To Deck or Not to Deck: When Designs and Neighbors Clash

REAR VIEW: 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.

Flood Savvy

Back of house prior to lift

LOOKS LIKE RAIN: 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

Post elevation

Flood Savvy

House elevation: rear view

RISING UP FROM THE EARTH:  The new foundation was built, flood vents were added near the base of the foundation walls and the house was lowered back down.

Flood Savvy

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

DECK DESIGN AND DECISIONS: 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

THAT’S A WRAP: Additionally,  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

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM: 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? Yeah – well we were only approved for one of them. And now our neighbor has her panties all in a wad over the 2 extra steps, called the building inspector, who in turn halted our deck project. 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

THE GOOD TIMES JUST KEEP COMING: 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.

Flood Savvy

There’s a Gladys Kravitz in every neighborhood                                (picture by highlands_pixie)

As for the pesky neighbor: Turns out fences really DO make good neighbors. Keep your eyes off of my side, would you?

4 thoughts on “To Deck or Not to Deck: When Designs and Neighbors Clash

    1. FloodSavvy Post author

      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. Minuet

    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. FloodSavvy Post author

      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.



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s