Deck Design, Patio Design or Both

by Tom
(Edwardsville, IL)

Deck design with 6 existing steps

Deck design with 6 existing steps

This is a question about whether to create a deck design, patio design or both.


Our house is a 2 story on 2 acres with a very undersized deck. I would like to either replace the deck with a much larger one or tear it out and put in a patio or do a combination of both. From a construction standpoint I am capable of doing either one myself with help from friends. When it comes to the actual installation, I think that the patio would be easier for me to do.

From a maintenance standpoint I would prefer to clean and seal concrete over staining wood and I don't want the expense of composite woods either. So it would seem that I have already decided on a patio, however my main issue is the height of my house exit onto the deck or patio. There is a 42" drop from the door opening to grade outside and I can only raise the grade by 10" due to basement windows. So from this standpoint the deck in my opinion would look better.

What are your thoughts on transitioning from the door elevation to ground elevation if I were to do a patio?

Do you have a general rule of thumb that you use in regard to elevation change when deciding between a deck and a patio?

Any comments or advice would be greatly appreciated.


Hi Tom,
You could really go either way, but since you are doing it yourself, I think a deck would be easier. That's not to say you shouldn't do the new patio design, but I am just pointing this out to you. So here are your options:

1. Deck Design - this can be created any size or shape without interfering with your basement window. You could even create a two story deck if you like, but perhaps this is more than you need. Cedar turns a silvery gray and you can just leave it turn to this natural color or you can
stain it and or power wash it periodically. By the way, I think a deck will be less expensive than a patio due to your elevation changes.

2. Patio Design - this can be quite nice although a little more complicated as a hardscape design. Regarding your basement window, I would create a shape where the patio is a distance away from this opening. Your patio does not have to go up against your house. By doing this you can ignore the fact that you only have 10" to deal with in grade changes.

You stated that you have 42" from first floor to ground level. This sounds about right because your landscaping pictures indicate that you have 6 steps, which are probably 7" each. I would create a landing (hardscape, not decking) at least 4' wide by 4'wide out your door. The landing can be one step down from your house to eliminate one of the steps, but this is not necessary. Take a look at the patio design here:
Patio Designs

If you do step down to the landing/porch, that leaves now about 5 steps. If you create 3 steps leading down from the landing to the patio, you will be left with 14", or two steps. The two steps would lead from the patio to grade. The patio would have a wall at its edge. This of course adds on to the cost. Another option would be to fill to the level of the patio and grade away. I do not know how this would work with the existing elevations on your property.

The landscape idea to create a landing is to break up the steps and also reduce the size of any necessary patio wall.

I hope this was helpful. If you have further questions, let me know. By the way, I am assuming there is no other basement window beneath the existing deck! If so, stick with the deck design. Otherwise, you will have to create a landing and bring the patio out away from the basement windows.

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