House Elevation: Rear Stairs and Deck Design

Originally we had a healthy backyard with a petit patio and enough green space for our three boys to run around. After a few poundings offered up by Mother Nature in the form of floods, our once charming backyard lost it’s luster. Perhaps it was because the water table under our house had permanently been altered or maybe healthy soil had eroded away, whatever the reason, we’ve no longer been able to recreate the lushness this yard once afforded.

Rear yard prior to house elevation


To give you an idea of how much water we’re talking about, the flood water has come as high as 1/4 the way up the window you see above, surrounding the house on all sides. Hence, we opted to elevate our house, forever mitigating against flooding. We had to lose the maple tree prior to the elevation process as it sat too close to the house, but the roots were beginning to wreak havoc anyway.

Additionally, the foundation plantings all had to be removed or else face certain death once the formal construction process began. Many plants were able to be temporarily relocated to the edge of the backyard.

Flood Savvy
House elevation: rear view


The new foundation was built, flood vents were added near the base of the foundation walls and the house was lowered back down. The number of flood vents is a formula based on square footage and determined by FEMA. With the proper number of flood vents, your insurance rates will be impacted. 

Flood Savvy
New foundation with flood vents – No, the house is not levitating. It hadn’t been lowered yet.


Now that the house had been raised, access stairs were needed.  A creative design was sought to address numerous issues: lots of stairs needed in a small space, that would not take up too much room, while providing an easy access port for furniture moving.

Flood Savvy
Deck development for raised house

We wanted to achieve some symmetry between the two rear doors, rather than have a bunch of stairs everywhere. It was decided to wrap the deck around the house and have the deck stairs meet up with the backdoor stairs, creating a streamlined design with minimal yard impact while preserving an access point to the house for furniture.

Flood Savvy: deck design
Creative step design to have the deck wrap the house


Everything we’ve done, all of the plans, with blueprints, had to be presented to and approved by  the zoning board and the architectural review board. But you see the three steps above that lead down to the ground? The building inspector is insisting we don’t have the proper variance to go beyond the side of our house (note how the three steps reach beyond that threshold), yet that is what our “approved” plans show. *see my post on how to hire an architect

Up next? Another meeting with the zoning board, who have voiced a strong appreciation to all of the homeowners raising their homes, getting them out of harm’s way. Apparently, the building inspector missed that memo. But since they meet just once a month, we’ll  have to wait 4 weeks for the next meeting and pay a few hundred dollars to present our drawings again. Definitely not feeling the love.

Post elevation – deck complete

4 thoughts on “House Elevation: Rear Stairs and Deck Design

    1. Our neighbor has little to gain, which makes it all the more perplexing as to why she would pursue this action. The city is now involved in any decision to be made in terms of if we need a variance or not – regardless of her opinion. The issue remains unresolved at this time. The issue as to whether she makes for a good neighbor or not has, however, been determined.

  1. I was wondering where my neighbour moved to – obviously you got her – she used to ring at 2am on a rainy night to complain the water was rushing from our land into her house (Her responsibility to put a storm drain on that side of the property). Then she reported us for cutting down a tree without a permit (our previous council didn’t have any tree restrictions). Then she reported us again (we had a permit this time but she didn’t want the tree to go (it wasn’t blocking HER sun). Then 12 months later she reported us again because the cut tree had suckered all over her yard (and ours – deal with it). I thought she had died but obviously she was reincarnated LOL

    1. We found her all right. Your former neighbor matches the description of my current neighbor and both have strayed far from the sunny side of the street. That 2am call sounds pretty intrusive and it seems your former neighbor had the “complaint” department on speed dial. Again, very familiar. Hopefully your new neighbor is a whole lot more pleasant and neighborly.


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