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Farmhouse Backyard Update: All About Our New Sports Court – (It’s A Real Thing, Per Usual)

In continuing with our “first summer backyard tour,” which is less of a bunch of reveals and more of a progress/update/learnings, today I have for you all things sports court. Originally, she was big and cracked and now she’s smaller and unfinished. Check this progress out (I love watching this over and over and over).

When we first bought the property it had the world’s largest sports court on it – basically a tennis court size with like 20 extra feet in every direction – HUGE. Like many things in this house, we thought it was fine “as-is,” thinking that changing it would be daunting (and we were right!). We figured we’d hire someone to resurface it so it didn’t LOOK so cracked and call it a day. Brian and I really divided up the outside workload based on what was important to each of us – which means he took the lead on all things sports court, driveway, farm animals, and the south play lawn. At this time, I was busy designing the inside of the house so I barely thought about these things. I couldn’t clutter my brain space trying to book a sports court resurfacer. I don’t know if I have all the details right of this process TBH – or perhaps I’ve blocked them!

Here’s a quick process video for you to check out too! (Just wait for the little ad to play:)

I believe the original court was 120′ long by 60′ wide – HUGE. Our property was big so we maybe we didn’t realize it before. But as Brian had different subs come over to consult on how to make it better, they all said the same two things:

  1. “We will not resurface this, No way”. Essentially it was so badly cracked – everywhere, that no one would put their name on resurfacing it because they all said it would just crack in a year and look like garbage. And…
  2. “This sports court is way too big”

Part of me wanted to try to just get a someone super inexpensive to do it knowing that it was a five year bandage. That’s the “let’s deal with this annoying and expensive situation later,” part of me who is a big part of me honestly.

So what were our options?
1. Hire an asphault company to just make it a big black top (cheapest and a two day process)
2. Resurface it ourselves, knowing that we don’t know how to do that and that all the experts say wouldn’t be wise.
3. Pour concrete over it, another layer and hope that it doesn’t crack?
4. Demo it out and start fresh (and smaller).
5. Wait and hope that whatever we decide wouldn’t ruin all the investment into the landscape we were about to make.

We ended up finding the most affordable concrete guy who quoted $18k (our first quote was $45k) to demo out and re-pour (but 1/2 the size), but when he came he said that unbeknownst to him there were many, many, many layers of concrete, poured over many years and it was going to be much more. I think it was up to 10″ in many places. That is a LOT to demo. And we had to do this NOW. We couldn’t decide this later because all of the landscaping was happening (irrigation, grading) and you can’t plant and landscape and then bring in huge machinery – it would literally ruin it all, break irrigation, destroy plants and trees, etc. So once again, a rushed expensive decision. The good news with this is that the hillside just off the end of the sports court was the one that we were going to bring the Soake pool up on. We were actually able ground the concrete into gravel to help get the crew trucks up. The less good news is that it remains there and we have no idea how to get rid of it.

At this point we definitely wanted it smaller and Cali put it into the plans:

That seemed like the wisest plan and obviously we were grateful that we could make this choice. Now that we are on the other side of this and we love how incredibly usable our property is, we have calmed down. But, needless to say there were huge financial implications for all of this and it was very, very stressful. None of this was budgeted for and I’m not a landscape content creator so it just didn’t seem like a great area be allocating so much money. But we would either need to pause the whole landscape project to get our brains around what to do and how to budget for it, OR deplete more of our savings from selling our LA house and just get it done so we can keep moving forward. This is also when the entire outside was mud (except for this broken sports court). Now that I’m writing about it, in hindsight, the whole year had this cloud of overwhelm over it. I’m not asking for pity, obviously – we are so privileged to be able to do this and have this space – but it’s just a reminder that if you’ve ever attempted a remodel/renovation and have felt extremely overwhelmed and depleted, you aren’t alone. If you’ve ever let your ideas get out of control and then you find yourself forced to make really expensive decisions really fast, you are not alone. And then the real question is was this even the right decision????

This kind of decision making is also hard when you have a guy there, with all his machinery to do the job! The availability of subs last year was SO HARD to lock down, especially for outdoor jobs during dry weather spells in Portland. So you make choices:) And here’s what we did.

Again, we removed the entire OG sports court, ground it into gravel, poured it like a fountain all over the then beat up driveway (which did help with the mud/machinery). “We” then re-poured the new concrete with rebar and the whole shebang – but half the size of the original. I will 100% admit that we don’t know if this was the best choice. If we could do it again were there other options that would have been better than concrete that we should have explored? Probably. I’m also not concrete’s #1 fan for a few reasons – it’s expensive, it STILL CRACKS, and it’s not porous. But is it a ground foundation for a sports court? I guess so!

