Need opinion: Stone or Deck (for steps) out to a Paver Patio?

dtay_us(6)May 19, 2009

Note: this was cross-posted from the Porches/Decks forum but I realized this post may have a better audience here since this is related to a patio rather than a deck. I apologize if this is the wrong forum. :)


I have a dilemma and could use some opinions and feedback.

My wife and I are planning to have a paver patio put in at our back yard. The size of the patio is approximately 20' x 20' (~400 sq. ft.). Fortunately for us, the grading of our back yard is fairly flat, with the exit from the kitchen French doors about 33 inches high, as you can see from these two photos:

What I can't decide now is what to go for the patio steps: stone-based or deck-based?

Either one will step out from the kitchen door to a landing, to an area approximately 4' x 10', and then either 3-4 steps down to the ground. If I go the deck route, it would be a composite or PVC based material (e.g. AZEK, TimberTech, etc.) For the stone, the steps and paver patios would either be from Hanover or Belgard, depending on the contractor that we ultimately end up with.

Here is a 3D illustration of what the deck-based landing w/steps would look like:

And finally, here's what the overall plan/patio would look like:

Some factors that I'm wrestling with:

Pros and cons of going with a deck vs. stone for the steps?

Asthetics? I know if I go with an all-stone setup, it makes it look more "uniform" (the steps & the patio) but would it match the vinyl siding? Most of the houses in my neighborhood who have stone pavers typically went with a deck for the steps, for some reason.

Straight or curved steps? Right now, all the designs call for a straight steps with end caps (or walls on both sides).

Waranties: Stones would have 5 yr structural warranty whereas a deck-based setup would only have 1 year, but should I be concerned about any settlment issues? This is a new construction: house is about 3 years old.

Cost wise, right now stone is coming in cheaper than a deck based setup.

Thanks! :)

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Putting aside aesthetics, you will enjoy the space much more if it is on the same level as your kitchen. Here's how I know. I used to have three steps to get down from my kitchen sliders onto my deck. When I redid my deck, I did it at the same level as my kitchen. It is sooo much better. Picture this, you are grilling out there. Your are serving a meal. Someone wants ketchup. Someone else wants more napkins, etc, etc. Next time let's eat indoors!

Now I can serve the masses as easily as I can serve them in my kitchen. I actually have a rolling cart that I can load up with what I need in one trip. I can clear the table in one trip too.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 8:32PM
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I agree with freedee. Actually, the sheer flatness of your backyard would make it mentally uncomfortable to be on the ground level without substantial landscaping around it. People like to have elevation to look down on something or to be contained by things being higher. A flat plane gives the eye no rest, and it makes people feel exposed.

BTW, look at your dryer vent. You can't have stone there, anyway--you'd block it with something solid!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 4:47AM
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There is merrit to having a deck on the same level for the reasons given above. There are also good reasons for a patio instead of a deck as well. Not the least of which is to be in the landscape rather than on stage next to it. It is not only on the ground, but you have opportunity to tuck it in with plantings especially between the patio and the building (deck space right up next to the house is often dead space).

The tricky thing here is that the floor of the house is quite high in reationship to the ground. The length of the siding below the thresh hold indicates the possibility of most of it being wood framing (manufactured home?). If it is wood under the siding, you have to be careful if you put masonry up against it (recommend a builder prepare the flashing rather than a landscaper).

The mock up shows a fairly big landing deck that serves no other purpose with its size except to go frm house to patio. One suggestion could be to go with a little bit larger deck area that could accommodate the grill and any other outdoor kitchen related items while keeping them and you out of the circulation route from kitchen to patio. If you stepped it down from the house floor it would bring it that much closer to the patio and possibly low enough not to require railings. You could also have plantings around much of that deck as well further reducing its bulk in the overall aesthetic of the space.

.... Just one way to look at it.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 7:09AM
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I would also consider a 2-level approach or something similar that lets you make the transition to ground seem more gradual.

There is also the idea that you may find you want to do a good deal of grilling the food outside, then eat inside, because well, it is just so convenient and you can grill under less ideal circumstances than required for outdoor dining. The utilitarian steps down to patio just to get to the grill will be a barrier to that.

The problem with same level is that you have to use decking, then it does tend to force you to a large deck, then a large area underneath it plus lattice or whatever, plus maintenance--though new deck materials as you suggest make that less of an issue. So I do not want to discourage you from thinking about having a "stone" patio that is part of the yard. I think over time that area could be very nice and will feel more permanent--properly landscaped. So the deck idea gives a more immediate sense of its being just an extension of your kitchen and feeling like a "room", but the patio has the ability to feel "in the yard", as noted above.

The problem with bi-level structures is you have to design carefully so that neither part is too small to be useful or it breaks up your party in the wrong way. So, for example, if you envision 6 guys or gals yakking around the grill, you want room for that in your design.

I think the deck landing as shown in your picture has that dreaded ubiquitous tacked-on landing look that just gets you up and down, and if you do actually make just steps, I would try to put more into their design to make a more graceful descent to the yard--whether that is broader, curved, or something. Of course that might be too expensive, so part of the fun of the forum is that we can brainstorm about how you might spend your $$! Really, just giving you things to think about.

