Making Multi-Level Decks Work

I’ll be honest, I don’t really care for multi-level decks. They can look stunning, but if they’re not well designed they can be a waste of money. After all, those additional levels can require additional materials and framing. Still, with the right design – and the right budget – they can be made to work well.

Credit: archadeck (click to go to site)

This photo is a rare example of a multi-level deck that works. Let’s take a look at what works here, and what typically makes a multi-level deck not work.

  • The deck is big enough to create good-sized “rooms”. All too often I see people throw a step or three into a deck design to make it a super-cool multi-level deck, when it’s just not big enough. A moderately sized space cut in two doesn’t give you two moderately sized spaces, it gives you two really really small spaces. You can see that the designer of the deck in the photo created a dining space with loads of room for additional people when entertaining, so it actually works.
  • There was a reason to divide the space. If the only reason a deck is split up is because it looks cool, that’s a waste of space and resources. In the photo above the hot tub has its own space, not just for the tub but for seating adjacent to it. That’s pretty cool. It makes sense.
  • The proportions work. The hot tub area is an occasional use, private space; the dining space is more regularly used and public. The proportions make sense, and the deck hasn’t been arbitrarily divided.
  • The deck is still easy to traverse. You exit the house on the raised portion by¬† the spa, and only have one step down to the dining area. I can live with that. Still, I would hesitate to recommend this deck to an older client, especially one with existing mobility or vision issues. I’m 35 and healthy and I’ve occasionally missed a deck step and wiped out hard. Throw cataracts and a cane into the mix and you’re looking at a recipe for disaster.

I really think that if you want a multi-level deck, or one with multiple functional spaces, a good designer is really important. We can make sure that it all works, because the most sustainable designs are the ones you use and the ones you keep.

Interested in a deck design consultation? Contact me and we’ll set a time!

Dave Marciniak is a landscape designer and speaker. He lives in Culpeper, Virginia and can be found via his website and on Twitter.

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