If the last year has tought us anything, it is definately that having outdoor space makes you an incredibly lucky person. However they can be expensive to maintain and getting someone to do any handywork even more so. Trying to do it on a budget has been a huge talking point of the last year. So here is my take on it.

Since moving into our terraced house back in 2019 the backyard has always been a fairly unpleasent place to be. In our minds we thought it was going to cost a fortune to improve it. Since this isn’t our forever home, we didn’t want to waste a load of money that in the end wouldn’t be worth it in terms of property value.

I will put all the things we bought and most prices at the bottom if you are looking for some specific!


These are the only two before photos I took. The main problems were the moss covered concrete floor with cracks and bits missing. As well as the paving slabs being covered in moss. The wall is half rendered and half not, with bits of the render missing. The wall was also some kind of off white colour. And there were some random spray paint marks on the wall.

Phase One: Under Pressure (Washer)

The first step in our project was to get rid of all the moss and just clean up as much of the yard as possible. We borrowed a pressure washer from my mam and cleaned the floor and some of the wall which also had moss on it. The job took maybe 2 hours because we were learning as we went and trying to get the grips with the technique.

I remember thinking when we had pressure washed it that it looked so much better and being really happy with it at that point! The photos show just how ugly the floor was and show the wall a lot better. We knew the next stage was going to be a lot more hands on than simply washing the floor.

Phase 2: The Great Wall of Ryhope

This is where I had to call in backup in the form of my Dad! I really couldn’t have got this done without him.

The wall was a big problem area. As I say, it was rendered half way very poorly and there were bits falling off. And the colour of the wall was a sort of cream which we think was white once upon a time. The first task was to get all the loose bits of render off the wall. You know that saying ‘You’ve gotta make a mess to clean a mess’, yup…

This was after we had swept a lot of the debris up, and we ended up taking more its of the wall off after this. To do this, we started with pressure washing the wall from top to bottom to make sure there was no more dirt or moss on it. But also to shake off any loose bit. And then using a wall paper scraper to literally scrape the flakey paint and render off the wall.

Once we had stripped the wall back as far as it needed to go, we set about filling in those gaps to make the wall a bit more flush. We went to Ability Trade in Leechmere Industrial Estate and picked up some Cem-Quik wall repair. To go with it we also got a bucket and trowel. In the end we went through 6 5kg bags of this stuff (the photo below is the 3kg bag, the 5kg bag was about £5)

It was a little tricky to get the hang of, but the key thing to do with it was to just give it a really good mix. By the end of the day me and my dad could have been professionals!

We filled in all the areas where we had pulled the old render and paint off, as well as any gaps in the cemented brick areas. We could have rendered the full wall (remember it was only half done) but I think we would have needed 30 bags to do that and it was just out of budget really.

What we did while it was still wet was took the end of a brush and dabbed it on to give the wall texture. This really helped blend together the old and new render and just make the wall look seamless. If you have a similar situation, then I recomend doing this!

Once it was all on, the packet says it dries in 30 minutes but we left it untill the next day just to be sure that it was perfectly dry.

Phase 3: Paint the town White!

The next day it was time to paint. We used brushes to make sure we got into all the little areas and below is the paint we used. We went through two tins of this which was also from Ability Trade in Leechmere.

If you are painting anything outside this paint was absoluetly great. It went on really thick and most of the wall outside only needed one coat with only a few areas needing a touch up. Once we had painted the side wall, we also did the garage door and gate and a bit around the corner where you can’t see just to brighten it up.

This paint is really thick and has great coverage so any bits where the render still wasn’t perfect or the gate which is a little worn looks so much better because of the paint job. It even covered the spray paint with only one coat!

These photos are of the yard once it had been painted. As you can see it just looks and it felt so much fresher and cleaner.

We did go a little mad with the paint. Have you ever seen the episode of Top Gear where they are in Viatnam on bikes. James and Jeremy paint Hammonds bike pink and a woman comes and paints every bike in the car park pink. That’s what we were like!

That concludes the wall phase! All in all it took two days. One day of rendering and one of painting. Both the main products we used were easy and really cheap. If we need anymore DIY bits we will definately be going back to Ability Trade because they had everything and the prices were really good!

Phase 4: Leave No Stone Unturned

One of the main issues with the yard still was the floor. This old concrete deck from the year 300bce was just depressing to look at. There were so many options for this space. Decking was once of them but we were worried about costs and labour. Fake grass was another that kept coming up however I detest plastic grass. I just think its so obvious that its fake and I don’t see the appeal.

