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Deck Building on a Slope

Quiet evenings, cocktail parties, family, friends, and nature at the doorstep; these are all reasons why homeowners are in love with decks. Decks are also popular do-it-yourself projects. Yet there is often more science to deck building than many people realize. When engineering enters the game it can get over the head of many DIY enthusiasts. Engineering most often becomes an issue when building a deck on a slope.

Regardless, this is no impediment to the desire to have a deck. Just imagine standing among the treetops or watching hawks fly by at eye level, a panoramic view of surrounding landscape enveloping you. In other words, the motivation is there. It is the process that causes all the trouble.

The most important factor for building a deck on a slope is proper design. If you have hopes of doing the work yourself, then the local building department is the best place to begin. A pier-and-post design is most common in these situations. But, depending on the extremity of the slope, piers may have to be poured from reinforced concrete and poured deep. Also, a deck built on a slope will almost certainly require building permits and the fees subsequently imposed.

There are also natural forces at work that must be addressed. Soil liquefaction, natural erosion and frost are vital factors that will influence design, structure and cost. The building department may have answers to these questions, as will structural engineers or architects, who will have engineers as contacts and consultants.

Therefore, hiring a general contractor to take over the project is highly recommended. Not that it cannot be a DIY project. The logistics of building on a slope are often quite difficult and a significant amount of help will likely be required. Imagine working 20-30 feet in the air on the side of a hill – it is a daunting task.

A deck contractor can take care of communication with building inspectors, architects, and engineers in addition to supplying the resources and manpower to do the work.

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