Family Matters,  Life Lessons,  Secret Spy Stuff

The top secret patio fencing project

almost zen like

We’ve been up to no good. As you know, Toby’s been away on business and Baby Bug and I and my whole family have been home “fixing things”. Well the “fixing things” was really a code word for this super duper grand surprise home-improvement project I cooked up. Toby HATES surprises. He also doesn’t really like super duper grand home-improvement projects. Not to mention he works all the time and has no time for the chaos that comes along with super duper grand home-improvement projects. SO… since he was away I sorta finagled my family into helping me. They LOVE super duper grand home improvement projects. Especially surprise ones. Yippeee!

The project is this:

You know our patio…The really nice patio that we love to hang out on all during the long hot summer days? You know it. You’ve seen pictures of it. It’s really an extension of our home and when it’s hot, it’s the nicest room in the whole non-air conditioned house. Well, it’s also on the second story and has very steep sides with only a railing to stop big people from falling off. It’s incredibly scary and dangerous for Baby Bug. She could take one wrong toddler step and fall crashing below and smash her soft cantaloupe head on the cement.

Up until now our policy has been: Just keep the baby off the patio. But this is impossible in the coming summer months. She wants to be “SIDE!” (outside) all the time. And outside for us is the patio since we don’t have a yard and we live in the city right next to a major highway. It’s not like I can let her go play in the alley where cars come whizzing by without notice or dig in the next door neighbor’s flower box. Of course we can go to the beach (and we do) but sometimes I like to go outside and not have to put her in the stroller to get there. So I schemed up a grand plan to fence IN the patio and make it safe for Baby Bug to play out there. Plus, I like to be out there all the time now too and it would be nice if she could be out there with me. The play pen just wasn’t cutting it.

Fencing in the patio is no small task. It has to be just right. Firstly, because Toby is the king of aesthetics and he has a pretty strict code for what I am allowed to do and not do to our home and secondly, we rent. We don’t really want to get our landlord involved if we don’t have to. She’s given us permission to do “improvements” but her definition of “improvements” and our definition of “improvements” are not always the same. Most importantly, we don’t really want her to have to come over and inspect the improvements because no matter what we’re discussing the discussion always comes around to how cheap our rent is and how she is should raise it. We pay cheap rent and we want to keep it that way.

I thought about getting some metal dog fencing stuff and wiring it to the railings with electrical ties. That was a good idea because it can be taken down easily and won’t offend the landlord. But, when I priced it out at the pet store, it added up really quick. That fencing material is pretty expensive. I don’t really have an extra $400 laying around for this super duper home improvement project. Someone else suggested some pre-made pvc pipe fencing that you can just cut to size and ka-bamo instant pretend plastic white picket fence. But that added up pretty quick too and I was worried it would be bulky and hard to cut. I wasn’t too keen on it because even though it looks like wood, it really isn’t and I hate plastic that looks like wood but isn’t. It’s like traitor wood.

not so very white trashy

When my sister-in-law was in town, she convinced me we could do the project pretty easily ourselves with some simple but strong plastic garden fencing. I was skeptical. But she showed me how strong it was and unless Baby Bug suddenly grows beaver teeth or learns how to use wire cutters, we should be pretty safe. This stuff is thin but very very strong. We devised a plan to staple gun it to all the railings. It was a great plan.

Of course all this had to be done in secret from Toby because there is no way I’m going to be able to explain to him over the phone anything about staple-gunning plastic garden fencing onto our railings without it sounding right out of the trailer park. I was sooo stressed out about it. Wouldn’t you know it, Toby called from Hawaii WHILE we were in Home Depot and it was incredibly difficult to talk to him over the sound of the loud speaker squelching every five minutes. Then the kids got antsy and the whole phone call was just a frustrating excercise in how-to-deceive-your-spouse-badly. It was awful. Thankfully, Toby is having so much fun in Hawaii and rambling on and on about how pretty everything is, he didn’t even notice the whining kids or the squelching background noise. Phew. That was doozy.

bang! bang!

But then things got more complicated. We didn’t count on the fact that there is no railing at the bottom of our patio to staple the fencing to. The floor has metal edges and is not very staple friendly. I guess we just thought we’d pull it tight and the fencing would hold itself down at the bottom. We were wrong. We stapled up one small section and it was almost more dangerous than having no fencing at all. The gap at the bottom was like an open invitation calling all toddlers to stick their foot through it and fall to crashing down to their splattery cantaloupe death. We had to think of another plan and quick.

