Transferring a plan from paper to garden plot can be a time-consuming business, but nothing beats seeing the design take shape in all its 3D glory, as Ruth Chivers reveals
A golden rule of installing any built feature into your garden is to follow the manufacturers’ instructions. After agreeing the new plan with Tina and Roy Mantle, the hot tub suppliers advised that access to the side panels of the spa bath had to be unrestricted. Our plan to sink it into the upper deck had to be revised. The Mantles did not want to have it sitting above ground level at that height (about 50cm above patio level, plus the height of the spa) and we all agreed it needed a sunny place. So, I adjusted the design to accommodate the spa at patio level. It had to be given a good firm concrete base to support its weight.
The value of Tina’s prize sounds like a lot (£20,000) but we still had to keep a close eye on costs. As mentioned in the first article, this was no instant makeover. Preparing the site really well and using quality materials also underpinned my brief. Scheduling the work, getting everything onsite at the right time is important for everyone concerned. Work started at the Mantles’ on Monday 11th September and finished on Tuesday 3rd October. The team from The Garden Company enjoyed a few days of Indian summer conditions. Then the rain set in. Damp and dark conditions did not deter our team of builders who worked through rain and into twilight to get the groundwork done.
Existing patio slabs came up and old concrete was removed in skip loads. New concrete was poured, foundations made and the structure of the decks were built. Cables were laid for a qualified electrician to install power for the spa, water feature and lights. A welcome visible sign of progress for Tina was the rebuilding of her pergola. The old, rotting one was carefully dismantled, to retain the wisteria and roses, and a new pergola installed. The new posts were set 1m apart, 30cm wider than before. This extra width makes the path through the pergola look much more inviting.
I specified a hardwood for the decks and facing panels. The one used, Kempas, is similar in colour and texture to Balau. The decking boards have a grooved surface on one side and this was laid uppermost. Using pressure-impregnated timber for the unseen supporting structure of a deck helps keep costs down without compromising finished looks. The paving selected was Stonemarket Millstone flag paving in a natural colour. These are good quality riven slabs, made using a number of different moulds so that the finished product looks authentically like old flagstones. Available in a range of sizes, these were laid at an angle of 30° throughout, to match the angle of the upper deck, give a sense of movement, and to widen the garden visually.
The hot tub was installed in week 3 of construction. It was an exciting moment to watch it being settled on its concrete base. Filling and testing took a few more hours – it has a 375-gallon capacity. The spa has jets for back, neck and shoulders and its ozone system reduces the need for chemicals. All of us looked forward to a spell in it as we watched test runs in the gathering gloom.