Tiered deck

Many lots do not have the proportions that lend themselves to deck construction. Narrow properties, shallow yards, steep slopes, or undesirable views may make building a deck seem all but impossible. Don't despair, because if you look for them, design opportunities are almost always concealed inside a problem.

Often, a deck can cover unusable outdoor space, such as a steep slope or small side yard, adding a comfortable and functional feature to your house.

Solutions to serious site problems may require a professional designer or licensed contractor. But even if you have to call in the pros, it's good to have a preliminary idea of what you want to do with your deck space. That way, the designer can base a proposal on the limitations of the site and also the needs of your family.

Build long and narrow on a shallow lot

A lot that doesn't lend itself to an expansive deck shouldn't stop you from building one. A long, narrow deck, say 8x30', might just fit the bill. This example wraps around the corner of the house and includes a new stone walk that connects it to the front of the house and a brick patio joining it to the back of the house.

The design centers on a sliding door for access to the family room and includes lattice panels to screen the deck from the street. A patio extends the usable space while adding an extra level.

Shallow lot

Block an unsightly view

The edges of a neighboring yard often become a storage area for the unused items people just can't part with. This unsightly stuff may be invisible from your neighbor's point of view, but right up against what you want to use for outdoor living space. Because the neighbor is not likely to move his storage area, you'll have to make the adjustment by building screening.

This deck not only includes an attached privacy fence, its orientation and seating direct the views and traffic flow away from the lot next door.

Unsightly view

Take advantage of a steep slope

Steep slopes can be both an advantage and disadvantage. Because the ground drops quickly away from the house, a deck on a steep slope can offer spectacular, sweeping views. But this kind of deck can be more difficult to build. Whether the ground slopes down or up from the deck site, a multilevel deck that follows the contour of the landscape is often the best solution.

Steep slope

Use all of a narrow lot

Decks for narrow lots with close neighbors often are only as wide as the house. Here, a deck completely fills a narrow city lot, putting a limited front yard to good use. High fences wrapping the structure keep the deck area private and buffer unwanted street noise.

Consult local codes
Elevated decks on steep slopes may require well-engineered foundations and framing. You may need to assess soil integrity, drainage, and earthquake vulnerability. Before building on a steep slope, check with your building officials; you might need to consult an architect or engineer.

Narrow lot

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Download 2 pages of PDf illustrations of decks