Roof Decks: Why Spend the Money?

Cost versus benefit is one question clients weigh in their minds.

Outdoor living space is limited in cities like Philadelphia, so one of the only options is to go up by having a deck built on the roof. Cost varies for different reasons; the materials used to build the deck range in cost from $4 to $12 per square foot (the more expensive being the exotic hardwoods).

Another big factor in cost is the railing or guard rail. Anything goes for railings as long as it meets code requirements. We build traditional vertical spindle or picket type railings as well as using horizontal stainless steel cables or glass panels for the railing infill. The only problem we have found is that the glass is difficult to keep clean on the outside of the railing.

In considering having a deck built, access to the deck is something that needs careful planning. If you have a closet or a small bedroom on the top floor, we have used that space in the past to create a stairway to the roof and build a pilot house on the roof to gain access. Another way is to convert a hall window to a door and then have steps built on the outside of the building to get up on deck. This seems to be the most popular way because it does not eat up living space inside your home. Some homes have a balcony or a deck already built on the upper level of the home that can be used as a foundation for a steel spiral staircase leading up to deck above.

The sky is the limit when it comes to roof deck design. You just need to be creative in the planning stage to make sure that in the end you get a functional and beautiful living space that adds value and appeal to your home.

Cumming Construction LLC is the Philadelphia area’s premier rooftop deck design and build firm, creating beautiful outdoor living spaces. We visit your site to review and provide a plan and proposal for your rooftop deck built with Pau Lope, Ipe, Exotic Brazilian Wood, Western Red Cedar, Timbertech, Trex and MoistureShield Composite Decking. Multi-level flooring designs, arbors, pergolas, rails in aluminum by Deckorators, glass, or wood are available.

We also feature stainless steel horizontal cable railing infill, outdoor kitchens and bars for entertaining, horizontal or square style lattice panels, benches, cocktail tables, spas and lighting. We handle city permits and construction is built by our staff.

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Roof Decks: Another Story for the City

Groundhogs aside, the coming of spring is marked for us by people calling for new roof decks.

Roof decks are possibly the easiest, least expensive, and most rewarding way that urban dwellers can increase their private living space without the trauma of building a large addition or the aggravation of relocating.

The finished deck with Philadelphia in the background.One of my favorite projects was a roof deck we did in the Fitler Square neighborhood of Philadelphia. The client is a designer for an architecture firm, and he had been creating plans and drawings for his home’s pièce de résistance for several years before we embarked on the project. Its features include a galvanized steel spiral staircase, a corrugated tin roof, granite countertop, working sink and extendable body sprayer to cool off, a barbecue pit with exhaust hood, hard-wired lights, and electrical outlets throughout. We even installed a galvanized steel bucket on a pulley system to easily raise ice, food, and beverages from the first-floor kitchen.

We’ve employed the same structural approach on a half-dozen or so roof decks since then. We remove the existing tar and roofing on the shared “party” masonry walls on either side of house, upon which we form and pour new concrete caps. These footings support the pressure-treated 2×10 joists for the deck. This approach allows the deck to span from masonry wall to masonry wall, with absolutely nothing touching or potentially harming the existing roof below. Also, the weight limit upon the deck is virtually limitless; the deck is framed exactly as the floors within the house.

Finished multi-level roof deck.Except in very rare occasions, the gradual slope of city roofs can result in a cool design element. Rather than a single level deck starting a foot or so off the roof on one end, and ending three or four feet in the air on the other, we build bi-level decks. In the end, the two levels result in a more attractive and sophisticated look than just a single deck anyway.

I don’t think we’ve used pressure-treated wood as decking on an unenclosed space since I’ve been with the company. The new composite decking products on the market are simply too affordable, environmentally friendly, and maintenance-free to consider any other option. And there are new, more attractive lines coming out every day; while we have used the popular Trex and ChoiceDek carried at the large home stores, we like the natural appearance and color choices of brands such as MoistureShield, TimberTech, and others. These decks are created from up to 90% pre-and-post-consumer recycled material and require no sealing, staining, or painting and will not rot or warp from water or sunlight. MoistureShield Decking, for example, contains an average of 289 plastic grocery sacks or 92 plastic water jugs per 12-foot board.

Nothing sings spring to me like the sound of a cool breeze over city rooftops, children laughing in playgrounds below, and the buzz of a circular saw that only we can hear. Seems like most folks enjoy their new rooftop deck more than they originally thought they would

Learn more about our deck and patio services and view more of our portfolio.

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