When you're designing and building a roof deck, there are lots of rooftop deck construction details to consider. The details will be dependent on a number of factors that include flat roof deck construction details, roof deck material options, and roof deck support systems.
This process requires you to consider these factors along with the aesthetic details of the space in order to create a usable and desirable space where residents and tenants can gather, get some fresh air, and take in city skylines. However, a lot of work must be done before it can act as a building amenity.
Constructing a roof top deck, whether it’s a commercial or residential rooftop deck, means applying for and being approved for the necessary permits. To determine the necessary permits for constructing a rooftop deck, check with your state, city, and municipality. Permits will also vary depending on the type of building, so the permits needed for a residential building will not necessarily be the same as the permits you need for a commercial building.
Determining the Size of the Deck
When installing commercial and residential roof deck systems, the size of the deck is necessarily dependent on the space you have available. The size will also be dependent on other infrastructure and equipment that uses rooftop space, including chimneys, heating and cooling units, ventilation, and solar panels among other things, depending on the type of building.
To determine the size of the rooftop deck, you should take accurate measurements of the length and width and then multiply the numbers together to get the number of square feet that the decking material will need to cover. Make sure to subtract the area of any equipment or spaces where you won’t need decking.
Determining the Load of the Deck
The load of a rooftop deck can be divided into two categories — the dead load and the live load.
The dead load refers to decking materials, plants or landscaping, furniture, amenities like a hot tub, pergola, or outdoor kitchen, and railings. The live load refers to the occupancy, namely how many people will be using the space.
Determining both the dead loads and live loads that will be on the rooftop deck is essential for determining the amount of structural support that is needed to hold the weight of the roof, and it should be done by a qualified professional.
Prepping the Deck
Before installing the new decking material, you’ll have to determine the amount of prep work the existing deck will need. The process will look different depending on whether you’re installing the new deck directly on top of the underlayment or over the existing decking material, if you will need to remove old decking and then install the new pavers, or if you need to add structural support to support the added weight.
Decking Material Options
There are a number of different roof deck tiles and materials to choose from, each with their own pros and cons and aesthetic benefits:
Concrete is a popular material for rooftop patio flooring because of its durability and reasonable price tag. However, concrete deck pavers are heavy, and add a significant amount of dead load to the building’s structure. As a result, the addition of concrete deck pavers typically requires additional structural support. Concrete can become stained over time and has a tendency to crack, which can lead to unsightly spots and necessary repairs.
Available in different colors
Prone to stains and cracks
Difficult to install
Porcelain rooftop deck tiles are durable and beautiful, but they cost more than other materials, making the overall project more costly. Porcelain paver installation uses a pedestal system which can make installation more difficult and time-consuming and therefore, more expensive.
Difficult to install
Synthetic turf, sometimes called fake grass, can add a whimsical natural element to a space, whether for a children’s play area or relaxation space. This is a very cost effective material, but it should be used sparingly so as not to overwhelm the space.
Creates a pleasing aesthetic
Good for game and play areas
Can appear cheap
Not as durable or protective as other materials
Interlocking Wood Deck Tiles
Interlocking wood deck tiles lock together to create a deck with a natural aesthetic. This type of deck tile is versatile because the tiles can be locked together to create a deck space, but then removed or repositioned when needed. This makes it a good choice for renters or for others who want an aesthetically pleasing space without the permanence of other materials. Ipe is one of the most popular woods for interlocking wood tiles because of its insect-resistance and durability, but the color will fade over time and decking oils should be applied periodically to slow down the fading process.
Easy to install
Can be repositioned or removed and used elsewhere
Prone to fading
Not typically used a permanent decking solution
Composite rooftop pavers are made with recycled materials to form a durable and lightweight paver that is easy to install. While they can cost more than other materials, the cost may be worth the extended life and low maintenance that composite pavers offer and because installation is so easy, they can also help save on labor costs during the construction and installation process.
Available in a variety of colors and sizes
Easy to install
Can be more expensive than other materials
Rooftop deck pavers can be installed in a few different ways depending on the type of paver.
