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Bi-Level Deck and Patio

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A bi-level deck provides both a sunny, elevated dining area as well as a shady gathering spot.  Working around two obstacles on the exterior of our split-entry home (the electric meter and the window) inspired the design.
 
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Step 1: Draw up your plans

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Make a grid of your deck plans (here are mine).  The major deck was planned to be 10' x 12' and the minor deck was 10' x 7'.  I got the permit from the City of Minneapolis around the third week of April for the deck (and it was completed almost exactly three months later).  The City needed these plans and explanation where it was in relation to the property lines before I could get the permit. 

Step 2: Lay out the footings

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For this deck, there were a total eight footings (five on the minor deck and three on the major deck).  They were 12" in diameter and 42" deep.  There were cinder blocks in the way of the footings, and it was awkward and time consuming to remove the cinder block with a sledgehammer.  A larger hole had to be dug to allow the sledgehammer to swing.
 

Step 3: Pour the footings

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The footings on the major deck were poured first; I used twelve 80# bags of quickrete for that alone.  Metal supports that will hold the uprights were sunk slightly into the top of the concrete when it was ready to set.  The poured footings and cardboard tubes were covered with plastic garbage bags and wood so the rain wouldn't "undo" the work or soften the cardboard as they cured.

Step 4: Lay out the patio

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Dig the patio area out and frame it up with 2x4s.  Our patio was about 12' by 12.5'.  Be sure to schedule the ready-mix concrete truck for this step; there is no reason to haul and mix this concrete on your own!

Step 5: Pour and level the patio

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We worked around an old deck landing (seen here as a darker color) so had to use wheelbarrows to get the concrete on the side furthest away from the sidewalk.  It takes two people to successfully level the patio.  I tried doing it myself but finally ran down the street to recruit a friend.
vincent75202 years ago
nice work and instructions as clear !…
bo88y4 years ago
Yes, lag bolts are imperative.
Some sort of ceiling, say, of corrugated fiberglass panels, could make the patio a sheltered outdoor space when it rains. Pitch them to control runoff, by using successively thicker spacers on the undersides of the joists. Such a space comes in handy if you sometimes crave BBQ and the weather isn't cooperating, or if you just like sitting outside during a warm rain without getting wet.
Celt4 years ago
I have built many decks as a second job, this looks really good.  High decks are becomeing more popular, so I usually put posts against the houses to bear the weight load and use the house  as bracing.  Lag bolts are always a good call too.  Also, I run the support posts all  the way up through the deck to add support to the railing, but that is just a personal preferance.  You have to change the look of the railing or add 'scabs' to the outsides to match the other post-rails.  I do like the look of the two main support posts though.    Good IBLE.
tcase Celt4 years ago
Wonderful, great project, will do this to my new house, it has a deck, but really small, will expand it out and upward like this. I agree with the lag bolts and support close to the house. My brother built a deck that didnt have support close to the house and after having so many friends and family over for cookouts, and football games, the deck added a lot of weight to the wood studs and support beams in the house... not realizing they were actually week, even though they looked good, there wasnt enough support for all the weight, the deck started to sag against the house and causing stress for those supports for the house. He had to fix everything, even his house supports......
Nice Instructable with good pictures. The only thing I would add is to make sure to use a sufficient number of properly sized lag bolts and washers (NOT nails) to securely anchor the deck to your house.  About a year ago a deck full of people in a town nearby separated from the house and collapsed,  killing three people and injuring many more.  Lag bolts are required by code in many parts of the USA, and they would be a good idea to use whenever a deck is attached to a home.  
carlos66ba4 years ago
A beautiful deck and a very well written and illustrated instructable! 
SinAmos4 years ago
Solid work.  Really.:)
kelseymh4 years ago
What an outstanding write-up!  Clear pictures, great documentation, and it looks like you did everything to code, with permits and all (even more awesome).
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