This meant it was time to call in the troops. It was time to do some carpentry and add a third rail at the bottom that the fencing could be stapled to. I called every handy man I could find in the phone book and every single one of them wanted $400 just to come out and look at the job. Where’s your friendly grandfatherly fix-it man when you need one? After much fretting, I finally broke down and decided I’d have to trust my brother and my dad to get the job done. It’s not that I don’t trust my dad or my brother with their carpentry skills, it’s just that the job has to be done and not half done. They aren’t really known for getting things done all the way all the time because life tends to get in the way. I also wanted to make sure it looked professional because I was very worried that Toby wouldn’t like it. In fact, I’m still worried that Toby won’t like it.

My brother and his wife are angels. They assured me and assured me that they could do the job and it would look nice. There wouldn’t be any wrong cuts or funny pieces of wood stuck here and there making it look trashy. They assured me that it really was an easy job and could easily be completed before Toby comes home on Thursday. So I went ahead and trusted them. I’ve been twitching and biting my fingernails non-stop during the whole process but guess what, they were right. They finished the job and it looks way way way way better than I imagined it would. Phew!

I was so relieved.

Until Toby called tonight. Me and my big mouth. Arg. I had to go and tell him a story about how Baby Bug dropped a rock on her foot and smashed her little toes and cried for half an hour. It was terrible. The phone call and the poor baby crying because her toes were all purple and hurting.

“What rock? How did she get a big rock to drop on her foot?”
“It was the rock that your orchid used to be growing on.”
“Where’s my orchid? What did you do with my orchid?”
“Well, it was dead. So I made an executive decision and threw it out.”
“What! You threw out my very special orchid that I was going to revive as soon as I got back from Hawaii!!!?”
“It was really really dead.”
“Which orchid. Which orchid was really really dead?”
“The one in the palm tree.”
“What did you do with the palm tree?”
“Nothing. We just sort of cleaned up the patio.”
“What was wrong with the patio?”
“Nothing. We just cleaned it. It’s a surprise.”

Things went downhill from there. Finally, after some arguing and some lose words about trailer parks and chicken coops and stink holes, we both calmed down and Toby and I decided that maybe the fencing wasn’t so horrible. Maybe it is a good thing if it makes Baby Bug happy. I assured him it did. Except the rock smashing little toes part.

the big rock that fell on her foot

So we’ll see. He gets home on Thursday and I really really hope the plastic green fencing doesn’t look too much like animal coop material. I think it sort of blends into the background and if you squint your eyes you can almost pretend it’s not there. Right? Right? What fencing? I don’t see any fencing. Ow! I just walked right into some fencing!

We did it!

This is my “please don’t be mad at me because I did something behind your back face”. But now that I look at this picture, my face does kinda look like an evil imp face. But really really I’m not an evil imp. Maybe a little conniving. I just wanted to make the patio safe and I really really tried hard to make it nice. See food in my teeth. Not evil.

even Pounce likes it

Even Pounce likes it.

the new stretchy hose

I also bought a new stretchy hose to water the orchids all the time so they will be nice and pretty and NOT dead.

More photos in CC’s flickr feed.


  • Toby

    Maybe now we can have some chickens, a rooster and a rabbit.

    Really I think it looks fine.

    SAJ says: Phew! Sigh… Phew! I hope I’m not in trouble for involving the whole internet in this approval process…

  • Meredith

    It looks great! It’s hardly noticeable.
    I didn’t know that plastic fencing like that existed. I could use a few pieces for my own toddler safety plan!

  • Sam

    See! He likes it! I think it’s a great solution. Not white trashy at ALL – I promise! Most importantly, you can have the Bug outside and not worry about her falling to a “splattery canteloupe” death. I love that phrase! Too funny.

  • DeeJay

    Your patio looks like pure heaven! A little plant filled oasis of your very own. You guys will all have many love filled hours spent out there together.

    Life is good!

  • Annie

    It looks super and it’s safe, hooray! I wish I had a semi-outdoor retreat like your cool patio. My backyard is now covered in summer snow (the evil cottonwood out back has decided to shed all its sticky cottony seed stuff everywhere and I’m still trying to figure out how to pick it out from everything). Happy breezes to you and Bug! Enjoy your “new” patio haven.

  • Kate B.

    That cracks me up that you are writing about this big surprise for Toby, then he comments on it! So funny!

    The railing and fencing look very nice, sleek, and not at all trashy. The job was well done! And best of all, it looks safe and now Baby Bug has a new place to explore.

    Isn’t it so great to have handy family members? My handy family is all close by, and they are so helpful.

    SAJ says: Well… it was supposed to be a secret surprise until I went and spilled the beans during my phone call. So I figure it was okay to blog about since he was probably imagining the worst possible chicken wire job ever. This way he could see pictures from Hawaii. And yes, it is very nice to have a handy family close by.

  • andrea

    I think it is great, especially since it essentially adds another room to your house. I don’t think chicken coop at all.

    I wish my family were handy enough to come and help me build a deck off the back of our house. As of now we have the stairs of death and a big gravel pit–not very baby safe. Enjoy your new patio space!

