Lakeside Cabin - veered off plan now lost

RickKaren(7)August 27, 2011

Added stairs to the retaining wall that were not in the original plan and now I can't picture how to get the upper patio to flow to stairway level.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cabin landscape pics

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Yardviser the pertinent pics directly on this site. (Grab their code off the hosting site & paste into a message here.) Where's the pic that shows the steps AND where you want to go...all in the same picture? What do you mean by "get the upper patio to flow"...? I can guess, but I'd rather be sure. I think you need a better description of what you're trying to accomplish. It would also be helpful to show the pertinent area in plan view enlarged so we could see it.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 12:38AM
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Sorry about the first post. Got frustrated not being able to get pictures to show and tried to abort from the preview and instead hit the submit. Trying again:

We had an orinal landscape plan drawn that shows a lower retaining wall and then an upper retaining wall supporting a patio. During construction of the lower retaining wall, we decided to add a stairway down that would connect the upper patio to the walkway below the lower retaining wall. I just have some 'in progress' construction pictures of the wall but I think you can get the idea of the slope from the back of the cabin down to the retaining wall.

So, my intention is to accomplish the following:
1. Create an upper patio that provide room for a couple tables/chairs (maybe a 6 top and a pub table) across the back of the cabin.
2. Minimize the impact of the deck support columns
3. Prevent damage to the existing tree
4. Have patio flow to meet up with the stairs and be visually appealing from the patio as well as when looking down on the property from the upper deck.

Hopefully you can see in the photos that our lower retaining wall is lower than the height at the back of the cabin (it would have been way too big a wall to build it all the way up).

So we are looking for design ideas on the shape of the upper patio that will meet the criteria above. We're headed up to the lake today and I'll be taking some better pictures to show the perspective better.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 8:29AM
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That's much better to have the photos right here so good job on that. And good that you're going to add better pics. For me, It's hard to tell how things relate. I'm looking for the picture taken from the lake-side looking back at the house that shows how all the elements tie-in. Is your last pic here an "upper" patio or a "lower" patio?

Looks like construction is well underway and whatever damage is done to existing tree (if any) is done. It will live or it will die.

Minimize impact of columns...I see 3 possibilities: decorative trim (brackets?,) decorative paint scheme, chamfer the corners (as in make the 90* corners into 45* corners....yes, it can be done by someone who is skilled with a skil-saw and a fat chisel...practice first) or any combination thereof.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 9:48AM
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To begin, I think it's important to understand the current structure, dimensions, and grades of the site. Judging from your photos, I have made some guesses; finished floor assumed elevation 100.0, patio elevation 90.0, top of lower wall elevation 87.5, with dimensions and contours as shown in the graphic below. Could you provide corrections along with the location of the new steps?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 8:05AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

It looks like an interesting site plan, but I can't really grasp the details with the limited screen size of just a smart phone. Why wouldn't you have the original designer consult with you about this change?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 8:30AM
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As the location of your post-design stairway installation shows the most direct path between two points is a straight line, so why stop the path at the lower level?

Do you value direct access to the lake more than a nice seating and observation area on the upper terrace?

I would chose the direct path, if you're into using the lake for recreation, but if it's only the view you care about then preserve the best seating area.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 6:30PM
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Trying again to post better pictures of our project and explain what we're looking for help with on our design. I'll also answer a couple of the questions that have been asked above. And Thank-you already to the people that have taken the time to read my posts and comment, I appreciate the input.

1. The original design was done by a designer that was looking to start her own landscaping business. Since then I think she is pursuing other interests but we may try and get her back involved in the project but I also wanted to get some other perspectives from other designers.
2. As for lake access, this patio and stairway leads to a stepping stone path that leads to a stairway that provides lake access (the stepping stones and landings are still being worked on this week for placement and setting.

As for a better description of the project, this is a log cabin on the lake. You pull down the driveway from the back of the house (lake side is considered the front of the house). We have a stone patio coming off the driveway on the left side of the house and this leads onto the deck that is along the left side of the house and wraps around to the lake side. The deck support posts you see in the pictures support this deck and it is the 'upper' deck I refer to as the lower patio will be partially covered by this deck.

In this photo you can see the newly built stone stairway that will lead to the patio (that we are trying to design) and you can also see the deck that will partially cover the patio).

Here are a few pictures showing the right and left side of the patio area we are looking to come up with the design. I've included pictures from ground level and taken from above standing on the deck.

Lastly is the view looking down the the wall showing the space from the wall to the posts (about 5' to the beginning of the posts, and about 8' to the beginning of the stone post).

And finally the right side of the house where we just added a wooden walkway.

So as you can see in the pictures, there is only a small area between the wall and the posts yet I would like to take advantage of this area by getting a good design. My idea is to have a patio of some sort that goes the entire length of the house and has a shape that provides nice useful seating area's without damaging the large tree shown inside the retaining wall. I also need to tie in with the existing stone stairway that was built into the retaining wall. The patio shape, the transistion to the steps, and how to use or work with the area between the patio and the retaining wall are all the decisions I am trying to get some new ideas.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 10:43PM
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Wow... the additional photos do help to clarify the situation.

