Thrifty deck spruce-up

If you know anything about Cane and me, you probably know that we are not great finishers.

We are great dreamers and planners and starters, but finishers? Not so much.

Most of the time, we’re just fine with that. We usually finish eventually, and our long, meandering process allows us time to make great discoveries we might otherwise never make.

library light 2

But this weekend, we decided to take another path.

We decided to start and complete an entire project in one weekend.

And not a baby project, either. A full-blown, full-on, whole-room project.

It all started with this…


cane powerwashing drill

…and this…

deck before

…and ended with this:

deck after

and this:

deck with flowers

and this:

grill close up

We had an extra-long long weekend thanks to education budget woes. (Because of my reduced position, I never work Fridays, and Cane had a furlough day.) I no longer even remember why we were in our local Salvation Army store or if we originally had other plans for the weekend, but they all flew out the window shortly after seeing this Weber grill for $50.

grill before

It didn’t look quite this bad in the store. We were so excited to start rehabbing it we forgot to take a proper “before” pic. It came with all the internal parts and a wood side table that you can see in later shots.

Perhaps you can understand why we didn’t jump on it immediately, even though it looked to be in great working condition. In fact, we left the store without it (the next day was a half-off sale, and we weren’t sold on it yet), but as we continued with our errands we kept talking about it and how we really wanted to fix up our deck to make it a great space for the summer.

breakfast on deck

We moved in last August–just enough summer left to realize how much we’d like to spend many days on this deck.

We’ve been grill shopping for a few months. Our old grill was a cast-off given to me by a neighbor 4 years ago when I was setting up an entire household from scratch. She’s seen way better days.

old grill

I was thankful to have her, and she’s grilled many a piece of meat for me, but she doesn’t cook well, she’s ugly as sin, and she’s so dirty we didn’t want to bring her through the house to our upper deck, which means we trek up and down our stairs any time we want to grill.

split entry stairs

There’s lots of stairs in a split-entry house.

We’ve been wanting a new grill that we can easily step to from the kitchen. We also want it under cover, so that we can grill all year long, even in the rain. (We live in Oregon; we get a lot of rain.)

Within an hour we’d decided that with the money we’d save on the $50 grill we could afford to spruce up the whole deck. And thus, a weekend project was born.

deck before 2

Why all in one weekend?

Partly so we could link to the Mission Possible Great Outdoors party starting today, hosted by some of our favorite blogs. (We still haven’t finished the impossible project we began with them last January, and we’d kinda like them all to know that we can actually finish something we start!)

But mostly because we just wanted to see what it would feel like. (It feels pretty good.)

table top with flowers and candles

We’ll spare you all the details in this post (though we will likely provide more details in some later posts) and hit the highlights.

The grill

Before going back to get the grill, we did a quick scouting trip to see about some replacement parts. We found that it’s easy to get them for a Weber, and that the new parts fit the older models.

We picked up a set of new grill trays and two cans of black spray paint. A little disassembly, a little power-washing, and a little painting had our new grill looking spiffy in very little time. (You can see our full how-to on fixing up the grill here.)

grill in progress

We think this may be our best thrifting find yet. For less than $150 (the grill trays were $60), we have the equivalent of a grill that’s selling for $400 new. And, we like her old-school charm (wood details, retro font, old-style wheels) better than the sleek stainless of newer grills.

grill after

font on grill

We’d been planning to spend about $260 for the (smaller) new grill we’d been eyeing. We decided we could now put that money toward sprucing up the rest of the deck.

The deck and deck furniture

Before we could do anything with the deck, we needed to clean it. We bought a power-washer. We are not including this in the cost of the deck sprucing project–because it’s really for the house painting project. (Yes, we can do creative financing!)

But our deck and deck furniture were in serious need of some cleaning.

dirty chair

We now don’t know how we could have lived our 40+ years without knowing the wonder of the power-washer. We are love with it. We cannot believe how fun, easy, and magical it is to take something from grime to shine with simple H2O.

powerwashing the deck

Both our deck and our deck furniture are in a state we can most generally describe as “shabby,” but we’re just living with that for now. It was too damp this weekend to think about restaining the deck (though we will do that later this summer), and we’re not sure what we want to do in terms of the deck furniture.

table before

They are craigslist finds from four years ago. (I paid $60 for the table, four chairs, and two Adirondacks. The table and large chairs are solid cedar pieces. They are in good shape, apart from the paint.)

We’re on the lookout for a patio set we love, but we’re happy to live with these in the meantime.

white adirondack chairs

Yes, these cushions are 90s green. But the Sunbrella fabric isn’t faded one bit, and we know it’s only a matter of time before this color comes back in again. :-) We decided bright and colorful would be the theme for our deck.

