final item on our checklist was to address both of those eyesores.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - Emmett quickly built a modern cover using deck composite to disguise the AC unit. If you’re not into this easy DIY option, Lowes sells a readymade lattice option that looks really nice! We left plenty of space for the unit to breathe as needed.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - I moved some of my potted plants into this area to disguise the sprinkler system and plumbing that runs to it. It was an easy fix that will give my full-sun plants a nice place to thrive, while covering some areas that aren’t as pretty to look at.

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard -

3 Day Project : Transforming Our Side Yard - What do you guys think? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you also have a weird area in your yard that is neglected? I feel like it’s a pretty common occurrence. As always, let me know if you have any questions about the projects… I’m always happy to help explain! Mark your calendars for a 3-day Labor Day project- you’ll be happy you finally crossed it off the to-do list when it’s all said and done. Trust me!

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  • Reply
    Kat Wachter
    August 28, 2018 at 11:59 am

    I love this! I am obsessed with your back yard and trying very hard to emulate it (once the summer rain stops in Florida!). I’m already counting the days to when we can replace our old, rotting wooden fence with a nice, clean white vinyl fence, and I am DETERMINED to build your concrete sectional, which will be the anchor to a pea gravel patio. So, basically you’re my inspiration. And now you’re reading my mind, because lately I’ve been thinking about how to do the following: pour a concrete slab for a garden shed, lay a pea gravel patio, and screen an A/C! And in one blog post, you answer ALL OF MY QUESTIONS. Yay! I’m so excited. I was worried about pouring that slab and now I feel inspired and prepared! Good job, you!

    • Reply
      August 28, 2018 at 1:05 pm

      Thanks so much, Kat! Your comment made my day. So happy to hear that my content and home projects have been resonating with you and are proving to be helpful. Please, please, please send photos! I can’t wait to see how you apply the projects at your house! xo

      • Reply
        April 29, 2020 at 2:59 pm

        How will the a/c get serviced? Does the cover open?

        • Reply
          April 30, 2020 at 9:49 am

          It’s just like a short fence- there is plenty of room to hop over. One side can also easily be opened if needed. We actually had the A/C installed right before this project, so it shouldn’t need servicing for a very long time. Hope this helps to answer your question!

  • Reply
    Bea Christianson
    August 28, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    Looks beautiful

    • Reply
      August 28, 2018 at 9:32 pm

      Thank you so much, Bea! xo

  • Reply
    August 28, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    As usual, you guys kill me with your energy and skill! I already had “fence repair” on my Labor Day weekend plans ( grumble, grumble), but I know we’ll be glad it’s done. That pea gravel is awfully attractive…I definitely have a spot where it could work. Now that the scorching heat is gone, enjoying a refreshed backyard will be lovely. (Cash looks like the perfectly innocent garden gnome.😉) Great work and (gentle) virtual kick in the pants.

    • Reply
      August 28, 2018 at 9:32 pm

      Peggi!! I look forward to your comments, haha! I love them… seriously. Cash as the garden gnome is cracking me up right now. You can do it- fix that fence and throw down some pea gravel ;) easy peasy! You’ll be happy knowing it’s done. I have all the confidence in you! xo

  • Reply
    August 30, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    What did y’all end up doing with your kayaks? Ours are currently preventing me from parking in our tiny one stall garage over the winter, which is definitely not ideal in South Dakota. We’re thinking about hanging ours on a yet to be built wooden fence next Spring but I’m curious where yours ended up.

    • Reply
      August 30, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      We have a tool trailer that we pull with the truck, so we ended up hanging them in there! They’re so fun and I love kayaking, but they really are a pain to store each winter. I feel ya! xo

  • Reply
    August 17, 2019 at 10:28 am

    This is the best tutorial I’ve ever seen for a project…. thanks!
    BTW, good job! looks really beautiful.

    • Reply
      August 20, 2019 at 8:37 am

      Thank you so much! Happy it was helpful :)

  • Reply
    December 29, 2019 at 6:39 am

    Thank you for the very clear step by step instructions. We have recently purchased a home we wish to retire in, but the landscaping needs some TLC. This looks very doable and tidy. Plus easy and not too expensive. Thanks for taking the time to post,
    I also love your potted container plants. Very pretty.

    • Reply
      December 31, 2019 at 9:11 am

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear it was helpful :)

  • Reply
    April 16, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    I noticed you didn’t put down paver edging. I am doing a similar design soon, where the pavers aren’t touching. Have you found that the pavers moved at all? Thanks!

  • Reply
    September 8, 2020 at 7:37 am

    This is such a great post! We are currently following your patio paver tutorial and its coming along great! I was wondering if you have more info on your a/c covering you did here? I would love to do the same to our a/c unit as it will be right next to the finished patio.

    • Reply
      September 8, 2020 at 8:47 am

      I love hearing that, Mackenzie :) I wish I would’ve photographed a DIY tutorial for this one, but I didn’t… I do have some clips saved to my IG highlights, I think. I’m sorry!

  • Reply
    October 19, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    OMG, Sarah I really love your project ,but the very important thing is you posted the tools and the materials, you know I just need copy your list when I DIY my project ,LOL , thank you so much !

    • Reply
      October 20, 2020 at 10:00 am

      Aw, so glad to hear that, Sophia!

  • Reply
    March 29, 2021 at 7:48 pm

    So nice! You should be proud of your work.
    Hello from Canada.

    • Reply
      March 30, 2021 at 8:16 pm

      Thank you so much, Mary! :)

  • Reply
    May 19, 2022 at 8:44 pm

    Hi Sarah! How did you attach the composite boards to the wooden posts for the a/c unit cover? Thanks!

    • Reply
      May 20, 2022 at 11:44 am

      We mitered and screwed them into the frame / posts.

  • Reply
    June 18, 2022 at 2:45 pm

    We want to build a similar A/C fence. Wish there was the DIY instructions for that part! ;) Do you have yours staked or secured to the ground in any way, or do you find the weight of the posts/decking to keep it in place during strong winds, etc? Thanks!

    • Reply
      June 20, 2022 at 1:35 pm

      Hi Meg! I know- I’m sorry. This project was years ago at our previous home and I didn’t have time to photograph a DIY for that particular project. We set it in concrete. I hope that helps!

  • Reply
    Sheila Garvagh
    July 28, 2022 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Sarah, This look so nice. Thank you. How did you build the a/c screen. I like your version. Did you put the posts in concrete? Thank you

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