Why Your Philadelphia Home Should Have a Rooftop Deck

Why Your Philadelphia Home Should Have a Rooftop Deck

In our neighborhoods, outdoor space is at a premium. If you want more sun and open air in your life, you should consider your options for a rooftop deck. Many yards are too constrained by buildings or tree shaded to properly enjoy the outdoors. Now you have to get creative. The good news is that you don't always need to compromise! Here are several ways to determine if a rooftop deck is the right choice for your Philadelphia Home.

What Exactly Is a Rooftop Deck?

A rooftop deck is often built on a flat-(ish) roof above the highest floor of your home - although a better location for a roof deck is at a half floor "walk-out" if you have one. Decks over flat roofs are easier to engineer, but occasionally we do install roof decks over steep, shingled-pitched roofs. Yard decks installed at grade in backyards can help extend the sense of interior space - but they may use up limited yard space. The purpose of any deck is to provide additional living area for seating, plants, decorations and space for entertaining or outdoor cooking. A rooftop deck is just in a more efficient location because without rooftop decks, nobody uses the rooftops of their home except for occasional HVAC equipment. 

Rooftop Deck in Philadelphia

Instead of letting that prime real estate go to waste, you can have a weather-resistant, private space where you can relax with family and friends or enjoy some alone time with the big sky. You are only limited by the square footage configuration of your rooftop, the pilot house access, your budget and the boundaries of your imagination.

What is a Pilot House to a Rooftop Deck?

This is a critical topic of education when working with homeowners who have just started roof deck research. Unless you are spider-man, you will need a safe way of getting to your roofdeck. 

Pilot house roofdeck doorway to stairwell and deck railing with patio furniture

A pilot house is just an enclosure for an interior stairway. It looks like a cute little mini-house and usually has the same siding and trim as the rest of the house. We designed the 3 story home addition shown above with the rooftop deck shown using a custom-colored, walkable fiberglass roof for a tight budget. From a zoning perspective, the best feature is that the added height will usually not trigger the maximum height allowance limits for residential zoning codes (typically this a maximum height of 38 feet above grade in Philadelphia).

roofdeck pilot house stairwell with window and handrail

The pilothouse for this roof deck includes two mid-stair landings in the design so that you don't have to climb a long set of (dangerous) straight steps up to the deck level. It's more enjoyable and the stair layout is more attractive.

The pilot house interior can be adapted for better natural light by designing with windows and a glass door to brighten up the stairwell. These clients decided against carpeted stairs and upgraded to oak treads and risers.

Although spiral stairs are not uncommon, they are more dangerous and uncomfortable, so we try not to use them in our designs.

How Much Does a Rooftop Deck Cost in Philly?

Pricing for rooftop decks is driven by 5 factors:

  • Existing roof conditions (is this an old house or a new addition?)
  • Choice of materials: is it pressure treated? composite? plastic? ipe?
  • The engineering solution used to support the roof?
  • The difficulty of roof access to complete the work
  • Access for owner's use (is this an existing walk out roof or do we need to build a pilot house onto the roof?)

Although roof decks are all different (like other home improvement projects), a modest rooftop deck around Philadelphia could cost as little as $20,000 - as when added during design to a planned addition with pressure treated railings and a fiberglass roof. If you add in the cost of a pilot house, this increases the cost by about $30,000. We encourage clients with limited budgets to customize using store-purchases of outdoor seating rather than expensive built-in options. Larger decks, custom details and older homes can have major impacts on cost. It's often best to hire an engineer to talk about options.

The good news is that rooftop decks tend to be less expensive than other home additions. That means you will have more money left over for other projects or to outfit your new space like a new BBQ or patio furniture set. 

For more information on home remodeling costs in Philadelphia, download our eBook

What Are the Benefits of a Rooftop Deck?

Sometimes the living space that we would like to add by renovating our homes exceeds the limits of our home's structure. This is one reason why outdoor home improvements are popular right now. In many ways, an open and flexible rooftop deck offers a blank slate that you can wipe clean and re-imagine over and over again. This means that if you want lots of open space for guests to mingle before they head downstairs for dinner, you can have it. If you would rather set up a private area with a table and sun umbrella where you can relax with a book or eat a meal with family, you can have that too. A rooftop deck offers flexibility in a different way from a typical home addition. 

rooftop deck remodel in center city philadelphia

Learn more about this rooftop deck in Philadelphia here

When Should Homeowners Consider Installing a Rooftop Deck?

If your home is a good candidate for a rooftop deck, there are so many reasons you could enjoy it. It may be a particularly wise choice if you fit in one of these categories:

  • Your family needs extra space but you cannot build an interior addition
  • You want outdoor living space that your yard will not support
  • You need to make improvements but you have a limited budget
  • You want to expand the curb appeal of your home without significantly changing the exterior structure

At Bellweather Design-Build, we invest our time and experience with you to ensure you get the sophistication and options you need. Contact us to find out more about adding a rooftop deck to your Philadelphia home.

Written by Taylor Rennick and Will Giesey

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