Then it was time to think about the thing we dumped most of our “extra” money into:


Neither of us knows much about gardening, but we know we want flowers in our outside living room. We decided that we’d need some planters to make it cozy and to pretty up our shabby furniture.

Did a little craigslist searching for gardening containers, but came up empty. Tried the local thrift shops, but struck out there, too. Decided that garage/estate sales were probably the best way to go.

Wish I could tell you that we struck some kind of gardening container gold, but after a morning of driving around to various sales, we had nothing.

(Well, not nothing. We did feed my totally unhealthy chair addiction with yet another project chair. But it was only $1. How could I pass it up?)

garage sale chair

Eventually, we decided we were going to have to buy new containers. I’ll spare you details on the several trips made to Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Fred Meyer, but eventually we decided to go with some simple terra cotta pots. Economical, simple, and versatile.

And, after we decided on terra cotta, I found this sweet set of little pots for $2 at Goodwill.

goodwill pots

We also decided to build a cedar planter box. (By “we” I mean “Cane.”) We were looking at some boxes that were going for $60 at Lowe’s, but they weren’t as tall as we’d like. Priced materials to build our own (about $10), and then Cane went to town on it.

cane building planter

Look at this totally cute planter he built:

cedar planter

While he was working on that, I was putting some stain on an old box we had in our shed:

box before stain

I was also rounding up other containers we already had to see what might work.

pots without flowers

The terra cotta pots are new, but we had the galvanized buckets (from Ikea) banging around the garage. I also found an old tin pitcher that we punched holes in, and we even emptied a nearly-empty paint can and turned it into a planter.

While scouting for planters, we started to look at plants–and it was overwhelming. I had no idea what we needed. I decided that first we’d need to decide upon planters and placement, and then we could look at flowers.

So, that’s what we did.

empty pots

Then, I had to tackle the task of filling them.


Before going back to the store (again!), I made a plan. Actually, I made a diagram. I drew circles and boxes and made notes about thrillers, fillers, and spillers, which I learned all about from Kate at Centsational Girl this spring.

I was determined to go in with a plan. To not over-buy or under-buy. To get in and get out quickly.

Yeah, right.

Three hours later, I came home with this:

flowers not planted

I had specific pots for a few of these, but no super-clear plan. Still, it was better than going in completely blind. And a few hours of planting later, we had this:

pots with flowers

cedar planter with flowers

shade planter

Extra stuff

Spending so much time on the deck, I couldn’t help but see how awful our little deck lights looked:

deck light before

So I just washed them, sanded off the rust, and gave them a few coats of some dark brown spray paint we had in the garage:

deck light after

Another thing I found in one of the estate sales that didn’t yeild any pots? This hand-stitched vintage table cloth to cover the chippy table.

vintage tablecloth


I thought it would go well with my retro thrift-store picnic plates:

vintage retro picnic plates


World Market was having a 3-hour sale on Sunday–50% off all grilling supplies. So we picked up some tools that also happen to be fun to look at.

grill tools


While I was there, I couldn’t pass up these colorful lanterns and candles. (Had to make those green cushions work!)

colorful lantern and candles


Oh, and Cane decided to whip up not just a planter, but a whole TABLE and CHAIR on his Sunday afternoon:

cane's table and chair

(Yes, I’m going to get him to write a tutorial for both projects.)

Cost/Benefit Analysis

The whole project (including grill, replacement parts, paint, wood, plants, pots, and accessories) was probably about $300. Just a little more than the new grill we thought we were going to buy.

And we did spend almost our entire 4-day weekend’s worth of time on it. But it was good time. We had a lot of fun driving around, thinking out loud, cleaning, painting, and building. (And we did manage to try out a great new burger place in town that has gluten-free buns!)

So, not only did we get a good weekend out of it, but we got some other good stuff that will last all summer long.

Not having to run down two flights of stairs to grill (while trying to put the rest of dinner together)?  Can’t tell you how much I loved that.

dinner on grill


A beautiful place to sit and lounge with the family? So looking forward to some long, warm evenings on the deck.

lanterns at night


Knowing we can actually finish something we start?  As they say on TV:  Priceless.

whole deck

We’re a little late to the Mission Possible garden party, but we’ll be sharing there anyway.

And at Pancakes and French Fries, for the William Morris Project:

william morris project

And, although only a small part of this post is about gardening, we’re linking to No Ordinary Homestead’s Garden Life gathering. This week Tiffany has a great collection of ideas for small-space gardening. (You’ve gotta click through just to see what someone did with a bunch of old jeans.) I wanted to make sure she sees our paint-bucket planter below!

And finally, Southern Hospitality’s weekly thrifting party. The great finds there have given me a new eye when I’m at an estate sale or thrift shop.

thrifty treasures button

Hope you’re having a great week!


paint can planter