Rooftop Deck Construction: Considerations & Design Ideas

By Chad Koehnen, 08/29/19

Sunny Roof Deck

Decks have always been a popular addition to any home. They allow homeowners to make better use of their entire property by transforming their outdoor space into a whole new living area.

Decks can come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and even heights, depending on the type of backyard space the homeowner has to work with. Even if a home doesn’t have real backyard space, they can still have a deck that’s where rooftop decks come into play.

Here is what you need to know about rooftop deck construction, along with some rooftop deck design ideas to jumpstart your imagination.

Why Do People Want Rooftop Decks

When you think about decks, you usually think of something that goes in the backyard of a home, either flat on the ground or slightly raised. But, not everyone has a backyard or enough space in their yard for a deck. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean they can’t have a deck: It just means they have to get creative.

That’s where rooftop decks come into play. Homes with flat roofs are the perfect groundwork for a rooftop deck design. These decks take advantage of otherwise unused rooftops and turn them into beautiful, extra living spaces that use their height to provide homeowners with stunning views of the area.

Rooftop Deck Considerations

Be Completely Sure of Building Laws and HOA Requirements

Before you even begin looking at how to build a rooftop deck, it is important to look up and review the building codes and any HOA requirements for your area. That way, you can be sure of what is acceptable in regards to rooftop deck design and what isn’t.

Make Sure There Is Space for Construction

Like with any construction project, a rooftop deck requires a fair amount of space. So, it is important to consider how big of a crew can fit on the rooftop at one time. You don’t want it to become too crowded with people and materials, creating the potential for injuries.

You also need to be cautious of things like cranes, trees, other buildings, power lines and any other sort of possible obstruction. These can cause costly delays and issues down the line.

Plan for New Landscaping

A rooftop deck is exposed to a lot of direct sunlight, which can make it uncomfortable to hang out on in warmer months. Plus, there is very little privacy when there is nothing to block your neighbors’ views. If you consider these big issues, it’s important to consider ways to fix them before you start building.

One possibility is to do some minimal landscaping and incorporate large greenery that will not only provide some shade but privacy as well. You can also consider a large canopy over one part of the rooftop deck for overhead shade.

Choose the Right Materials

You want a deck that will last a long time and looks stunning, so it is critical to choose the right materials. Hardwood decking is one option that is beautiful, highly durable and can last a long time when installed and maintained correctly.

Roof Deck Flooring Options

Before getting into how to build a rooftop deck, you want to know the different types of rooftop deck flooring options that you have. In general, deck flooring comes in two different styles: tiles and boards.

Boards are a classic option that come in varying lengths, ranging from 8’ to 20’ in length. There are also different widths for boards, and choosing between narrow and wide is an important decision as the width of the board helps to determine how much ventilation the decking will receive.

If you are building your deck on a flat surface - rooftop or otherwise = less than 36" off the ground, it is recommended to use 1x4 or 5/4x4 nominal deck boards. However, you still need at least 12" of ventilation space below the deck boards. While the 12" can work on most flat surfaces with a concrete foundation, it is not necessarily enough for building a rooftop deck or on flat, dry surfaces.

Deck tiles are another option, like these from Nova USA Wood, and come in sizes of 24' x 24’ or smaller and can easily be fitted together to create a deck. They are normally constructed using 3" nominal boards, 1x3's with a typical net width of only 2-1/2" total. This means they are more stable when exposed to uneven moisture between the top and bottom.

The boards in tiles are generally spaced 1/4" apart, allowing for the normal season swelling and shrinking without the boards losing any of the vital ventilation, making them perfect for rooftop decks.

Building a Rooftop Deck

While understanding the differences between deck boards and deck tiles is important before starting rooftop deck construction, you also want to familiarize yourself with the building codes. Rooftop decks require a light slope to allow water to drain more easily from the surface. In addition, proper, durable flashing is required to help create a leak-proof deck that will stand the test of time.

When installing your decking closer to the ground, with less than 16" of clearance, as you do for rooftop decking, there are some extra details to keep in mind.

For deck boards, 1x4, 5/4x4 or narrower boards are ideal, and the spacing depends on how the wood has been dried. But, generally, panels should have a 1/4" spacing between them. This will allow for proper ventilation, as well as the expanding and shrinking of the decking, without damaging the wood.

With deck tiles, on the other hand, you don’t have to worry as much about the clearance since they are designed differently than deck boards. With tiles, installation does not require screws, glue or grout and easily snap in and out of place as needed. This makes them ideal for rooftop deck flooring.If your rooftop has some slope built in for drainage, then you can still construct a flat rooftop deck using standard, commercially available pedestal systems. These systems allow for a variable height between the corners of all the deck tiles.

Roof Deck Design Ideas

1. Boards in Different Directions

Ipe Deck Tiles

While most decks have boards that go in one direction, they don’t have to. Instead, you can change it up a little and have a border that goes vertical to the inner portion of the deck. This will help create more interest and make the space look bigger.

2. Combine It With Other Materials

Metal railing, wood deck

Wood pairs well with all types of materials, so another rooftop deck design idea is to combine your wood decking with another material, like metal for the railing. This lets you not only mix materials and style but colors as well.

3. Keep It Light

Light decks are cooler

Since a rooftop deck has a lot of sun exposure, you may want to keep the wood light, so that it doesn’t absorb as much heat and become uncomfortable to walk on during the summer months.

4. Add Plants and Planters

Deck planters

Another rooftop decking design idea to consider is adding plants along the perimeter of the deck. These plants can serve multiple purposes: improved aesthetics, additional privacy and creation of shade.

Building a rooftop deck is the perfect solution for people who have either a small backyard or no backyard at all. If your home has a flat roof, and your county and HOA allows for it, then you have the ability to create a beautiful deck space that you can enjoy all year long.

Nova USA Wood Products creates beautiful, durable hardwood decking boards and tiles that are a perfect option for any deck, including a rooftop deck. Check out their product offerings to see all that they have to offer.

By Chad Koehnen, 08/29/19

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