Ultimate Rooftop Deck Design 11 Step ChecklistWritten by Liza Sivek on
Are you thinking about designing a rooftop deck? Rooftop decks can expand your living area, create outdoor space above street level, or give you a garden where there is no backyard. For any of these reasons, a rooftop deck, designed well, is a fantastic idea. This design checklist can get you started.
A rooftop deck with turf, pergola, play equipment, and built ins, is a family space by day, social space by night.
A rooftop deck can be a dream, adding features and space that takes advantage of the space and view outside your home, even in tall buildings or small lots.
Designing your rooftop deck is, well, let’s face it, fun! Finding inspiration online and in magazines can fill our “wish list”. Wanting the most spectacular deck that make our friends and neighbors want to spend time there (and maybe make them a little envious?) is our heart’s desire.
Reality can hit hard if your dream deck design did not consider structural details and useful space first. Here is a checklist of 11 things to do that will help you avoid rooftop deck design pitfalls from the start and help it “rise above” your vision instead.
Designing a rooftop deck is just part of the vision. Space to entertain, relax, and be outdoors is another.
1. Can Your Rooftop Support A Rooftop Deck?
Not all building rooftops are the same. The first major factors to consider when designing a rooftop deck is the strength and weight max of your building structure. safety first!
This is especially important when you are planning to add heavy load items like a hot tub, fireplace, built ins, or outdoor kitchens.
A NYC rooftop deck designed with heavy load items like a stone-face fireplace, built in planters, seating and lighting. Decking material is Garapa hardwood. Photo courtesy of Organic Gardener, NYC
Can your roof structure support the additional weight? A building code official may be able to help you here. Or not. At a minimum, they will likely know what the loading requirements are in your area. You may also need a master builder or structural engineer to determine the loading capacity of your roof. They can determine whether your existing roof can support the extra weight of a deck.
Never build a rooftop deck without checking this first.
See our article, "Building a Rooftop Deck: 6 Steps to Success ", for more.
2. Is A Rooftop Deck Allowed?
Cities, towns, neighborhoods and even HOAs may have restrictions or rules about a rooftop deck. It may be as simple as requiring a privacy wall, or it may not allow them at all. Be sure to check with all the authorities that may affect your rooftop deck planning.
Grab a free copy of the Rooftop Deck Design Idea Portfolio for lots more great ideas, download now.
3. Is A Rooftop Deck Expensive?
A rooftop deck is a big investment in both time and money, but the dividends are totally worth it. To be sure you invest wisely, start your deck design planning with a professional. Architects, rooftop deck contractors, rooftop garden landscape architects, and home designers with rooftop deck experience can all help you save time (and costly design changes) if you partner with them from the start. These professionals are your best resource to save yourself wasted time and money.
A bonus checklist in a checklist! Grab a copy of this infographic to take with you to
planning and design meetings. Download your copy here.
4. Best Wood Rooftop Deck Design Material
Rooftop decks naturally get more than their fair share of UV and weather exposure. Hardwood is better than softwood here, for sure, since hardwood decking material has very high fiber density making it incredibly resistant to multiple threats.
Exotic hardwoods are highly resistant to moisture damage. rot, mold and mildew and even insect damage. That high density fiber strength gives these threats no foothold to invade or damage. And the same durability protects your deck from scratches and gouges from foot traffic, furniture feet, pets, and storm debris.
The strongest and loveliest choices for a long lasting rooftop deck are Ipe wood, Cumaru wood, Machiche Wood, Jatoba wood, and Garapa wood.
Low Maintenance Rooftop Decking
Because they are a dense, heavy wood all of these options do not absorb stains well. Instead, the natural color and grain shines through with very low maintenance needs.
Hardwoods decking requires only cleaning as needed and an oil-based UV protectant made for hardwoods is recommended. We like and use Penofin Hardwood Formula Penetrating Oil. A protective oil finish keeps the wood looking like new and prevent weathering.
Weathered Rooftop Decking Is Beautiful Too
Note that ALL of these hardwood decking species can be left untreated for a incredibly minimal maintenance option (just clean as needed). Without the UV protectant, they will all weather to a beautiful silvery gray, satiny patina without losing their stability and strength. Hardwoods are so naturally strong they can save you years of extra labor and repairs even when weathered. So, its ok to go gray.
Download a free Rooftop Deck Design Idea Portfolio PDF for more inspiration, right on your device.
5. Which Hardwood Rooftop Decking Should You Use?
Ipe wood rooftop decking material – the highest upfront cost for wood decking material but also the highest return on investment by far over the lifecycle of the deck. Ipe is proven to last over 20 years, even untreated, under harsh conditions. Combined with its durability, beautiful exotic graining and medium to dark brown color range make this a top pick of both homeowners and architects for deck design.