We also did one smart thing and one stupid thing (at least). The day before we poured the concrete – we scrambled to trench for future electrical to go out to the barn – not knowing what we needed but making sure it can have at least lights and outlets. But we didn’t trench for plumbing/water out there, because we truly didn’t think we needed it and it was so expensive. Now that we have alpacas, we have to bring a hose (like 200 feet) back there to fill up their trough – every day. HUGE WHOOPS. We are trying to come up with a solution (and no we can’t trench now – it’s all landscaped with hardscape, french drains and plants/trees). There are options I won’t bore you with because they all kinda suck TBH.

This is the view to the now Soake pool area that I can’t wait to show you coming ASAP.

And Here He Is Now…

This is not an after, but it’s where we are now. We have yet to take it from concrete slab to sports court. But the kids certainly play on it.

We spent a night shooting photos and video for all the backyard posts (including the alpacas and pool) so we figured having some people in these shots would make it far more enjoyable to look at than just concrete.

Right now we mostly use this for pickle ball (all-four of us play), basketball, roller blading, sidewalk chalk, and they can ride their bikes but don’t as much on this.

Brian was desperate to ge the lines all drawn this summer, but I basically begged him to wait. I was so done with construction, the mud, the decisions, the WRONG rushed decisions, and this court was so usable as is – so for the love of god, just wait. I wanted to make sure we knew how we were going to use the court, where we wanted to face while playing pickle ball, where we wanted the basketball hoop – all based on the sun. We wouldn’t know this in a week of playing, we needed to experience the property for at least one summer.

So that’s where we are now – totally enjoying this court on our first summer post-mud. It’s been REALLY wonderful and we feel extremely grateful.

Do We Think It Is it Too Big?

Yes and no. If we could snap our fingers and have it be 12 feet smaller, just lining up with the shed house, I would. But I also want to wait and see how we use it before giving that full diagnosis. We have zero plans to actually demo it out anytime soon, but I do wish it had slightly less presence. I wonder if painting it green with the white lines would help? The rest of the property is just looking so pretty and natural, and it’s really hard for a concrete slab to integrate in design-wise.

But we also love it, and we don’t know what the future of this house/property will be after the kids graduate (small events? group retreats?) so maybe we would want this space for a use we haven’t even predicted yet.

More to come summer 2024 – surely by then we’ll have the lines painted (if we are even going to do that) and if we plan on installing a net maybe that will get done in the spring. Again, this is all Brian’s domain and he’s taking the lead because he cares about it way more than I do which works for us. We also have so much more to do to “finish” it – fix the backdrop behind the green wall (it’s falling down), finalize any outdoor lighting we want so we can see past 4pm in the winter, figure out where to put the BBQ (right now it’s just floating on wheels on the sports court) but I have ZERO rushes and no real deadlines. All of the timely decisions have been made so the rest we can piecemeal as we feel motivated to tackle them and take some time to actually enjoy the non-construction zone with our now 2nd and 4th graders!!!!!!

*Pretty Photos by Kaitlin Green

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KC
7 months ago

I haven’t read yet – but I just wanted to agree with Birdie from the other day – you look like a teenager (in the coolest way possible). You’d definitely smoke me on the basketball court!!!

Stacey
7 months ago

I bet someone with photoshop can superimpose the lines to see how it looks. And the kids may pick up different sports as they get older so I like the idea of the movable nets and hoops for versatility.

suzanne
7 months ago

Just to add a bit of clarity – the original was just a regular sized tennis court. The lined court itself must be 78 feet long, but of course you need room to stand behind the lines, which is where the ball is often hit from. From a website about tennis courts: A standard tennis court requires at least 36.58m (120ft) by 18.29m (60ft), or 668.9m² (7,200ft²)”.

Erin
7 months ago

Ah, honestly, it looks great and fun, and isn’t being together as a family the point of all this? Love it!!

🥰 Rusty
7 months ago

Love the action shots!!

Jill
7 months ago

Once you put a surface on or paint and line your sports court, you will be happy. As your children grow, it will be a magnet for friends–yours and theirs. Tennis and pickleball are lifelong games and sports teaches many important lessons.

Terra
7 months ago
Reply to  Jill

Love this take, Jill!

Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  Jill

thanks, Jill. that makes me feel good 🙂

Christa
7 months ago

I think you absolutely did the right thing. Javing an outdoor space to get some exercise and fresh air, especially in muddy winters, will benefit your family for decades. I remember as a kid that a big flat concrete space was THE BEST for playing — roller skates, four square, tennis, chalk art, all kinds of healthy activities. And it’s so cool that you will be able to use it for events too. Having it painted a tennis court green would be nice but not required, it’s fine as is. Enjoy it!!!

