I have a very challenging, small, north facing, graded back yard. The lowest portion of the yard is totally unusable. Attached to the house is a small concrete patio slab that at the highest point is around 3-4 feet, at the lowest is around 1 foot.

Here are some shots of the back yard.

Standing at the top of the yard Standing at the top of the yard

Middle of the yardlooking down Middle of the yard looking down

Standing on the manhole looking up Standing on the manhole looking up

Looking at the door enter image description here

So my questions are as follows:

  1. What kind of deck would best suit this type of back yard? Woodframe cedar/composite? A raised stamped concrete? Reminder that not a lot of light gets back here (north facing).

  2. If a Woodframe is the best, should I remove the existing concrete slab or build a deck over top of this? My neighbor built over top of his and I'm suspect to the wood rotting.

Please if you have any suggestions on improving this area, please advise. thanks so much!


  • How far is the patio door above that concrete? I'm not sure you have space to squeeze in a layer of framing and decking even if you wanted to.
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 1:47
  • I found a picture of the patio (sorry about all the stuff on the patio).. was clean up day. The drop is around I would say 6-8inches. I believe that my neighbor used 2x4s layed vertically on the patio with cedar on top. This is how he got the deck flush to the door.
    – Dolph
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 17:09
  • That is one of the oddest patios I have ever seen. It takes a lot to distract me from some intense manhole talk.
    – DMoore
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 18:34
  • I know it's a sad backyard. We had this house built and I didn't see the backyard until after final. Please throw out some suggestions if you can think of any. cheers.
    – Dolph
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 18:58

3 Answers 3


It's quite a drop off there on the manhole side. If it were me, the priority would be to build steps of some kind there--or a railing.

Anything that is well-drained will not rot. Rot only occurs when something sits in water.

You could certainly deck the porch over if you wanted. My pet peeve is people who just stick wood in the ground. The main thing to consider is how you are going to support the deck. The porch is so tall, that you could just anchor it to the sides, so it just hangs down. Then maybe just have two footings for the steps. Or you could put a skirt of steps all around and have footings every 3 feet or so.

  • Thanks for your answer, much appreciated. Yes, it's a drop alright, I'm not sure how the builder got away with this as I don't think that this meets code, i.e. no railing. thanks for your advice.
    – Dolph
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 17:11
  • 30" drop before a handrail is needed if my memory serves me correctly.
    – Damon
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 7:38

Wood or composite is a great choice for it's ease of install. You can use metal post in small diameter concrete footings (6-8" x depth below frost depth) if you are worried about post rot. Should be able to ledger into the side of the concrete with some concrete bolts.

Trick is to leave a gap between any ledgers and what they ledger to. If this cannot be done, use post and tie the post to the structure. You can use a stack of galvanized washers to create this gap, 5 washers or so. If a gap is not left, water will stay in the joint and rot any wood at the joint (ledger, rim joist, etc) over time, even pressure treated. Failure modes on decks are typically at the ledgers first, then improper footings.


I would build an elevated deck on that, then use the space under to store stuff like rakes, tools and junk.

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