Did you move into a house with an empty back yard? What you need is a nice deck or patio to enjoy the out-of-doors. Of the many choices is a wooden deck, a concrete slab, a fieldstone floor with planters or a multi-level redwood deck with benches. Let's take them one by one. The common-place wooden deck is fairly inexpensive unless built with redwood, and has an average life of ten years. The concrete slab is inexpensive, but very plain and prone to cracking. It must be properly drained and can be difficult to keep painted. A multi-level deck is beautiful but expensive and needs a space under the deck for ventilation.
The patio design I designed incorporated a free-form kidney-shaped pattern with three in-set oval steps. Around the edge, spaced Italian columns supported a seat-high balustrade railing fourteen inches wide and sixty-six feet in circumference. At one end a straight line formed the back of a fourteen foot built-in barbecue and counter surfaces with storage behind redwood doors.
Colored slate set in concrete decorated the floor and a five percent grade provided the proper drainage. One winter this slight grade which was covered with an inch of glare ice sent my cat flying across the patio and right over the edge!
The balustrade columns, set in concrete formed the base for the railing. After the columns were in place, I set sheets of plywood on top and cut a square hole slightly smaller than the top of each column. I then formed the fourteen inch wide railing on top from stiffly mixed beige colored concrete. When the concrete set, I removed the plywood and the balustrade was completed. Since the patio was two to five feet higher than the surrounding land, I built a yellow brick wall, following the kidney shaped patio floor.
White decorative concrete pots filled with flowers place evenly along the top of the balustrade added color and at one end a wrought iron lamp gave the whole area a nice glow. This patio gave our family many years of pleasurable outdoor living and the satisfaction of giving our creative juices free rein.
By Kenneth Hoffman from Morristown, NJ