before and after

before & after: salvaged backyard renovation

by Kate Pruitt

Spring is finally here, and with it comes an influx of outdoor renovation projects, which are my favorites. Do I love them best because I have no backyard? Probably, but I see no harm in enjoying the vicarious thrill of watching people weed, plant and build their dream gardens. If the time comes for me to own a little plot of outdoor space, you can bet I’ll be taking tips from Before & Afters like this one.

Using almost entirely salvaged materials and performing their own laborious weed exorcism, Clayton and Chaz created a beautiful, serene space on an extremely limited budget. I find it incredibly inspiring to see such a wealth of great materials; it just takes patience and perseverance to seek them out and a lovely, simple design to let the beauty of those raw materials show through. Great work, guys! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Time: The renovation took probably a solid 30 hours. However, the brunt of the time (I’d say about half) was spent taking down the old fence and taming the wild beast of “Terabithia” (as Chaz would say). We don’t live close to one another, so weekends and workdays about every three weeks were scheduled. So it took a summer, but at an elongated pace.

Cost: $210 ($40 for screws & nails; $10 for two 2 x 4s; $60 for three bags of cement for mortar and setting fence posts; $25 dollars for two bags of decorative beach stones; $5 for a water pump from Goodwill; $20 for tchotchkes from Goodwill; $50 for lemon tree and moss)

Basic Steps: We’re college/post college students who don’t really have the budget to throw down on something of a grander scale. As such, the backyard was redone with about 95 percent salvaged materials (with the exception of the plants, two bags of rocks, one 2 x 4 for framing a few things, and screws). Old industrial light shades and cemetery fencing create floating planters. Salvaged wood, inspired by Nightwood, constitutes the back fence. An old sink, salvaged wood, an old ceramic telephone pole insulator, and a few rocks give life to a fountain.

Basically we had to clear out the backyard first to get a better feel for what the yard should look like. We had a brainstorming get-together to look through Sunset magazines, come up with a color palette, and buckle on the main components (e.g., planter box, water feature, new fence). Then we went dumpster diving at the architecture department and old dilapidated houses. Then we just tried to work with the things that we found (like the old industrial lamp shades and cemetery fencing).

A blank canvas (clear space) is a great way to see the potential of a new space. When you’re working with salvaged materials and a budget, flexibility tends to be key. Look at found objects from many different perspectives. — Clayton

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  • This is so clever, beautiful and eco friendly! Love the colours of the wood, that duck egg colour is amazing, but the little shelves sticking out are such a good idea! Now if only I had a garden…x

  • Is that a lemon in the cinder block planter?
    And what did you plant in the cinder block holes – will it trail or mound?

  • Awesome project! I’m planning on redoing my patio soon. I hope I can come up with something as economical, creative and beautiful as you did!

  • I feel like this will look great once they plant some more stuff. Currently it looks like a great fence next to a mud wrestling pit.


  • what this looks so amazing!! i loveloveloveee the fence, how did you get it going horizontal like that??? it looks great seriously i love this!!

  • I LOVE the fence! the reclaimed wood looks gorgeous and really unique!
    How close did you space the vertical posts on the backside? every 4 feet?

  • Did you seal the wood at all? It looks amazing, I just worry that it would get destroyed after a couple years.

  • Awesome job–I can’t believe the difference for just $210! (Shows the power of creativity + sweat equity. Awesome!)

    By the way, I love that fence. AMAZING!

  • I have the same question about the sealed wood. I have a shed covered in reclaimed siding; it looks just like your fence. It has actually been up for several years now, but I feel like it needs to be sealed.

  • Thanks for all the feedback everyone! The wood is not sealed and still needs to be sealed (wood sealant is like an extra $40 per gallon). It would probably be worth it though to keep the fence intact for a while. The paint though acts as a another sealer. Also, a lot of the wood is redwood, and redwwod tends too not rot, so the sealant isn’t as mutch of an issue here. Also, sod was not in the budget, but seed is a good suggestion! And more plants always help out for sure; great advice!

  • I would like to see a picture of the backside of the fence. does he use steel posts or wood posts?

  • Incredible! So much effort but for such a beautiful result! You did an amazing job :) Very inspiring.

  • Nice work! Just be careful not to plant food too near the fence in case that’s lead paint. (Or have it tested) (Speaking from experience here, with toddlers who had high blood levels because of living in an old house.)

  • I am collecting materials to begin this amazing fence (I’ve been OBSESSED since I happened upon this post). Put an ad on craiglist for fence posts and got a ton of beautiful ones for free. Collecting pallets and wood. Can’t wait. Beautiful job!

  • Absolutely amazing! Love the creativity that went into this. You converted a junk yard into a work of art. Well done!

  • Great! Now complete the project with either grass, concrete, rock ground cover or all three.

  • Chat up a gardener or two, just about anyone is happy to divide their plants and most plants can be divided! Hosta, sedum, daylilies, irises, they would be perfect and easy peasy to divide and grow. For free!

  • That’s a pretty amazing 30 hour project! For the wood sealant, try freecycle.org. A lot of people post their leftover materials at the end of a project. Also ask your local hardware store where they put the “oops paint” — the ones where the color is mixed wrong.