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Despite its simplicity, this L-shaped deck makes an ideal transition area between the house and lawn. It provides a usable space away from the main traffic corridor, where a table or a pair of lounge chairs invite casual relaxing.

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By building the deck in a shallow excavation and edging it with a masonry or concrete border, you can add a touch of elegance. A wood surface that is level with the ground creates a dignified and dramatic landscape element.

This deck was designed to be built directly on or slightly below grade. For a long lasting sttucture, choose a site that drains well, and use pressure-treated wood that is rated for ground contact. You can alter the size and shape of the ground level deck railing very easily by changing the length of the decking boards and the length and spacing of the sleepers.

site preparation: Lay out the perimeter of the deck and excavate. For a deck surface that is flush with the surrounding grade, dig down 8 inches, and pour a concrete retaining border. For a deck that sits slightly above grade, a 3-inch excavation is plenty. After excavating, lay down landscape fabric to control weeds, and spread a 3-inch-thick layer of gravel.

Construction: The sleeper spacing on this deck is 42 inches, a span that requires 2×6 decking. If you use smaller decking boards, add more sleepers.

  • Cut the 4×4 sleepers to length and lay them on the gravel bed. Space sleepers for 2×4 decking no more than 24 inches apart; for 1-inch decking, space the sleepers no more than 16 inches apart.
  • Screw the decking to the sleepers with #8×2’/2-inch decking screws, two per sleeper. A layout line strung above each sleeper will help maintain a straight line of screws.

trim and finish: For a flush deck, place the border before building the deck. With an above-grade deck, you can add a wooden fascia as a finishing touch. After all the construction is finished, stain or paint the deck to suit your taste.

More likely, the patio slopes significantly (more than l inch or so per foot) away from house, making it difficult to level the sleepers. In this case, you’ll need concrete piers and footings.

Lay out the piers, dig the holes, then form and pour the piers. Because the sleepers will bear directly on the piers, with no posts, it is critical that all of the piers are level with one another. The easiest way to ensure this is to form and pour your own piers, rather than installing precast units.


SLEEPERS: This plan uses 4×4 sleepers, which function as beams. Make them from pressure-treated or naturally durable stock such as redwood or cedar. Note that when placing sleepers on a sloped patio, the sleepers must run parallel with the slope so that they don’t become dams that trap water.

  • Lay out the sleepers.
  • Level each sleeper periodically with shims, nailing the shims to the bottom.
  • Attach the sleepers to the patio with exterior construction adhesive.
  • Nail 2×8 fascia boards to the exposed sides and ends of the sleepers to give the deck a finished appearance.
  • Screw the decking to the sleepers with #8×3’/2-inch decking screws. Drive two screws per board into each sleeper.

FASCIA AND DECKING: It is best to lay out all the decking first so you can get the spacing just right.

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