Sitting that close to the wall next to those massive pillars beneath that deck doesn't seem very appealing to me.... a little more level space to walk around people and chairs would give me more comfort if I was there. Also a guard rail around the new patio perimeter would increase my comfort, as those drop off seem rather perilous.

A squared off patio would match the deck "roof" above it, but the curvilinear retaining wall seems to be dictating the layout more than the deck above.

Do you need a space to store a kayak or boating gear?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 11:36PM
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Maybe I'm not seeing the problem correctly but I don't see that there is a need to do anything more elaborate than a matching stone patio under the upper deck. It should probably be somewhat deeper than the current footprint so as to shelter a couple of loungers but ...
you already have this patio, a larger upper dining area, the 2nd floor deck plus whatever there may be dock side. Unless you have specific plans for a gazebo or a hot tub, just how much more lakeview seating do you really think is necessary?

And as a fellow cabin aficionado, my only other suggestion would be to fill in "empty" spaces exclusively with native plants and shrubs.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 11:59PM
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photos still a little close up for me, but based on what I think I saw, here's a scheme...

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 1:08AM
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Here is my rough attempt at using MS Paint to draw in the patio shape we are considering. As Yardvisor mentions, I think the shape of the wall some what dictates the shape of the patio. We don't need a massive space, but we do want an attractive patio that will lead you out of the finished basement. Right now my wife and I are thinking a wooden platform deck might work well for this space. We dig out a little of the area below the existing deck to make room for the structure and then with just support piers installed in the ground, should lead to very little disruption to the oak tree. Here is a rough sketch of the shape we are considering with a couple wooden stairs leading to the existing stone stairs.

What do you think of using wood instead of a stone patio? We did not cut any existing roots for the oak tree in the installation of the retaining wall - do you think the patio as shown would have a negative affect on the health of the tree?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 1:31PM
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As long as the patio doesn't require changing too much more grade I don't think it will affect the tree as much as the wall potentially could...but you seem confident wall created no damage.

If you mean laying some kind of wood block like patio stone but in lieu of stone, that's not a good idea. If you mean deck, that's ok. Presuming that you follow all the rules for that material.

Take a look at a couple of more layout possibilities. Don't let the patio approach the retaining wall so closely that the grade differential becomes too great. That would cause erosion and maintenance problems.

At this point I would get 2 different colors of upside-down landscape marking paint (Lowe's or Home Depot). Use one color to mark the edge how you think you want to patio to be. Use the other color if you want to try an alternate layout. (mark it with dashed line first and then heavy it up when you have it correctly laid out.) Stand back and appraise it from many different angles. This will give you a good idea of how it will seem when it's installed.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 9:41PM
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Many a time this forum has cautioned people against relying on a design created by altering photos with a graphic editor like photoshop. The result is often a design that is either impractical or impossible to build.

The very same thing can be true for plan view drawings not-to-scale where grade elevations are not considered. Such a drawing is a concept masquerading as a plan. Going forward with construction can result in the same type nightmare that photoshop designs produce. A concept is not a plan, regardless of whether it is an altered photo or a fancy professional drawing.

The project shown here is in deep trouble because it was started without a plan. It is apparent to me that the project cannot be completed using the beginning concept, such that it will achieve the goals and benefits the homeowner expected. Thus, one should shift to salvage mode.

The first move to salvage a project is to take stock of the current situation. What is needed is a complete and accurate site plan consisting of a scaled drawing of all existing features as they were constructed along with grades and elevations. Only then will it be possible to complete a realistic plan for the property.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 8:01AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

A couple of comments... it does look as if a floating wood deck set over piers and beams would be the better surface given the tree, tree roots concerns and uneven sloping conditions. I would think that a sweeping curved deck configuration that mimicked the curve of the retaining wall, but was set at least four feet inside the wall's edge and returned with a tighter curve short of the tree trunk could work, and allow enough space for some perimeter shrubs. You're getting a bit too close to that wall and drop off to have that future deck feel safely comfortable without a railing, which could detract from the view. With all that other existing decking and patios, I'd be inclined to think that a smaller curving deck off the door that didn't try to capture the entirety of the area beyond the posts would be a better visual fit for this area. In my view, the additional steps required to transition between new deck and added masonry steps at wall would look jerryrigged if not done as one material(ie,continental as masonry/flagstone. If you push the deck out as clos to the retaining wall as shown,the juxtaposition of the deck level as seen against the stepped wall is not visually appealing as seen from below, and there isn't much room to have plantings bridge that gap and moderate the visual disconnect. Something to consider within the context of such a visually stunning setting and what appears to be a site sympathetic plan so far. I think it'd be well worth your efforts to get the original designer back there or at least consult by phone

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 11:10AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I'm wondering about the height of the sill of the doors that will open onto this patio.

The following photos are from RickKaren's 8-29 post.

In this photo, the doors look to be at the current ground level. But the photo is taken from below, and that can be misleading.

