Thoughts about patios and decks

Decks are popular but can be a maintenance headache. Patios are lower maintenance but can have higher initial costs. Ground level decks do not make sense in my mind, pour a slab or put in some type of hardscape. Decks are the best choice when your building exit is 8 to 10 feet up from grade.
OK - I really like patios and hardscape. My rear yard exit is between 4 and 6 feet above grade. An ideal candidate for a deck.
My question is - are there practical limitations to building a patio in such a situation? I know about the various construction techniques for such a retaining wall. Cost would be a factor as well. Additionally Has anyone seen such a structure? Did it add or detract from the landscape?
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I'm not sure how it is done, but I've seen plenty of concrete porches when I lived in Philly. . Most have some sort of brick or stone columns for supports.
Decks are nice, but I'd take a masonry patio over wood any day given the choice. I just finished putting three gallons of stain on my deck and I've never had to do more that just sweep the patio.
--
Ed
http://pages.cthome.net/edhome/




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Thanks Ed - I'm from Philly area, living in burbs. Those porches you speak of are usually no higher than 4' off ground. I have a deck designed that is 14' x 20', roughly. I'm trying to envision it built out of hardscape. Interlocking retaining wall, pavers, columns with wrought iron rails, etc. It may be out of place in my neighborhood. It may also cost more than a new car to build! You know what they say, wine taste on a beer budget! I can probably do the deck very nicely for under $10K. Ipe and all the trimmings to boot.
I guess what I would like to see is some pictures of something like I am thinking about. Yes, I've googled.
Thanks again
-B
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