We love our outdoor living area. It’s a great way to get away from the kids. Just kidding (not really). But seriously, it’s so nice to come outside and sit under the pergola to just slow down, relax and catch your breath. If the sun is a problem, no problem – adjust the slant of the louvers and you’re good. Sit down, lay your head back, kick up your feet and enjoy the birds (or crickets depending on the time) serenading you. It’s a retreat just a step out the back door.

But the retreat didn’t happen overnight. Or over a 100 nights. We started this project in October 2018.

It began as a simple Saturday item on my checklist. A few rotten deck boards needed to be replaced. But as I pulled up the rotten boards one by one, the rotten boards and joists never ended. I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went and I didn’t figure it out on that Saturday. Over the course of many Saturdays and other days ending in “y”, Will and I pulled up the whole dang thing.

And fortunately or unfortunately, we destroyed the home of this guy.

But fortunately for us, he slithered away and I haven’t seen him since.

Anyway, things don’t always go as planned.

On to plan B. Wait, was there a plan B?


Nonetheless, we pivoted and decided to fill the big, new empty space with a concrete patio. We had a wood pergola with the ugly wood deck, but it couldn’t survive the deck demo and the concrete patio installation. So it had to go. I thoroughly enjoyed the demo work. I’ve discovered that I’m better at destroying than I am creating – at least as a carpenter. At 52 years old I bought my first sawzall. It was a blast.

It was a good move. No regrets. The deck boards, joists and pergola scraps made many enjoyable bonfires with the family. And we reclaimed some of the usable pergola lumber for future projects.

My friend, Arthur, poured the concrete in July 2019 – a full 9 months after I pulled up the first rotten deck board. You see, things don’t happen quickly in the Brady household. We don’t microwave, we crockpot. We’re a Slight Edge family.

However, the wait was worth it. Arthur poured a beautiful concrete patio.

We took on the staining of the concrete and of course, after 3 attempts and numerous trips to Sherwin Williams, we got it right. Perseverance is an important character trait. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.”

Ok, I’m not sure what he means, but it sounds good.

So, we had a really nice patio, yet we missed our pergola. No worries though. You’ve heard of Wayfair, right?

They had a beautiful pergola for sale at 30% off and it was delivered in 7 boxes. Seven big, heavy boxes. Oh, the poor Fed Ex driver. I did help the man though. But there was a sight, oh so slight problem. The instruction manual for the pergola was 20 pages and although it looked like English, it was in a language I did not understand.

I called my other friend Vic – a general contracting mastermind of a craftsman. He felt sorry for me and agreed to help with this Chinese puzzle box. And after about an hour Vic assessed my handiwork skills and started giving orders to Will, my 13 year old son instead of me. I was completely unnecessary. It’s ok, my feelings weren’t hurt. I’m self-aware.

Oh, by the way, this is November 2019 – more than one year after the first deck board was pulled. Then the rains came. Was 2019-2020 the wettest winter in our lifetimes? As fate would have it, the rain revealed some significant drainage issues around the patio. The issues weren’t anything my friend, Arthur, couldn’t handle, but did I mention the rain? It took until March 2020 to get enough consecutive dry days to make the work possible.

But here we are. And looking back to that first day, long, long ago in October 2018, I didn’t plan to:

Rip up an entire 600 square foot wood deck.

Tear down a 12 x 12 pergola.

Pour a concrete patio.

Stain said patio.

Install a new Wayfair louvered pergola.

Pay for any of the above.

And once the wheels were turning, I never expected any of this to take 18 months. But we stayed the course, received great help from some terrific friends, and remained patient with our snail-like rate of progress. Now it’s all fun memories looking back and we can enjoy the fruit of our labor.

The experience really is a lesson in life. Such as,

Things don’t always go according to plan.

Sometimes you have to tear down to rebuild.

Things take longer than you expect.

Great friends are a blessing.

You don’t fail if you don’t quit. One of my favorite expressions is a Japanese proverb, “Fall down 7 times, stand up 8.” So, true.

It’ll cost more than you planned.

But it’s worth it.

Oh, and keep an eye out for that snake.

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