Finally we settled on gravel. The paving slabbed area is where gets the sun the most so we wanted to keep those and gravel over the concrete area. This part doesn’t really get the sun so we wont be sitting in it, we don’t have children or a dog or anything that wouldn’t be happy with gravel. And its pretty low maintenence and was the cheapest option.

Having a look online I was struggling to find anywhere that was fairly priced and wasn’t going to charge me a fortune for delivery. One place I looked was going to charge me £50 in delivery and I just could not bring myself to pay that price.

And then we looked at Pfendt DIY (pronounced/known as Fentys). This is a local trade shop on Blind Lane in Silksworth and I cannot reccomend it enough.

Have you ever walked into a store and felt like you are being taken for a mug? Being a young woman I get it all the time, where people presume I haven’t got a clue (they are often right but thats not the point). When we had picked out the gravel we wanted, the store owner who was dealing with us gave us a few different options regarding delivery method etc and told us which was cheaper and which was better value.

We went for the 2mm Golden Gravel shown below. For two tonnes it was £80. And delivery to Ryhope was less than a fiver. A FIVER! I couldn’t believe it. So all in all for two tonnes of gravel delivered to the back gate it cost me £84.50. An absolute bargain.

There was a little delay with delivery, they said it was going to come early morning and it ended up being early afternoon, but it gave us time to do some touch ups on paint in the yard so it wasn’t that bad really.

Overall though, if you need any DIY bits and you are local it is definately worth looking into the shop because they were really good and genuine!

The reason it was so cheap was because they had it on site, and we were simply getting it tipped out of the van onto the floor outside our yard. As opposed to getting two dumpy bags delivered. This did mean that were gonna have to kart two tonnes of gravel through to the yard.

It became a 4 person job. Both my parents, me and Shaun all doing our bit to sort the gravel. Two tonnes ended up being a little too much in all honesty however, it looks fantastic.

Once the gravel had been delivered it only took the four of us 50 minutes to kart it through. My dad washed it down as it was a little dusty from being moved. Honestly though I am so pleased with it!

Phase 5: Its the little things

To make the yard a really great place we knew we were going to need some accents to really bring it to life and really finish it off.

While we were waiting for the yard to be delivered we painted one of the guttering pipes and sink waste pipe black just to make it look cleaner. We also did the step out of the kitchen and the back step out onto the street once the gravel was in.

Thanks to the handy work of my brother-in-law, we got some trellis onto the wall with some climbing plants to grow up them. These have broken up the wall really nicely and when the plants grow they will really brighten the place up.

My sister and brother in law also bought me three different kinds of solar powered lights, outdoor blankets and an outdoor candle which makes the seating area just feel so sweet!


So are you ready for the grand reveal.

I am absolutely thrilled with it! I cannot believe the state of it before. It is such a lovely space now and somewhere I want to spend time in. My family all put in amazing effort and I am so thankful to them all.

So how much did it all cost in the end? The whole lot was less that £300. And it was money very well spent.

Shopping List:

  • Quik-Cem, Ability Trade Leechmere, 5kg bag £5 (we used 6)
  • Bucket to mix, Ability Trade Leechmere, £1
  • Trowel, Ability Trade Leechmere, £5 (can’t remember exactly)
  • White Masonary Paint, Ability Trade Leechmere, £14 (we used two)
  • Two tonnes of Gravel, Pfendt DIY, £84.50 including delivery
  • Trellis, BnM Bargains, £6, we got 3
  • Two foot pots for climbing plants, BnM Bargains, £2.50 we got 3
  • Climbing Plants, Morrisons garden centre, an early Birthday/Easter present from my Parents
  • Retractable Washing Line, BnM Bargains, £5
  • Outdoor Blankets, The Range, early birthday present from my Sister
  • Outdoor Candle, The Range, early birthday present from my Sister
  • All solar lights, Sainsburys, early birthday present from my Sister

Thank you so much for reading this post, and I hope it has inspired you to do up your own outdoor space. I know this is a little different from what i usually post but I appreciate you still reading this and hope you have enjoyed it. If you would like to see more things like this on MackemLife then please let me know. And as always if you do enjoy my content if you could drop your email address below I would be so grateful!

Stay Safe and Happy DIYing

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