Creating a shady sanctuary in your garden can be an expensive project, particularly if you want to put something permanent in place.
But one thrifty women has saved almost £1,000 by building her own gazebo in the place of her rotting old decking.
Louise Tunstall, 48, a service delivery manager from Cambridge, originally embarked on the build with her husband after noticing a problem with her decking.
“We had some raised decking in a corner of our garden which we used for barbecues and just chilling, but over the past 12 years it had started to look tired and worn," she told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk.
“When we started to look at repairing it, the wooden frame underneath was rotten, so we took advantage of not going on holiday in 2020 (due to COVID) and used that money to redesign the whole corner of the garden."
The couple tried to make the best use of the space by removing as few plants as possible.
"I wanted the design to blend into the garden and look like it has always been there," Tunstall explains.
"That corner also gets the sun later in the afternoon and early evening, so that was in the back of my mind.”
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Sourcing supplies was first on the agenda. Tunstall picked up fence panels and posts from Earith Timber, sourced decking boards and bollards online, and bought sleepers from UK Timber for a total of £660.
Next up was the lighting and electrics, which comprised of armoured cabling, a junction box, a slot light and bulbs for £400.
At Dunelm, Tunstall chose cushions, shelving and a ladder stand for £100, before heading to Bedfordshire Garden Buildings for their gazebo kit priced at £1,400.
Plants were sourced from B&Q, the local market and Dobbies for a total of £100.
"I had some bits already, such as the seating, and we had compost from our allotment," Tunstall continues.
She also saved on labour costs for installing the electrics as her husband is an electrician.
Overall, the impressive project took three months to complete, but didn't come without hurdles.
“Getting hold of materials during lockdown was an interesting challenge, especially as wood was in short supply," she explains. "But we managed to find everything we needed in the end."
While her husband sourced equipment, Tunstall got stuck into preparation and planning, which she says was her particular area of interest.
“There was a lot of clearing out and trips to the rubbish tip as we got rid of the rotting decking," she explains. "We worked on the fence, replacing four damaged panels and concreting in 20 new posts to support the new decking. This was hard work as the ground was very hard and we had to remove a lot of old posts which had been concreted in.
“Laying down the decking was a project in itself, as the total area is 23 metres squared!"
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A lot of digging and manual work was also required to build the new wooden frame of the gazebo using the flat pack kit.
"This was probably the hardest part, as the instructions could have been better," Tunstall adds.
“The electrics involved drilling in the holes for the lighting and cabling. My husband then stepped in to lay in the electrical cables and connect these back to the distribution board. I also replaced the bollard light bulbs with LED lighting.
“We landscaped the surrounding area with sleepers, designing and cutting them where needed, to make each one individual. The soil was transported from the allotment to the garden, at which point I was able to do my favourite part - the planting!"
Finally it was time for the couple to add in the soft furnishings and finishing touches.
"Overall it took a lot of effort but we love the end result," Tunstall says. "The gazebo gives us privacy and shelter so we can use it all year round, and the area is now really unique. I’m pleased with how it blends into the existing garden."
Tunstall says she's proud of her efforts in transforming the space.
“I’m happy I managed to do it myself, as this is a career I’d like to get into more, and I wanted the challenge - renovating property and gardens is a real passion of mine.”
Tom Church, co-founder of LatestDeals.co.uk, says the couple were able to save money on the project by doing a lot of work themselves.
"The average price for a professional gazebo installation of this size is £400 or more plus labour, and an electrician will typically charge around £40-50 an hour," he explains.
“As Louise provided seats she already owned, this has also saved a lot of money, as seating of this kind comes in at around £500 on average.
"Overall it’s safe to say Louise has saved at least £950 by completing this project herself.”