Sustainable Rooftop Decks & Gardens in Cities.

Why More Cities Are Interested in Building Sustainable Rooftop Decks & Gardens

As the populations grows in urban areas, there has been more talk and effort into building sustainable rooftop decks and attractive gardens on top of city structures.

There are many reasons why this building trend is becoming incredibly popular in urban highly populated cities all over the world today.

These building projects help to conserve energy by shading the building naturally, can improve city storm water management efforts and will otherwise counteract the many negative effects of urban development in cities all around the globe.

The History of Using Rooftop Gardens & Top-Level Building Platforms

Many people are surprised to learn that these innovative new rooftop decks are really nothing new at all. For centuries, man has made use of the top of their dwelling structures to expand their living space and for adding beautiful aesthetics to their ancient cities by way of rooftop gardens.

Perhaps the most well-known example, King Nebuchadnezzar II built his beloved wife the spectacular Hanging Gardens of Babylon back in 500 B.C. in what is now known as Iraq to remind his wife of her missed homeland terrain. This gorgeous rooftop garden draped with lush plant life and exotic flora is now considered one of the seven wonders of the civilized world.

Philly Rooftop Garden Deck

Top Benefits of Building Sustainable Rooftop Gardens & Decks Today

Even though ancient civilizations have routinely built rooftop platforms to provide extra dwelling and gardening space, this process is considered cutting-edge in urban building and construction circles today.

There are some impressive studies that indicate many practical benefits of building sustainable rooftop decks and gardens over top of urban apartment complexes, office buildings and other city structures.


Some of the top benefits of building eco-friendly rooftop decks and/or gardens include:

  • Slows Storm Water Runoff for Better Storm Water Management
  • Naturally Shades & Protects Hot City Rooftops
  • Can Lower Overall Building Energy Costs
  • Adds Substantial Beauty & Improves Urban Building Aesthetics
  • Promotes Relaxation & Socialization in City Neighborhoods
  • Extends Living & Entertainment Spaces Upwards
  • Improves Water & Air Quality
  • Has Positive Environmental Impact – Provides Food & Shelter for Nearby Birds & Other Wildlife
  • Can Be Used to Grow Food, Herbs or Flowers and Other Garden Bounties
  • Can Reduce Noise from Urban Streets
  • Helps Sequester Carbon, Reduces Pollution While Effectively Increasing Biodiversity in Urban Settings
  • Aids in Mitigating Commonplace Urban Heat Island Effect
  • Extends Lifetime of Roofing Materials & Structures
  • Provides Many Health & Well-Being Benefits
  • Can Raise Property Building Values

How City Property Owners Can Build an Earth-Friendly Rooftop Deck

Many city property owners become interested in installing an earth-friendly rooftop deck and/or rooftop garden after they read about them or experience seeing these top-level decks up close and personal. While these enticing benefits tend to encourage the desire for these building projects, actually performing the work involved can be dangerous for inexperienced individuals to do on their own.

If a property owner living in the city wants to research how to build these rooftop spaces, they should figure in needing specially crafted scaffolding and winch systems to enable safer work platforms for construction crews that need to work at higher levels to complete this type of job.

Advantages of Hiring a Professional Rooftop Deck/Garden Contractor

There are many terrific advantages of hiring a professional rooftop deck and/or rooftop garden construction company experienced in these sorts of novel green building improvement projects within an urban area. Aside from the obvious fact that working at these heights is dangerous, the prospective peril potential grows even higher when heavy construction tools and supplies are involved.

A professional construction company that specializes in creating these gorgeous and practical rooftop environments will have the required training, knowledge and hands-on skill background to get the work completed in a safe and timely manner. There are countless city building codes and regulations that must be followed to a T, and professional rooftop decking contractors are very familiar with this part of the building process.

Other reasons to go with a seasoned rooftop deck/garden expert includes the shorter downtime needed, as these contractors will have a bevy of workers and the required equipment to properly and swiftly get the job done right the first time. This type of construction project requires a specialized knowledge and convenient availability of the necessary construction and safety gear, tools, equipment and other supplies.

Why Now is an Excellent Time to Consider Building a Rooftop Retreat

Most outside construction is done when the weather is warm and dry. However, the high demand for experienced and affordable building contractors able to do this form of work makes it imperative to consult with a local rooftop deck builder soon. These construction specialists are fast filling in their upcoming summer job schedules right now.

