Rooftop decks have long been an icon of Chicago’s neighborhoods and have become increasingly popular in the last couple of decades. Who wouldn’t want a staircase behind their apartment leading to beautiful panoramic views? But before you start drawing up your dream rooftop deck, it’s best to do a bit of homework. Here are some easy but important steps to follow.
Step One: Is a rooftop deck allowed in your area?
Before getting started, be sure to find out if a rooftop deck is allowed in your area. Are there homeowners association restrictions or local zoning in your area? Be sure to check building laws and ensure that a rooftop deck is allowed before you make further plans.
Step Two: Can your building support a rooftop deck?
Keep in mind that safety always comes first. Check with a master builder or structural engineer if your roof structure can support the weight of a rooftop deck. A load calculation assessment can measure the roof’s ability to handle “dead loads” (the actual roofing system) and “live loads” (people, chairs, patio furniture, etc.). If the roof can support a rooftop deck but there are some problem areas, such as damaged membranes, be sure that these get fixed first.
Step Three: Choose your deck team carefully
One of the most important steps of them all is to find an expert team that can make your rooftop deck great but also safe and secure. Interview several teams before deciding on your team. Be sure to ask them about their process and experience. You’ll also need to think of how the crew will access your roof, whether that’s by interior stairs leading to the roof or outdoor scaffolding. Some buildings may even need crane access for their rooftop deck, which means you must have enough space for the crane to move around trees, existing outbuildings, power lines, or other obstructions.
Step Four: Design your rooftop deck
Your HOA may already have some ideas on how to utilize the rooftop deck space but while it may be tempting to design the whole thing yourselves, professional designers can save you time and add many years of enjoyment by helping you plan a unique space wisely.
Step Five: Choose the right materials
Decide on your deck framing. Are you going for sleepers, wood framing, or adjustable pedestal systems? Choose your decking material wisely. The choice of deck flooring is even more important for roof deck construction than it is for ground-level decks. Rooftop decks will experience harsher and prolonged exposure to the elements, including sun and wind. Not all decking is well equipped for rooftop installations so make sure to do your research before making a decision.
Step Six: Think of maintenance
Once the roof deck is installed and inspected so that it meets city codes and ordinances, it is important to maintain it to ensure that residents can enjoy it for many years to come. Think of specifically disclosing to your insurance agent that your association has a rooftop deck. There may be necessary coverage that doesn’t automatically come with your basic coverage. If you furnish the deck, consider nailing everything down so that they don’t become safety hazards. Think of enforcing rules just like you do at the pool. It’s also a good idea to clean out any debris that may have accumulated between the roof and deck surface about four times a year.
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