Terra
7 months ago
Reply to  Christa

Omg. What I would’ve done for a four square court in my own backyard! (And I’m an only child, haha!)

Whitney
7 months ago

We also have a concrete slab (& goats!) and I think your kids are going to love this space for roller skating, bike riding… and crazy carts! I don’t think you will regret the extra concrete.

Sunny
7 months ago

Emily, have your team check for a sponsor to install a multi-sport material over the concrete. Several manufacturers to choose from and have installed. Green, blue, etc tiles are installed over your cement and these create any and all the game lines.

Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  Sunny

we looked into it! Not long enough to reach out because Brian wasn’t sure if you could bounce a ball as hard or something. we need to go find one in town and experience it ourselves. but good idea.

Alie
7 months ago

I looks absolutely perfect!

Roberta Davis
7 months ago

Remember the movie “The Money Pit”?

Lynly
7 months ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

I remember it and am currently living in it 🤪

Lisa Carnochan
7 months ago

I love that you’re taking your time. It’s like when you order a big ol’ toy for your little kids and then they play with the boxes instead. I bet your kids will always remember the summer it was just plain concrete and used however you all felt like it at any given moment.

Leslie
7 months ago

If either child plays soccer or street hockey, nets can be used on the court for that. I think it will be very useful. As for the hose and the alpacas, couldn’t you have a couple rain barrels situationed near the alpacas and use a shorter hose from them to fill trough?

Leslie
7 months ago
Reply to  Leslie

Another idea for the court — preteen/teen dance parties!

monica
7 months ago
Reply to  Leslie

Agree with the rain barrel idea. Even without, they should be able to have the hose out there all the time and just turn it on when using it. I leave my hose “on” all summer and have a sprayer with on-off capability. No need to drag the hose every day?

Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  monica

we don’t drag it every day – we leave it out there, but then its all through our pretty new landscaping. totally fine, but not ideal 🙂 And yes great idea re the rain barrel – i hadn’t thought about that! Curious if there is a rain barrel that has a nozzle that we could use. thank you for the suggestion!

Michelle
7 months ago
Reply to  Emily

Would water from a rain barrel be safe to drink? I would think that it would be filled with pollutants from the air.

Leslie
7 months ago
Reply to  Emily

Most rain barrels have nozzles or spigots. Natural rainwater is likely fine for farm animals, but could check with a university extension office.

Sahaja
7 months ago
Reply to  Emily

I drilled a hole in my rain barrel and installed a spigot. It was easy and <$20 for the spigot and valve to hold it. Totally doable!

Monique Wright Interior Design
7 months ago

My dream is to someday have an indoor sports court (🤑🤑)! I like the idea in Oregon of being able to go run around when it’s raining.

IMO you should definitely paint it green before doing the lines! Like a green that’s similar to the grass, so it has a much smaller presence. Can’t wait to see the rest of the yard! 🤩

Admin
7 months ago

AGREED. green base, white lines (we think) go “go away” as much as possible 😉

Katie
7 months ago

i just wanna bust out my rollerblades and roll around in circles!!! (or at least maybe that’s my 12 year old self talking) 🙂

Jorie
7 months ago

I have no idea if it gets cold enough in your part of Oregon — but ice skating rink in the winter?!

K.D.
7 months ago

I like it as is and wouldn’t paint it green. There is nothing wrong with plain old concrete; it often looks better than painted or colored concrete which sometimes looks too “try hard/faux”. If your driveway was concrete would you even consider painting it green to match the grass?

Angela
7 months ago

Having that awesome space in your backyard, your kids are going to be pickleball masters! The concrete will darken over time and blend in more. Around here, you cannot recycle painted concrete, so that may be one long-term factor to consider if you are thinking about painting the entire surface (not just lines). I wonder if you could stain it with fall leaves or wood chips (like oak leaves with a lot of tannins) to make it less of a solid expanse of white. Be careful of the chemicals in artificial surfacing (there’s PFAS in artificial turf and recycled tire playground surfacing). I wouldn’t worry about the impermeability of the concrete, since you are keeping the runoff on-site.

