Just for fun

Evolution of a $7,855 indoor/outdoor kennel

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When I bought my 1967 ranch house in 2012, sight-unseen, I wasn’t even aware it had a walk-out basement on one end. After buying the house, I had the yard fenced for $7000, of which about $1000 was used to extend along the side of the house where the walk-out basement exited.

Issue #1: Savvy developed Cushing’s disease symptoms soon after I bought the house and needed to go out as often as every 15 minutes. So I had a dog door put into the walkout basement door ($170).

IMG_7668Issue #2: Not wanting the pets to have 24/7 access to the entire (potentially muddy) yard, I decided to make an indoor/outdoor kennel around the dog door. First, I used some cheap wire fencing ($20, at right).

Later, I used some kennel panels from a garage sale ($35) and some from Menards ($90) to make a 36 ft2 indoor kennel…

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… and 400 ft2 outdoor kennel.

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Except for adding more bark each year ($50), I left the outdoor flooring as it was, with bark, grass, and a cement patio.

Issue #3 was to keep the cat from escaping. He could walk through the dog door, and I didn’t want him to go any further than the outdoor pen. I tried several ideas I saw on the Internet ($350+), before finally finding one that actually worked ($50). The one that worked was one I invented myself, which was a simple strip of slippery white plastic nailed around the inside top of the fence.

P1150334Issue #4 was coyote-proofing the pen. In fall 2015, around 11 suburban dogs were killed by coyotes within a few miles of me, and the dog next door was grabbed by a coyote and released unharmed when the owner gave chase. The Internet suggested making coyote rollers from PVC pipe, which I did ($150). I also buried fence along the outside perimeter of the pen to keep coyotes from digging in. The local news did a TV report on my project.

The first few years, the grass grew well in the kennel. But by fall 2016, the dogs had trampled the grass and it was beyond growing back. Savvy had developed dementia, would poop and track through the poop and dirt, then track it back into the house. There was also an issue of Savvy & Dash getting all the wood chips, leaves, etc. stuck in their coats and shedding those all over the house.

Besides that, none of the dogs liked to go out there at all. They only wanted to go potty in the main yard, NOT in the kennel. In March 2017, I confined them all in crates for a couple of days, taking them out 16x/day into the kennel for supervised potty breaks. It took each of them 30-42 trips outside before they would poop out there. Despite daily cleaning, I decided it must seem unsanitary to them, or maybe they didn’t like the occasional mud when there was rain or snow out there. (As it would turn out, there was a major drainage issue; see below).

After a ton of research into flooring options for the outdoors (decking, gravel, sand, concrete, pavers, rubber matting, etc.), I decided to go with “Foreverlawn” brand artificial turf, known as “K9 Grass.” It’s used at doggy daycares and agility courses, is antimicrobial, and doesn’t require any infill (rubber, sand, powders, etc.) It was also going to cost more than I paid for my current car… I balked at the price for months, spending much of my free time pricing out buying the turf myself and having it installed by a local contractor. But in the end, I went with Foreverlawn-Milwaukee, and I am definitely glad I did.

Issue #5: Before Foreverlawn could put in turf, I had to remove the layers of old bark, which I thought might take “an hour.” Unfortunately, under the bark, I discovered two layers of thick black plastic sheeting (a long-ago owner’s idea of “flooding remediation”)–one about 4″ and the other about 8″ underground. On top of each layer was 4″ of gravel and clay that had been compressed for decades and was very heavy and very difficult to get a shovel into. Removing tons of clay and gravel to dig out that black plastic was a two weekend odyssey of hard labor.

IMG_20170403_181407Issue #6: The concrete patio needed to be removed before the artificial turf could be installed. So I hired a strong guy from Craigslist to break up and haul away the patio, which he did in freezing rain ($340). By the end of the job, the place where the patio had been was 4″ underwater, and the rest of the pen was even swampier than usual.

Issue #7: It was obvious that I had to address the issue of water in this area before having the turf installed. It turned out the 3 of the 4 downspouts on my house drained within inches of the outdoor kennel, which was one of the lowest spots in the yard. So I would need to reroute the two that drained slightly uphill of the kennel. Local companies were already booked out through August, so I had to do it myself ($200 for materials). This took three days of hard digging, and some challenging logistics, as I had to connect 4″ PVC, 4″ corrugated black pipe, 4″ sewer pipe and rectangular downspouts for different parts of the route and had almost no grade to work with. I joined the two outlets, rerouted them into an L shape under the kennel, and installed a pop-up outlet drain in the front yard.

After I finished, we had a huge deluge and the kennel did NOT flood–the water exited to the front yard. Success!

Finally, the outdoor kennel was ready for artificial turf. Because I had to remove so much material from the pen, they had to bring in twice as much gravel as they thought, all moved by wheelbarrow. It took three guys three days to do the project ($5400). When it was over, we sat on the beautiful new turf and snuggled with the dogs. Copper especially loved running on it.

Foreverlawn did an AMAZING job. When they started, the fence had at least a 4″ gap under it, and there was an 8″ dropoff from the door to the ground level. When they were done, there is not even a 1/4″ gap anywhere. The whole thing is raised up several inches above ground level, so there is amazing drainage now.

The K9 Grass is SUPER tough, guaranteed for 10 years and used in dog day-cares. Unlike the old pen, Copper can’t hope to dig or chew her way out at all. And after spending her first day in the pen while I worked, she is in love with the pen. She lounged around all day, rolled in the “grass” and played with her toys without making a peep of complaint.

Also, all three dogs LOVE it as a potty area! I thought it would take weeks for them to get used to it, as it feels like indoor carpeting. Also, the area was blocked off for nearly two months, so they got out of the habit of going through the dog door, and there probably wasn’t much scent there after all the digging and addition of gravel, etc. But all three of them peed and pooped on the K9 Grass within minutes of going outside, and happily used it again today. I couldn’t believe it. It feels like soft, cushy carpeting and has a short pile so poop doesn’t get stuck in it. Poops scoop off it like it’s made of Teflon. Urine drains right through, as it has a knitted backing and not plastic. You can hose it down and water goes right through–nothing is left standing on the surface, as is the case with cheaper turf.

For future care, all I need to do is rake it with a plastic rake in the fall and vacuum it with a Shop-Vac occasionally. Regular scooping and rain will take care of everything else. Because it won’t get muddy in ANY weather, the dogs can now come & go 24/7 without tracking in mud, wood chips, etc. Like agility turf, it has great footing and can double as a small agility or play area in bad weather.

I just wish I could have afforded this (or known about it) five years ago! It would have saved a TON of cleaning in the house.

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