How best to build a platform on uneven backyard area?
May 23, 2019 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Hey! So I've got this lousy backyard area and I want to install some kind of flat platform so the table and chairs aren't at a janky angle. What's the best and cheapest way to do this?

I rent, cannot do anything permanent.

I was thinking that I should just put some sandbags full of dirt down and lay some kind of big board on it? But what kind of big board?

Bonus points for low effort. Also, this is in LA, in case that affects things in any way.
posted by insteadofapricots to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I was thinking that I should just put some sandbags full of dirt down and lay some kind of big board on it?

I think you'd need rigid supports for this - that dirt is going to settle once you start stepping on it.

No chance you can ask your landlord "hey, can I get rid of these useless rocks or at least store them in a bucket until I move?" That would address most of the problem right there. (Honestly, if it were me I'd just do it without asking.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:34 PM on May 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Showbiz_liz, that would address some of the problem (and I'm embarrassed that I didn't think of it immediately) but there are still the wood "planters" on the side to contend with. Basically, the area was originally an aisle around the property, and then the property was carved up into rental units, so they just called the aisle a patio, and now the difficulty is turning it into something that actually feels vaguely like a real patio.
posted by insteadofapricots at 2:39 PM on May 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

So the rocks and planters were already there before the space was fenced in? Based on my experience as a renter and person who likes doing DIY things, I suspect your landlord would be delighted if you offered to tear all that stuff out in service of making it a more useful and welcoming space.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:45 PM on May 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Ask the landlord if you can get rid of the useless planter in addition to the useless rocks, and level out the ground. It truly does look useless, because in a space that small, 99% of tenants would want more sitting-around space (and just grow stuff in pots or small containers) and the 1% who love to garden would want a higher raised bed.

I think once it's level, you'll be happy with just dirt. If not, I would look at stuff like gravel, decomposed granite or pavers before bothering with decking or "big boards".
posted by acidic at 2:53 PM on May 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Low effort, I'd try clearing and flattening it out as much as possible (maybe just the area that is path and the table area now - or possibly take out the area with the small gravel) and then I'd use some of the Ikea outdoor tiles or similar product.

If you can't remove the wood edge around the gravel, I'd still tile it, but not expect it to line up with the path tile, if that makes sense.

Push the big rocks all back into the other garden bed and add a few pots with some plants to make it look nicer.

Higher effort - take it all out and either lay down fake grass (the green lushness adds so much to my similar aisle yard!) or tile the lot with click-together outdoor tiles.
posted by AnnaRat at 2:56 PM on May 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Let's say your landlord just doesn't want you to change anything. You can buy two large sheets of thick plywood or board for about $30. Borrow a skillsaw from someone and cut it to size. Should work fine, could put a few bricks down in the middle and around the edges and just have it on top of the planter.
posted by bbqturtle at 3:12 PM on May 23, 2019

I mean, you could buy some concrete pier blocks and 2x6 lumber and custom-build a low deck in that space. Would probably need to spend $75 or so on materials. And of course you'd need some tools.
posted by bennett being thrown at 3:15 PM on May 23, 2019

While I am inclined to agree with showbiz_liz (I have yet to meet a landlord who objected to improvements on my dime) have you considered something with sand + sandbags and/or bricks and wooden pallets?
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 3:33 PM on May 23, 2019

The picture looks like a side yard setback between the house and the property line fence. Where are the utility easements? Is this area used to access the backyard?
I'd guess the larger easement is on the other side of the house, a 10 ft / 5 ft setup for city backhoes and such if a water line breaks.
In that case, permanent construction would not be allowed by whatever ordinances govern this property. If the landlord does not know, then city hall should have that information. Not that I would draw attention to building code stuff as a renter.

I've done some temporary things with old brick, cinder blocks, and DIY pavers made from concrete and colorant.
You might be able to use recycled wooden crates for a flat raised surface. I used them to make a temporary walkway in a muddy yard. Combustible materials would be a problem if the barbecue in the picture is in use.

If you have access to some very large heavy-duty containers, you might store the big rocks in there and set potted plants over them as a raised garden.
I'd be careful not to change the drainage around the foundation. I would also pay attention to how rainwater collects and runs off in that area before altering the landscape.
posted by TrishaU at 1:08 AM on May 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

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