Choosing a Rooftop Deck/Garden Design, Materials & Bonus Amenities

There are so many wonderful options in design styles, material choices and bonus added amenities to choose from, and consumers should remember that they will need an accessible access point to reach their new rooftop oasis. It may be possible to use a top-floor closet space to access a stairway leading to the roof, or consumers can opt for an outside staircase to limit taking space away from the building’s interior living spaces.

Some other important consumer choices include the type of decking material, the proper leveling platform, railing or fencing options and style of staircase or rooftop ladder that will meet current city safety and fire codes.

Every urban property owner should seriously consider building upwards. From a purely builder prospective, these innovative green rooftop decks are a frugal way to make good use of otherwise wasted living and entertaining square footage space. Sustainable rooftop decks and lovely gardens offer many useful benefits.

Happy 2019, time for that rooftop deck you wanted

View of finished roof deck from stairway
spiral stair entry

With the spring approaching quickly, now is the time to start thinking about getting that rooftop deck built.

The time it takes to plan, get engineered drawings made up and submit all paperwork needed to get a building permit for a deck takes about 2 months realistically.

Most of the work we do in summer is actually planned this time of year.

Give me a call and I will help you get on track with your dream deck!

Pedestal decking system now offered

Bison system

Save time and money by using leveling pedestals to support your new deck.
No need to build expensive structural framing, get the same look.
this system is compatible with most flat roofs and over old ugly concrete.

Call today to get a quote!

South Philly Rooftop Deck with garden 2016

Large Scale planters

This project completed in 2016 

is one of the more prolific projects due to the 550 s.f. of decking space provided, essentially covering the entire rooftop with walking space.

Large Scale planters

Havertown whole house remodel

Some great Pictures of a kitchen and bathroom renovation completed in November 2013. The bathroom was expanded by removing wall and relocating it 2′ over to provide for larger floating vanity and custom bath tub/shower enclosure. Hydronic radiant heat was also used set in wet bed under tile floor.

Radiant hydronic heat under new tile wetbed

 

 

Timme-2013/rooftop deck

MoistureShield decking in Cape cod grey

Other color options in the MoistureShield brand

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.

Fall Projects/Preparing for Early Spring

I have always loved the fall — the cooler weather, changing leaves and a busy workload. This time of year is usually quite busy with people anxious to get planned projects completed before the colder weather, at least the outdoor work. Roof decks, paver patios, masonry work, roofing, and siding, and window replacements have been some of the improvements made this time of year. Just this past year we have completed four roof decks in Philadelphia alone; this has been a trend the past three years.

We are just now in the finishing stages of a finished basement in Bryn Mawr, as well as a concrete and stone patio in West Chester that we have been working on most of August and September. We are working with potential clients now in anticipation of the coming year. Some of the projects that I have been looking at include an addition to a three-story Victorian home in Wayne, as well as smaller projects such as composite decks, EP Henry paver patios, finished basements and a couple of bathroom remodels.

I am optimistic about where the economy is going, just based on the sheer volume of new calls. There is definite growth in at least the residential community. People seem to want to increase the value of their homes, not just to make them more saleable, but because they plan on staying. The fall has always seemed to be a time for folks to do the things they wanted to get done but couldn’t find the time over the summer. Clients often tell me that the fall has been a time of planning for the future. There is an old saying that goes, “a failure to plan is planning to fail.” I can relate to this in business as well as my personal life.

So, I encourage anyone reading this blog to act now in the planning stage of doing any remodeling project that you want to have done. Some projects take months to plan for. Having an architectural drawing made up for review and submittal to a local building department for approval can take some time.

Don’t wait till the spring to start thinking about projects you would like to have done.

Have a happy holiday season. I hope someone has benefited from this little bit of information.

— Jonathan Cumming

Choosing The Right Contractor (Part 2)

We have our own simple, yet delicate, solution to the problem outlined in last week’s blog entry. I confess: our initial proposal fees tend to be somewhat higher than other bidders. When evaluating a project, we try to anticipate the unanticipated. We expect to spend a substantial amount of time on final details, despite what issues arise in earlier stages.