Courtney
7 months ago

No comment from me on the sports court–I probably would have demoed the whole thing and done landscaping because I’m not sporty at all!–BUT. I will say, we got a basketball hoop recently and our kids (14, 10, 5) love it. Like I’m surprised by how much they love it and will speond hours in the driveway shooting hoops. So definite thumbs-up on that purchase 🙂

Anne Sweeney
7 months ago

I love the court. Painting it green w lines could be an option. Or maybe big planters in the courses w pretty trees? But it really is for the kids and if they use it that great. Who cares if it’s a big hard scape! one thing you mentioned in your post. The need to drag your hose to feed your animals. Been there. And in winter my kids hauled buckets of water to the barn from the house! We finally got a pump that goes to the house. With this pump they actually shot the line through the ground. No trench needed to be dug. Pretty cool. It all came out great. But in hindsight I would probably get an Agri-well. They cost about 5k here in Maryland to drill. It’s super fast and they hook it to a hand pump and you have a dedicated water source for your animals. So if you have iffy water pressure like we do w out well there will be no drain on the well you use for the house. I had one installed at our beach house and still consider getting one here. You may already know if these wells but… Read more »

Lynly
7 months ago
Reply to  Anne Sweeney

Don’t paint the court beyond adding lines. It won’t hold up. You will be forever locked in to having to re-paint every year. And if you ever need to pressure wash to get PNW winter mildew off, then there goes your paint.

Jen
7 months ago

Someone who does pavement striping (like parking lot lines) can stripe this for you. This is actually our business (but we aren’t in Portland) and do this all of the time. Like helicopter pads at hospitals, sports courts, etc. It’s WELL WORTH getting this done rather than trying to paint the lines yourself. Without the professional machines it won’t come out straight no matter how much tape or etc you use. Tell the vendor anything you know about your concrete surface so they ensure the paint is specific to that and not asphalt. Just like with walls, the right paint makes all of the difference in the result and in how long it will last. Plan on getting a restripe periodically to keep it looking fresh. This will be less costly as the layout will all be done and they can just go over the old lines.

MKP
7 months ago
Reply to  Jen

First if all, I love it! What fun to have and I bet it will get used so so much. Family games, kids playing with each other and friends, outdoor parties, etc. Amazing. Also happy for you that you don’t have to rush the next decisions and can just take your time to see how you are using it and research the options. We played a ton of pickle ball in the street during the early pandemic days and used sidewalk chalk to do the lines. They weren’t super straight and it was a pain to do it over and over, but it worked fine. I agree with the idea of leaving concrete unpainted (it will darken as it gets dirty and won’t stand out as much) and having a pro paint the lines. We had pb lines painted on a tennis court at my moms house and were delighted to learn that we had many colors to choose from. We went with medium gray on the green court. You can see the lines when playing/watching pb, but from a distance they are not noticeable at all. And they are easy to distinguish from the tennis lines, which are white.… Read more »

Jen
7 months ago

If you have extra space around your perimeter, maybe it could be fun and add some punch to have a few groupings of container plants. It might break up the feeling of all the concrete but still be something you can move around if needed. Agree with other commenters the older your kids get the more this will get used all the time! This is a great investment in the 12 & up years.

Crissy Perham
7 months ago

That layup looks legit, Emily!! Right hand right leg!! Good job! 😉 Love this sporty area for your whole family!. Enjoy!

Pamela T
7 months ago

I am not an expert on plumbing, but thought I would mention stand alone water hydrants as a possibility for the alpacas water trough. We live on a farm with a lot of lawn and have a few of these things. They aren’t pretty, so for aesthetics that won’t detract from your beautiful landscaping, you most likely would want to locate one in a hidden spot that was unobtrusive. They are so handy for watering when trees or shrubs are a long distance from the house water spigots.

D.D.
7 months ago

We’re in the midst of a new build and suddenly have to decide on a sports court. What concrete color did you use? What finish for the concrete did you do? What stamp? I feel you so much on your whole process and the feelings when it comes to this aR
ea.

D.D.
7 months ago

Now that I’m writing about it, in hindsight, the whole year had this cloud of overwhelm over it. I’m not asking for pity, obviously – we are so privileged to be able to do this and have this space – but it’s just a reminder that if you’ve ever attempted a remodel/renovation and have felt extremely overwhelmed and depleted, you aren’t alone.”
feel so seen in this comment. Been in if the throws of it for so long and with 3 small children.

SARAH
7 months ago

Wow the kids will still have like decade at this farm. Maybe you can haul water with buckets for a workout hah only half joking. Thank you for sharing!

Emily
7 months ago

Ooh, this would be perfect for hosting a big outdoor event – I’m imagining a giant tent beautifully lit in the evening.

Kimi
7 months ago

I’d not paint it because the green paint will stand out more. It may be the same color as the foliage, but the concrete looks more natural. I remember a photo with your pool in the foreground and the tile around the pool compliments the concrete in the background. I’d maybe plant a boxwood shrub around the entire court (shaped in a cloud style) with 4 cutout entrances at each side.

Erin
7 months ago

I love this home! You and your team have done such a beautiful job. I really appreciate how much gratitude you express in all of your posts when you do these projects. Feels in touch with your readers and your blessings that you don’t take any of it for granted. Keep up the good work!