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.
Step 1: Draw up your plans
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
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
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
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
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.