Pedestal Paver System
A pedestal paver system uses pedestals placed at each corner of the paver to lift it off of the roof’s surface. This system offers the opportunity to create a completely level roof because the pedestals are adjustable. They are raised off of the roof deck’s surface, so there is also ample room for water to drain from the deck surface.
Despite their advantages, pedestal paver systems can be a complicated and time-consuming method of installation. Each pedestal must be adjusted individually to make each paver level. They must then be placed at the four corners of the paver and may need to be moved or readjusted so each paver fits the way it’s supposed to.
For projects that will experience wind uplift or extreme weather, the pavers may need to be adhered to the pedestals which adds another step in the installation process.
Sleeper Installation System
A sleeper installation system is constructed by using wood boards (or PVC or composite) to construct a frame that will sit on the surface of the roof deck. The joists of the sleeper system will run perpendicular to the decking boards, and the joists don’t need to be supported by posts but will sit on the surface of the roof deck. The rooftop decking material will then be attached to the sleeper system.
This system can be customized to the available space and allows for air flow and water drainage beneath the decking material. It is time-consuming to construct the sleeper frame and you’ll have to cover the cost of the additional material and labor.
Installation Grid System
An installation grid system is the easiest way to install rooftop pavers. The installation grid doubles as a drainage mat and the pavers, which stand on short legs, leave enough space underneath for water to drain from the surface.
Once the grids are laid out, all it takes to install the pavers is to set them into place in the desired pattern. In the case of Aspire Pavers, our pavers are actually shipped on the installation grids, so it saves on shipping material waste.
This installation method means that the pavers will be installed with the slope of the roof, so the surface won’t be completely level. For projects with wind uplift concerns or exposure to extreme weather, the pavers may need to be adhered to the grid with an adhesive.
Deck Material Maintenance
Basic deck maintenance requires periodic washing and cleaning of any built-up mold or mildew. For wood, the surface should be treated and likely stained or painted regularly to protect the wood. Concrete pavers should be checked for cracks which should be patched immediately to prevent or slow down further damage. Composite decking doesn’t require any maintenance other than removing debris periodically.
Other Considerations When Planning a Rooftop Deck
Railing or Guard
For safety and to comply with building codes, you’ll have to install a rooftop deck railing or guard around the perimeter of the rooftop deck and anywhere else that it is required. You’ll also need to ensure you’re meeting ADA guidelines for accessibility. Choose a railing or guard that fits the aesthetic of the space while still meeting safety and accessibility requirements.
Repurposing existing rooftop space into a deck is a great way to upgrade a building while reducing the building’s carbon footprint. Adding plants and landscaping to a rooftop deck can help to sequester carbon and adding insulation to the top of the roof can help to lessen heating and cooling costs.
Choosing a composite paver can also increase the energy efficiency of the project as a whole. Not only are the pavers made from recycled material, but the scraps from installation and the pavers themselves can be recycled. They are lightweight, so they take less energy to transport, making them even more energy efficient.
Choosing lighter colored pavers can also help reduce the urban island effect that makes urban areas warmer than surrounding rural areas and increases energy costs.
The decking itself is considered a roof overburden — anything that is installed in addition to the underlayment. Overburden can include solar panels, water collection equipment, vegetative roofs, and other rooftop deck details. Make sure to take any overburdens into consideration when planning the roof and analyzing the structural support.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires certain types of buildings with rooftop access to provide access to people with disabilities. Individual states and cities may have additional accessibility requirements to consider before beginning work on a rooftop space. Accessibility considerations may include elevator or lift access, accessible furniture, and hot tub or swimming pool access.
Aspire Pavers Help Make Rooftop Deck Installation Easy and Efficient
Choosing Aspire Pavers for your rooftop deck project means that you’re choosing a highly durable material with a simple installation process. Our pavers are lightweight, easy to install, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing and will create a desirable space for tenants or residents.
We offer a range of color and size options that can create a nearly endless amount of rooftop deck flooring patterns, so you’re sure to get a one-of-a-kind space with no maintenance.
Contact the experts at Aspire today to design the perfect rooftop deck for your building.