Broad steps or more gradual transition type structures can also often be used as seating/dining (for kids) as long as is wide enough.

You don't show anything about the exposure of the back of the house, sun patterns, etc, so any design needs to think ahead to whether you will plant trees for shade, use umbrellas, arbor, or what--meaning, leave space in yard, or plan layout of space.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 10:43AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The stones "creeping" up to meet the deck would look odd.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 10:55PM
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raehelen(USDA 7-8)

I would do some more research/planning. You have such a perfect blank canvas, it would be a shame to end up with the deck based landing strip you've mocked up.

It really has no aesthetic or practical value.

Personally, I would lean towards a nice large deck (at least the length of that alcove part of your house- you can never have 'too big' of a deck :>), and then add an extension of a stone patio (later if $$$ constraints). I totally agree with Frankie, and would have nice wide steps leading down to either patio or lawn, steps that are broad enough to use for extra seating.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 11:50AM
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dontknow(z6 - Upstate NY)

It's totally personal / opinion based. Myself, I'm in favor of stone.

I did however do a much scaled down version of a Trex landing/steps to a paver patio.

Although it was nice, I think stone would have looked and melded in better.

Many of the above posters feel differently and offer very valid suggestions.

Only opinions...

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 2:29PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

I think you'd get better use of your space without the stairs. I did a google image search for "raised paver patio". The photos show some patios similar to what you have drawn, but without the clunky steps. The first photo in the second row (from '') might suit your home.

Here is a link that might be useful: raised paver patio images

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 2:38PM
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I'm all for doing the whole thing out of stone. The question is whether the budget and skill set of the contractor is going to match up with the the what is required to protect the house and give the amount of area the OP is looking for.

Based purely on assumption and the pictures, I think it is safer to assume that to have framed steps and/or decking to get from the house down to the patio is a more practical option in this case. Most of that is due to the amount of wood that would be covered by masonry. Some of it is by reading the architecture and projecting assumptions of resale value and return on investment.

Would I prefer it to all be stone? Yes. But, I also would prefer different siding and different windows (on my own home as well). I have learned to tread lightly, but sometimes we drift from giving sound reasoning to fluff that does not fit the situation.

It is not worth either the expense to build the masonry up against this house correctly or the risk to this house to have a landscaper attempt to build it at a price that would match the value you'd get out of it in my opinion.

A deck coming 6' out from just to the left edge of the french door and back to the jog should give enough room in the corner for a grill. You might be able to get away with three steps full width with no rails down to a paver patio. The "deck" would be light and unimposing without the rails, not too expensive to build, and keep you from worrying about what is going on against the house.

That would also push the patio 9' out from the big empty gray wall giving plenty of room to enhance the very large patio space and forget about the house.

You can do all kinds of fancy things and use the nicest high end materials in the world, but would that really make sense?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 9:02PM
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I'd build a handsome back porch with roof and generous steps. Then I'd build a patio that I could step into and be surrounded by plantings.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 12:18PM
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Just one thing I noticed- if you did a deck it might cover up the access to the outlet you have there. You would either loose that outlet or need to make some kind of access to it. You might want to rethink your plans based on that. Having access to an outlet is always nice.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 11:37AM
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We did a deck and patio for our back entrance and we love it. The deck is free standing--not attached to the house. Our layout is a little different than yours--for one thing it's higher-- but it would work for you too.

Our deck is built on 2 levels. We put a small landing coming out of the house and then a double box step down--you would only need one--the box is sitting on the next level. Then we put a larger deck that partially wraps around the first one. This allows for plantings along the foundation. Then we put 2 steps down to the patio. We also put 2 steps down to the yard. The corner between the 2 sets of steps is an ideal place to group different sizes of pots of flowers.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 6:49PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

It is also an option to build a wood framed deck and finish it with solid pavers/tile/slate. I personally prefer this type of solution when the budget allows, as it always looks good, needs less work to maintain, never needs restaining, and is easier to sweep/clean. In my own back yard, I set a deck off the kitchen mid-height between ground level and the house, with a series of steps right at the kitchen door with no landing, and stairs at the outside edge of the deck. I also used raised planters on two sides with a wood shelf or 2" x 2"'s as the bottom to allow switching out plants within the planters, setting 15 gallon sized nursery containers within the planters. I like the fact that I get an elevated view of the garden from the deck, while also sitting on the deck level and still having privacy from close by neighbor's house which is only screened by a 6 foot height fence. In my case, if the deck were at kitchen level, I would also be looking directly over the fence into my neighbor's yard. You don't have that problem with your large lot and more space between houses, but the steps down to deck then steps down to garden can be a nice clean solution as well.

Using raised 18 inch height planters as deck edging in-lieu of railings can also give you additional sitting area for large parties, if you use a wider and thicker ledge cap as the coping detail. I particularly like using 3" x 12" caps if the deck is large scale.

Using a planter or offsetting the decking to the left of your doors to allow some narrow ground level plantings to pop up against the wall could nicely offset all that blank wall.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 12:28PM
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