Design

Wood Deck or Concrete Patio?

As I’ve been planning our addition, I’ve always envisioned a wood deck out the back doors of the family room and our new bedroom. It would be really big, and expensive, especially if we use something like Trex to make it maintenance-free. I would want the whole deck to be as wide as our addition, which is 50 feet, and to extend enough to make room for an outdoor “living room” area, which I would imagine needs to be about 20 feet. That’s 1000 square feet of wood (or Trex) deck.

When Matt bought me the landscape plan for my birthday last year, this is what the landscape designer had in mind for our deck.

You can see more of that landscaping plan here…

I love the shape of that deck that the landscape designer envisioned for our back yard. What I don’t love is the potential cost of that deck, and the potential for ongoing maintenance. I’ve also been trying to envision how a wheelchair ramp would work into that design. After all, Matt needs a way to get from the deck down to the back yard easily.

According to Angi.com, a Trex deck can run between $20-$60 per square foot. The difference is based on which series and color of Trex you choose, and it includes the product, installation, framing, decking, railing, and stairs. So if I choose something mid-range, that puts us at around $45,000.

I’m having a very hard time getting past the idea of spending that much money on something that will need maintenance and repairs. Even Trex decks will need maintenance on the framing at some point, right? And if we don’t want to spend that much money upfront, and we go with a standard wood deck, then we’re definitely looking at maintenance at least every other year. But as I’ve been planning and trying to visualize our back yard, I really didn’t see any other option. For some reason, my mind was stuck on a deck, and I couldn’t think past that.

But a few days ago, it dawned on me that I might actually prefer a concrete patio. The more I think about it, the more I like this idea. I like the idea of having a concrete patio level with the ground. To me, that feels so much more open, less confined, and less like an obstacle for Matt.

Matt uses a power wheelchair with large wheels, and it can easily traverse our back yard. So the idea of him being on the back patio and being able to go right from the patio to any area in the back yard sounds really good to me.

We do still have to deal with the issue of him getting from the house to the patio. Our house is on a pier and beam foundation, which means it’s above ground level. But for some reason that I can’t explain, both contractors I met with recommended building the new addition on a slab foundation. That means that the ground below it will have to be built up before pouring the concrete. I don’t understand how that works at all, so I’ll leave that to the engineer who has to design it.

What I do know is that concrete is cheaper than wood, and it just makes sense to have the concrete for the patio poured at the same time as the concrete for the foundation for the addition, if possible. And as far as Matt getting from the house down to the patio, I’ll have to work with the architect to come up with a firm plan, but I’m wondering if it would be possible to simply extend the foundation for the addition a few feet (maybe about eight feet past the back exterior wall of the addition) to create a landing area outside the bedroom and family room doors. That landing area could then have steps down to the ground-level patio, but could also lead to the left, past the bedroom, and to the side of the house where we could pour a very nice, long (and therefore, not steep at all) wheelchair ramp that leads to the lower ground-level concrete patio area.

So basically, I’m envisioning something like this. This isn’t to scale at all, so ignore the scale. I’m just thinking through the logistics of the design right now.

I’m not 100% sold on this simply because that ramp is clear on the other side of the house from the carport. But of course, our carport has a ramp that goes into the back doors of my studio. That has worked out really well for Matt, and it doesn’t feel inconvenient at all for us getting him inside the house.

I never have gotten good pictures of our carport, but you can see this picture that I took when the carport was being built, and just after the wheelchair ramp was poured.

carport progress - large concrete pad for parking plus new wheelchair ramp for Matt

So basically, the patio outside of the bedroom and family room doors would have a similar landing area going all the way across the back exterior wall of the house (except I’d want it to be deeper than this one), and instead of the landing area being incorporated into the wheelchair ramp, the wheelchair ramp would be on the side of the house. So the entire landing area across the back of the house would be level, and have two steps down to the main ground-level patio area.

But the bottom line is that I want him to have access to the whole back yard. Thinking through how to make all of this work has been quite the challenge. The good thing is that he does have a power wheelchair, so getting from one side of the house to the other doesn’t take a whole lot of energy for him. I just want him to be able to get around the back yard and enjoy whatever we put back there, whether it’s a deck or a patio.

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