Grades and Elevation–How High or Low Should your Patio or Deck Be

Outdoor living spaces add a new dimension to your home, especially because they make it enjoyable for you and your family to spend time outdoors. This is why adding a patio or deck offe

rs both emotional and monetary value to your home.

People who want to add this home feature often have a general idea of what they want, and may  think; “Hmm, we’d like a new stone patio.” While others often say; “My idea is to add a deck off the kitchen.” Some people can even visualize or draw out their plans. Of course, then there are those of us who know some type of outdoor living feature is needed, just don’t really know which to choose. So what decisions should you make? Here are a few things to consider before making your decision.

Grades Vs. Elevation

This is the one factor that may influence the decision for you. If for instance, you want a deck out your kitchen door, you need to consider the elevation of the door. If this is close to grade or just a single step from the door to the yard, then it may not be possible to construct a deck, as there isn’t enough room for framing or supports. In these cases a patio may be the only option, as the base for a patio is dug into the ground.

On the other hand, there are times when a deck works best. For instance, when an area has a significant or steep slope, making it difficult to level out for a patio, then a deck is your option.  A deck may also be a viable option when you need a deck or patio in a shady tree area, as this feature can be built over tree root areas.

The elevation of a deck will vary according to the design requirements you have, even when there is no structural need to change the elevation of a deck. So, a deck can really be built to the elevation you need. It can be a high or low deck as needed.

Grading a Patio

If you do decide to install a patio you’ll need to prepare and grade a base where the paver stones can be laid. This is probably the most important element to installing the patio. The process begins by digging the area to about 6 to 8 inches below the finished height of the patio level you want. Usually the patio paving stones take up about 2 inches of the height and you want a gravel base under this. If possible, you want to use a landscape fabric under the gravel to protect the base and the pavers from the soil and weeds.

Once you have dug the area you must add about 4 inches of gravel and then grade the patio base with a 2X4 by sliding the length along the gravel and smoothing it in a slightly sloped. This will give the area an evan but sloped base for water runoff. You want to slope the area towards where you want the water to run off. If the patio is large then you need to grade with 2 2X4’s that are nailed together.

Add another 2 inches of sand to the gravel and grade again with the 2X4. Use a compactor on the area before setting the pavers.


As you can see, there are differences in the way a deck and patio are constructed. This is why you need to analyze the outdoor area and determine which is the better and least expensive option. To best do this you may need to call in an experienced deck and patio contractor to help you with our decision.