The Summer of the Dream Porch Makeover

by Jess ViceAugust 17, 2018

The weather starts to warm up, the nights are bright and crisp, and those dream decks on Pinterest just seem further and further from reality. But don’t give up on your Pinterest-worthy porch paradise yet! It’s easier, more affordable, and less time intensive than you think to take your existing deck to the next level.

Still need proof? Let me walk you through my summer of deck do-over, and I guarantee you’ll be charging out the door, tools in hand, ready to take on your outside spaces.

Pinterest Is More Like Guidelines, Really

My advice with Pinterest is right up there with early season swimming pools – dip your toes in every once in a while to get a sense of how the water feels. Then get out as fast as you can!

Pinterest shows you things like this:

via Better Homes & Gardens

Or this:

via HGTV.com

Or this:

via Better Homes & Gardens

Y’all, those people hired expensive professionals. There’s very little DIY in those pins, and that’s ok! That’s why we dream. Instead of getting hung up on details, look at dream porch and patio pictures for the feeling they give you. You’re trying to capture the idea of restful retreat or party central or cozy outdoor sitting room.

One Woman’s Path to Porch Re-Do

When I moved into my house, this is what I had to work with:

Oh, the fencing!

Oh, the lattice! Oh, the corrugated plastic!

Oh, the riffraff and makeshift gates!

Oh, the variety of decking!

Surprisingly, a lot of people tried to convince me the deck was cute or charming or quirky or practically a cabana. But I was having none of it. In my head, there was an airy, shaded deck full of comfy furniture and an outdoor cooking space. There was sun-through-the-tree-leaves by day and stars-through-the-rafters by night. There was a light, clean, simple deck space that I could lounge in by myself or that I could easily host 15 people for a cookout.

Demolition Derby

Day 1 was intimidating. I could almost imagine the deck without all that fencing and those support beams, but it was still so far away. I very timidly sawed one of the fence panels off at deck level and removed the screws and stared at the gap I’d just made. But about eight fence pieces later, I was bitten by the demo bug and I couldn’t have been happier about it. I mean, just look at that face.

Y’all, my mom asked for photos. I had to.

A friend and I stripped the deck down to the flooring, five support posts, and roof. That part was easy – once we got into a rhythm of saw, drill, saw, drill, shift, it was done in a few hours.

Then I spent an afternoon sanding the new, raw edges we’d created and removing staples, extra nails, hooks, random screws, and anything extra that I didn’t want to stain to the deck. Pro Tip: Belt sanders are amazing but have a really hard time with screw heads. I started to sand the entire deck surface but went through three belts in a three square foot space. Even the heads that were flush with the decking would catch and shred the belts. So I cut my losses and only sanded the aggressive edges.


Also: sanding on hands and knees, even with kneepads, is just awful.

The corrugated roofing was by far the hardest part of demolition. The roof pitches from about seven feet on one end to close to thirteen at the highest point, and it overhangs my house roof by several feet. I spent several hours shimmying up a short ladder, then up a long ladder, then onto the roof, then back to the short ladder — all with a pry bar and heavy duty hammer in hand. [Don’t leave hammers on top of ladders. They tend to fall off and hit you in the face when you least expect it.] The awkward angles and balancing were exhausting, but the roof was eventually pizza-rolled from one side to the other in panels and dumped into my driveway.


In hindsight, I probably should have asked a friend for help.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

I decided on Valspar’s One-Coat Exterior Stain and Sealer in “solid” for several reasons. The kids who lived here before were rather artistic and there were several drawings I couldn’t sand out. Because of the various decking materials used, there was a lot of variety in texture, and the solid stain would smooth that out. And to be honest, I’m afraid the deck will need to be rebuilt in a few years, so I wanted something dense that might help hold it together a little bit longer.

I bought three gallons of paint, a roller with an extended handle, a couple disposable paint trays, and two big, rectangular brushes. I ended up needing more roller heads than I expected – I used four total.

Painting was easy and so very satisfying. In a few quick roller loads, the deck had already transformed to half my vision.


I moved all those rocks, painted behind them, and rearranged them. Oh, the spiders!

A Room of One’s Own

I was worried that the hardest part would be furniture, but that came easily. Overstock.com’s outlet, AtHome, Amazon, and Lowe’s end-of-season patio sale all came in super handy and helped me keep a tight budget. I added a few touches that were gifts from friends and family: the water feature from my life coach, the cafe lights from my sister-in-law.

Hanging the lights and the shade sail was tricky by myself, but not impossible. For the sail, I started at the lowest corner where I wanted full shade. I mounted that eye-hook and corner, then moved to the other low corner. As it turns out, my deck is wider and taller in one corner than the other, so a perfect fit was out of the question. And the light strand didn’t quite line up perfectly either. I draped it along the edge of the deck to make sure it would fit, then found the center point of the strand and started hanging from the center out so I could control the height and spacing of each bulb.

And almost before I knew it, my dream deck was done.

Dream Deck Stats

I work on a very numbers-driven team, so here’s a breakdown of this DIY dream deck:

  • Demolition supplies: $0 (I had all the tools and borrowed the ladders)
  • Paint and sanding supplies: $176
  • Furniture and decor: $490
  • Hours of manual labor: 34.5

There are obviously several finishing touches left, like repairing and painting the stairs, painting the beams exposed around the sail, building a bar, planters, and so on. But for this season, for the bright days left before winter, and the nights with friends when ice clinks in glasses and waves of heat and smell come off the grill… well, I think this is absolutely perfect.

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About The Author
Jess Vice
Jess is a user experience strategist by day and a writer by night. Jess loves making a space feel unique and welcoming through DIY renovations, cooking Southern soul food, and hosting dance parties. She and her Schnoodle Puck spend most of their free time playing in the great outdoors in Utah.