Rather than bid the project lower and charging clients extra as we progress (or, as explained previously, simply skipping steps in finish work), we give ourselves that 10–20% cushion from the gate. As a result, we have an extremely strong record of staying within budget. Also, we have that flexibility to deliver exactly what clients want and spend that critical time on details without always thinking of our own checkbooks.

Believe me, after spending a month or longer in your kitchen, we want that room to look flawless. Caulk the trim on the recessed lights and outlet covers. Make sure the cabinet doors are plumb and level. Install the dimmers on pendant lights. Running around frantically with a paintbrush is not how we envisioned it from the beginning. And, I’m sure, neither did you.

But what should homeowners do? How do they know why one company charges $10 a square foot to install tile when another charges $14 or $18?

The answer is: take the time and ask. It’s not as simple as getting three estimates and taking the middle one. Unless you can read and thoroughly understand a proposal and anticipate all the variables, ask each contractor to talk you through it in detail.

Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. How does the heating mat under the tile in your bathroom work? Does every bid include the required dedicated circuit and thermostat for the mat, or are you going to have to pay for them later? Or will one contractor simply skip that step and attach the mat to an existing outlet?

Will he install cheap, lightweight hollow doors or the more attractive, durable and noise-reducing solid-core?

Does the contract specify simple, builder-grade trim and baseboard? If you’d like something a little more interesting or authentic to the character of the home, is there room for that in the bid or will you have to pay extra for labor and material later? Or simply sigh and accept whatever the contractor buys at Home Depot?

Perhaps one bidder will make sure your shower walls are level before tiling, rather than simply building on the existing studs or furring strips. Maybe that’s not important to you. But maybe, in the end, it will be.

No one expects every homeowner to be a remodeling expert, especially in the early bidding phase of a project. It’s my responsibility to educate my clients, and they should ask the questions. Sure I may quietly sigh when the client asks why I’m using green versus blue lid spackle, but that’s simply part of a healthy working relationship.

There’s no science to estimating jobs. It’s an educated guessing game, and both builders and homeowners can easily get into trouble by stacking the odds against themselves.

Remember, it’s your home. There’s no reason to live in a cloud of dust for a while only to see cracks when it settles.

Choosing the Right Contractor

We’re awash in horror stories about contractors. Almost every time I meet potential clients, I feel penetrating eyes search for how I’m going to take their money and ruin their homes. Will they need to call “Holmes on Homes” when the project’s done?

Of course there are those, as in any field, who are dishonest and do sloppy work. What can I tell you — they’re out there.

But I work with Jon because we are impassioned with the craft. We are both possessed of the potential and intelligence (I think) to pursue any number of different fields, yet we genuinely love building and remodeling and seeing projects through from vision to fruition.

So I try to learn from and avoid the mistakes that can leave people so exasperated.

“It’s the details,” people usually tell me. “The contractor didn’t finish it correctly. And when I called him afterwards to come back, he never even returned my call.”

Amazing, I think. Someone does all that work and then ruins a relationship because he doesn’t see it through all the way. At Cumming Construction, we’re blessed to get almost all of our business from referrals and repeat clients. Why would someone burn those bridges — and so late in the process?

The simple answer is, despite how able and conscientious a contractor is, he may not be the best businessperson. Let me explain.

On every remodeling project, the homeowner will get three bids, sometimes more. If I’m a contractor who’s hungry and desperate enough (as many are), sure I’ll bid a job at the lowest workable figure to get that contract and assure steady income for several weeks.

But later, when we’ve gotten 80% of the pay for the job and still have 30% of the work to do, we’ve got big problems. While our work to this point has been high quality, the truth is the finish work is the most critical phase of the project to the homeowner.

Is the grout consistent, are there drips marks on the paint, are the nail holes in the trim filled, is the towel bar installed and level? How does it look? These items, left unaddressed, will ruin a remodeling project.

But when we bid the job at such a low fee, we ignored all the unseen issues that inevitably arise in any job (leaky shut-off valves, sub-standard floor support, mold, shoddy existing wiring, late-stage design changes — the possibilities are infinite). But now that we’ve paid to tackle those issues and are entering the finish phase, we’ve run out of time and money.

The only solution for the contractor is to sign the next contract, get a new deposit check, and begin the process somewhere else.

The result: unfinished work, unreturned phone calls, unhappy clients.

Check back next week to find out how, as a homeowner, you can help prevent being the next remodeling victim.