RELATED: Machiche Wood Decking Information
Cumaru wood rooftop decking material – Another favorite of architects and designers is this durable and stunning hardwood. Cumaru is all heartwood and can range in color from yellow-y and reddish browns to a purplish cordovan color. Cumaru wood can appear similar to red oak with its coarser grain, but the exotic color range of Cumaru gives it the nickname, "Brazilian Teak".
RELATED: Machiche Wood Decking Information
Machiche wood rooftop decking material – Lesser known, and a best kept secret. Similarly strong and beautiful, Machiche is more affordable than Ipe. Machiche has exotic graining with medium chocolate to dark chocolate browns.
RELATED: Machiche Wood Decking Information
Questions? We can help. Click here to email or call the Mataverde team for answers.
Jatoba wood decking material – The luxurious look of Brazilian Cherry comes to your rooftop deck! Jatoba, the stronger exterior version of interior Brazilian Cherry hardwood flooring.
RELATED: Jatoba Wood Decking Information
Garapa wood decking material – If a lighter wood is called for in your dream design scheme, look no further. Garapa has a golden blonde color with interesting exotic figuring. A real show stopper underfoot.
RELATED: Garapa Wood Decking Information
6. How Will You Use Your Rooftop Deck Design?
Decks can add precious living space in multi-unit attached housing or urban high rises with no backyards. Adding a rooftop deck can give you family space, fitness, space, entertaining areas, dining areas, a garden. Or, with the right use of space, all of the above.
Consider what you want to the rooftop deck for – are you craving a place to relax and dine as a family? Are you looking for a quiet place to be alone and enjoy the sunset? Maybe separate entertaining areas for standing along the deck rail with bar top and another for conversation?
This rooftop was designed with a pool and shower, using Ipe with its natural low slip surface and high rot resistance.
And guess what? No matter your climate and location, you could design for year-round use. Yes, rooftop decks can be enjoyed in all seasons when you use the right decking materials and the right design planning.
RELATED: Enjoy Your Rooftop Deck Year 'Round
7. How Much Space For A Rooftop Deck?
You have determined that your building roof can handle a rooftop deck and what you want the deck for. Now it's time to determine how much space you have to design.
Is your potential space a small, wasted corner tucked outside your kitchen that can be outdoor dining? Or a garage roof that takes advantage of a stunning view?
Or do you have an expansive rooftop to fill with a pergola, firepit, cocktail bar and plush seating?
Knowing how much square footage, and in what shape, you have to design within is important. A professional deck designer can find the most efficient ways to use that space to achieve your vision. A good design will eke out the most useful space without feeling cluttered or cramped. Professional designers and architects can also help you take best advantage if you have a spectacular view.
Download a free copy of the Rooftop Deck Design Project Portfolio to take with you while
8. Pergolas and Privacy in Rooftop Deck Design
Do you need shade over a dining or conversation area? Are privacy features important, to block out neighbors or an ugly view, (or an ugly view of your neighbors)? Do you want to separate deck areas from one another without interrupting the view?
Pergolas, built in planters or other features, walls and arbors can be added to add shade, privacy and can separate out areas on your deck. A pergola can designate an area and create shade, without blocking the view of the sky. Built in planters or arbors can both add greenery and privacy.
9. Outdoor Kitchen Rooftop Deck Design
The luxury of walking just outside your top floor condo or loft to your own grill and smoker is pretty awesome.
The weight and movement of grills, smokers, and built-in appliances can affect both the max weight of your deck and also the wear and tear of they are rolled or moved around in use. Hardwood decks can handle both the weight of outdoor kitchens as well as resist scratching, gouging and the heavy footwear kitchens require.
10. Plan Rooftop Deck Lighting Design
Adding string lights is always a fun and sparkly idea, but what about more permanent lighting? Having your deck lighting designed ahead of time makes it easier to incorporate it into the completed deck. Mood lighting, walkway lighting, up-lights in greenery or on artistic features will make a rooftop deck go from a nice spot to “WOW! How did you do this?” when dusk falls.
11. Hot Tubs and Gardens and Rooftop Deck Design, Oh My!
Are you picturing stepping out onto your rooftop and into a hot tub or pool? Sit by a cozy stone fireplace? To your built-in pizza oven or raised bed kitchen garden? These amazing features are what rooftop deck dreams are made of.
Once you know for sure that your rooftop deck can handle the weight of these features, and you have the right place for them in design, go for it! These features may be heavy load, but can be safely and beautifully designed into your deck design with the right considerations.
Did these 11 steps give you new ideas or new directions for your dream rooftop deck? Let us know in the comments. Ready for more rooftop deck design information? Check out our photo galleries here and more rooftop deck articles here.
Have more questions? We are here to get you on the right path. Contact us by email or phone.