Free Deck Plans
Free Deck Plans
Choose from hundreds of permit ready designs. Our deck plans include a detailed framing plan, footing layout, material list and typical details. These plans are free to download as pdf files that can be printed to 1/4" - 1' scale on 11x17 paper.

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Ground Level Deck

Ground level decks less than 12" above grade are generally easy to build because they don't involve climbing on ladders and usually don't involve installing guard rails and stairs. They are also easier to blend into the landscape, but there are some unique issues you need to address before you get started.

The first issue is clearance. If your door is very low to the ground you may not have enough room to install deck framing and decking without excavating. Digging a few extra inches of soil and grass away will allow you the room you need to build your frame. Building a low profile frame is necessary. You will need to use a flush beam which is set at the same level as the joists as opposed to a cantilever beam. If the bottom of your deck frame is less than 6" above the ground or partially buried you should use pressure treated wood that is rated for ground contact. The higher level of preservative will prevent the wood from rotting and decaying better than standard pressure treated wood.

Whether from precipitation draining through the deck boards, or water vapor escaping from the earth, the area under decks are always getting wet. Getting wet isn’t the problem for wood, it’s not being able to dry that can lead to rot and decay.Ventilation is what allows this area to dry, and thus provides a longer service life for the deck. Some deck builders install a layer of gravel beneath the deck to help drain water away.  Ground level decks may breed mold without proper ventilation.  

It is a good idea to space your decking to allow the underside of the deck to breathe.  Don't use tongue and groove decking products for ground level decks.   Many composite manufacturers require ventilation below their decking products, and this provides a good reference or baseline for establishing ventilation minimums for all decks. Generally, if a deck is less than 12 inches above the ground, the perimeter of the deck must be open for free air to flow below the deck. Other products outright prohibit installation of their products on a deck that low.

If you are attaching the deck to your house you will need to install footings below the frost line to anchor the deck and prevent the deck from moving as a result of frost heave. Free standing decks may use floating pier blocks which allow the deck to move along with the ground. Some builders build ground level decks directly on top of existing concrete patios using sleepers.


Comments, Questions and Reviews


If I am building a deck around 12" off the grade line, do I need to fill the entire cavity under the deck with rock, or just up to the grade line? I am wondering about wasps and animals going underneath and us not having access to crawl under.

posted by MikeLC at 4/27/2015 12:02:52 AM

I have a concrete porch that my front door opens to. I want to build a 4''x20'' deck that bumps up next to the porch effectively expanding the porch. And I''m in Texas. Should I attach the deck frame to the side of porch?

posted by hammonac at 2/26/2015 2:39:15 PM

I have a concrete porch that my front door opens to. I want to build a 4''x20'' deck that bumps up next to the porch effectively expanding the porch. And I''m in Texas. Should I attach the deck frame to the side of porch?

posted by hammonac at 2/26/2015 2:38:54 PM

I want to build a free standing deck, can I place a plastic cover over the area, then build the deck over it, whats the lowest I can build off the ground?, and can the green turf be placed over the deck.

posted by William Rich at 2/19/2015 12:28:55 PM

We recommend that you have a few inches under the deck for ventilation. Putting turf on the deck will hold moisture and will eventually rot.

posted by mike at 2/20/2015 8:41:36 AM

I am going to build a very low level deck. Is it best to lay a concrete slab at ground level and then instal decking over the top rather than have wooden framing that is in contact with the ground?

posted by suth at 12/17/2014 9:44:33 PM

You will still need a wood substructure to fasten the decking to. You can lay 2x6 sleepers on top of the concrete slab. We recommend using ground rated pressure treated lumber for this application.

posted by mike at 12/19/2014 9:02:54 AM

Ground level decks should be framed and decked with wood pressure treated to AWPA UC4A Ground Contact standards. Most framing and decking wood sold in building supply stores is treated only for above ground applications. Be sure to request the heavier ground contact treatment. If you have trouble locating the heavier treatment, post a request here and you will get responses.

posted by rbabb at 10/5/2014 8:47:29 PM

I am going to build a low level deck that will be close to the house and about 8 to 10 off the ground. My question is the attachment, should I attach to the house or put it close to the house. I concerned about the siding repairs, painting or even replacement and how to do that with deck so close to the house. Ideas please...

posted by Jp at 8/8/2014 10:03:05 AM

You can do this either way. However it is best remove some soil. You do not want your frame resting on the ground. If you do build the deck free standing you will probably need to install the footings directly next to the house foundation which isn''t always a good idea because the footings are more likely to settle.

posted by mike at 8/11/2014 9:20:30 AM