  • OMSH

    It isn’t trashy at all and I’m the queen of aesthetics when it comes to houses. I hate quick fixes and poorly rigged jobs. I’d do it. Goooooo Baby Bug and future living orchids!

  • Chris

    I think it looks wonderful – it really is a good solution for your situation. I could think of far trashier options (ie. strips of duct tape from floor to railing…)

    Good job!

  • bluejaye

    It looks like it will work fine. What did you put in front of the stairs of death?

    SAJ says: There’s already a gate there. We just never used to shut it. Now it stays shut whenever the patio doors are open. Pounce HATES the gate. He hasn’t figured out how to get up and over yet. Poor kitty.

  • ang

    oh no! the fencing looks great but i’m worried about baby bug! purple means broken and i hope she didn’t break her cutie toes. did she break her toes?

    SAJ says. Man, I hope not! Now you’ve got me scared. One toe is definitely purple but she wiggles it and has been trying on her many many many pairs of shoes over it today with no complaining at all. I think it’s just bruised. I so don’t want to go to the ER again.

  • Kami

    It looks great and wow that railing was terrifying, I totally see why you needed to put something up. I would have been scared to let my crazy 3 year old out there.

    SO glad your hubby likes it too :-)

  • comfortablycrazy

    The plastic is called poultry cloth but I don’t really know why. The big advantage is that it’s plastic, which means you can pull it taught and there aren’t any big lumps to smooth out, and the ends aren’t sharp. Which you would have with real chicken wire, because it’s a big roll of metal.

    I’m really glad Toby approves of it. That’s what all the “discussing” was about on the patio Sunday morning. Me trying to make sure they understood it had to look like part of the existing fence and not some quick add on. Though it was quick and fairly cheap.

    Did the new staple gun make it easier?

    SAJ says: I think so. I ended up stapeling up most of it while Dad was at work Monday. (I couldn’t wait til he got home to finish it!) The gun was tricky, it slipped around on the plastic and my fingers are weaklings but it worked. I think the old staple gun would have been harder. I’m so happy. Thanks again for all your help! Pounce is pissed. But hey, maybe he won’t get eaten by coyotes now!

  • Angella

    YOU are a great story teller! I’m giggling over here. And traitor wood? Honey will LOVE that one!

    The fencing looks great, and I love the new banner!

  • Neil

    I just bought that exact same hose yesterday! Does yours get caught on everything? And your new header is fantastic! Save your money. Baby Bug WILL need therapy.

  • rayshell

    It looks great and it BB proof! I’m sure Toby will change his mind once he is able to see the completed project! Toby sounds like me…I hate for anything to look half done or not professional enough. I feel for you cause I know I can be difficult when it comes time for my hubby to any type of home improvement projects. I always have a million questions and tons of input! :)

    I would LOVE a patio like yours…It’s beautiful!

  • chepooka

    I think this is lovely, it adds atmosphere and I’m guessing it changes the light in a very interesting way (from what I can tell). I wish I had a patio like yours so bad lol!!

  • mcgee

    i think it looks great…even better that it was affordable! happy 4th of july!

    p.s. i cannot get over the cuteness that is baby bug. can. not.

  • Kuky

    I think it’s great! I would love to have a patio like that to hang out in. We have a backyard but it’s not covered. And when it’s super hot out all that goes on is a rush to get outside to turn on the water for the plants and then back into the shaded house. And then back out again to turn off the water. But no lingering at all because it’s not nice and pleasant like your patio.

  • Jen

    That’s so cute that Toby approved via comments! I’m really glad that the project was such a success. Wishing you lots of summer fun out on the Baby Bug Safety Approved, Cantaloupe-Death Free patio!

  • lynne

    Looks lovely to me and you can’t keep Baby Bug cooped up all summer when your in the house. Hmm now all you need is some water feature. I know very little about orchids as I only bought my first one this year and all the petals promptly fell off making me think it was dead too, but I kept in the bathroom and to my surprise it sprouted a whole new branch and I have blooms again!

  • Susan

    I think the fence looks great and as long as Baby Bug is protected on the patio…who cares how it looks?!
    I love stretchy water hoses.

  • Beth

    very nice patio…looks great! good job everyone!!!!

    love the new banner…BB is soooo cute! enjoy her!!!

    Looks around to spy all those unfinished projects here!! ok i can also check 2 off the honey-do list! 4 th of July my hubby did the new tub faucet and new dryer venting!!! miracles can happen! LOL

  • Valerie

    The fencing looks great. It looks professional! And it’s all for Baby Bug’s safety, and what is more important than that?

  • BeachMama

    The fencing looks awesome, the before pic of just the railing was making my tummy do flops. I hope you get to enjoy the outside even more now.