In the following two posts the bottom of the doors seems much higher (though unfortunately not clearly visible):

So I wonder what the actual height of the door sill is, compared to the current soil level and/or the bottom of the stone facing -- and whether safety (or local code) mandates a step in front of that door.

Note also the height of the wooden walkway that approaches this patio-to-be. (How does that compare to the height of the door sill?)

If the patio is raised to the level of the door sill, that adds to the height differential between the patio and the area between the patio and the retaining wall. A railing may indeed be necessary.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 2:41PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

I,too, was thinking a wood deck (or it's trexish equivalent) would be easier on the tree...AND a less expensive way to deal with the (apparent) grade change...

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 10:42AM
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Since pls8xx's comments follow mine and reference "altering photos" and "photoshop" before beginning all the cautionary tales, I must reiterate, and I thought I made it clear, my photo images are concepts and are not masquerading as plans. "Don't let the patio approach the retaining wall so closely that the grade differential becomes too great. That would cause erosion and maintenance problems..." I warn the OP. Then I offer a paragraph explaining how they could work out this issue on site. That hardly sounds like presentation of a plan etched in stone. I would guess that every person who posts questions here knows for certain that they can find and pay for professional help. But for whatever reason, they choose to start here. That does not mean that they're unable to think or incapable of discerning things that work from things that don't. Some people choose to post responses using only prose and text. I don't begrudge anyone this option. But I think graphics make complex visual issues much easier to understand with fewer words and less confusion.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 4:52PM
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Thanks for the input and the discussion on different ideas. That's really all I was looking for was some brainstorming of what 'could' be done or other viewpoints on concepts to consider. We are planning to meet with a professional landscape designer to complete the plan - I was just hoping for fresh eyes to look at the site, albeit just via photos, and offer suggestions of what they feel would work well with the property and what is in place. Again, this is not our first rodeo and we have no intentions of taking mocked up photos and start building. With that said, I do appreciate the ideas that you have brought forward and by no means expected to totally design our plan just from this board. And I have absolutely no problem with ideas being offered that may not be feasible to implement as you can only gain so much perspective from looking at photos. Again, I just saw this as a chance to potentially get some ideas we had not thought about previously.

As for being in salvage mode, far from it. We have made incredible progress with all the improvements we have done to the property and I'm confident this phase will be no different.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 12:12AM
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Yardviser said:
"Since pls8xx's comments follow mine and reference "altering photos" and "photoshop" before beginning all the cautionary tales, I must reiterate, and I thought I made it clear, my photo images are concepts and are not masquerading as plans."

I thought it clear from the entirety of my post that I was not referring to your images in any way , form, or fashion. My criticism was directed at the plan view drawing provided by the OP. There are few if any members of this forum that have posted more photo edited graphics than I have. I know of no better way to add clarity to text.

The original plan view drawing was nothing but pure fantasy. That was apparent to me only after the second set of photos were posted. Looking at the "plan" one would think the project would provide a generous sized patio with a fire pit. The reality of today is something else.

In the drawing above the back deck area appears to be almost as wide as the side deck. It's not. At most it is only 5' wide. The drawing gives no geometry to control the location of the two walls. Nor is there any proposed elevations given for the walls or finished grading. It's no wonder that the wall as built does not meet the needs of the site or serve to provide an area for the generous patio of the original concept.

'missingtheobvious' is on the right track. Study the photos. Unless suggestions are compatible with the reality of the site they are of little value. The following graphics and scaled drawing are what I get from the photos.

Above I have superimposed the reality of construction over the fantasy concept. Note the restricted area available for the patio.

Yardviser said:
"Don't let the patio approach the retaining wall so closely that the grade differential becomes too great. That would cause erosion and maintenance problems."

Right! With a grade difference between back door and top of wall of about 2 feet, even a 10 wide patio will require a short wall along the outer edge of the patio. Whether a 10' wide patio with deck supports through the middle is satisfactory to the homeowner is up to him. But it falls way short of the anticipated benefit of the original concept.

Construction of an elevated wood deck is complicated by the high grade at the back door and the support footers for the existing deck above. A combination of on-grade patio past the deck footers and a wood deck extending to the wall might be a possibility.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 10:39AM
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Have some final pictures of the as built patio. Will start shopping for some new furniture in the new year. Thanks for the ideas some of you were able to share.

New Door canopy added using some remaining logs (although a dark photo, it matches the cabin very well).

Looking toward the west:

Another view:

From down the hill with the new landscape lighting on the retaining wall:

And this is a view of the retaining wall from the lake (but I think prior to the new patio being built).

Thanks again for the input.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 4:03PM
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It looks great so someone figured out many things! Your carpenter did some nice work. Congratulations...and thanks for returning with your results. I love the charming little log roof with brackets.

(formerly Yardviser)

    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 11:04PM
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Very nicely done.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 11:37PM
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A couple sunset pictures from the new patio - our new favorite spot at the cabin.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2011 at 12:05PM
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I like your work,may be to continue....

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 12:00AM
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That's really stunning. Incredible work.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 5:38PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Hm. My post didn't go through.

RickKaren, it's lovely. Thanks for coming back to show us how it turned out.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 6:06PM
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