Decks
One advantage to having a steep lot is that it can offer spectacular views, and there is no better way to enjoy a vista than with an outdoor deck. “It's always nice to sit up on a platform and look out over the edge,” says Roger. Building a deck on a sloped lot is much different from putting one on a flat site, he says. You have to install longer, beefier posts from the footings to the framing — requiring cross-bracing for extra support and latticework to hide the exposed underside — and a strong railing, but it's a worthy project. “With a deck you can turn an unusable slope into a usable space, provided it is engineered properly,” Roger says.

At the project house in Atlanta, where there aren't many views but the mean temperature is above 60 degrees seven months out of the year, architect Jeremiah Eck designed a screened-in porch along with an upper and a lower deck to take advantage of the mild climate and the terrain. “Because of the sloped site, we were able to extend the interior space out into the landscape on two levels,” he says.

The lower-level deck is made with a composite decking material that is 45 percent wood and 55 percent high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a plastic recycled from used milk jugs. The upper deck is topped with 100 percent plastic decking. Both products can be cut and screwed in place like wood, but don't require the sealing, painting, or upkeep needed with timber. “In fact, because they're plastic, they won't even take a stain,” says decking subcontractor David Munisteri. Expect to pay about $3 a linear foot for the composite and $4 a foot for the all-plastic decking (versus $2 a foot for redwood and less than $1 for pressure-treated southern yellow pine).

Now when it rains on this Atlanta hillside, Wilfer isn't worried that the land or the house will wash away. She has created a low-maintenance yard that needs little care other than regular watering. “And there's no lawn — I like that.”
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