If you have access to a rooftop terrace that has been underutilized, it is time to change that. Outdoor space in an urban environment can be worth its weight in gold.
Besides the extra space to relax and entertain, the rooftop terrace can be good for your soul. We need to connect with nature to be healthy mentally and emotionally. Being outside can help to lower your blood pressure and lessen stress and anxiety. It just feels good to be outside in the fresh air and surrounded by nature.
The first step to design the space is to determine how you will use the space. Is this going to be used to entertain? Do you envision serving meals on the rooftop? Do you want your space to be a romantic getaway? Is a fun, active use that maybe includes a hot tub more your style? Or are you a gardener at heart and envision growing plants of all kinds throughout your space?
Creating a Rooftop Oasis
Once you know how you will use the space, the next step–and an absolute must–is having a structural engineer examine your roof to determine its ability to carry the load. If your rooftop terrace is part of an apartment lease, this may have already been done.
If this is the roof of your garage, let an expert tell you if your current structure is sufficient or if you will need to add additional support first. A hot tub filled with water is extremely heavy as is large amounts of soil for a major garden space. Once you have the okay from the engineer, you can start on the infrastructure of your rooftop.
1. First and Foremost is Waterproofing Your Roof
There are very high-quality membranes that can cover your rooftop and prevent any leaks. This is an important step, as it is not only difficult but expensive to find a leak after the rooftop is completed. Check building codes for type and height of fencing that needs to be constructed around the perimeter. How will you access the space? Does a window need to be converted into a doorway? Will there be outside access like a stairway? Does the elevator go to the roof?
2. Laying Out Design
After the roof is waterproofed, safety fencing is installed and access is achieved, the fun can begin. Start laying out your design and decide where you want electrical outlets and possibly water access.
Decide on the flooring and consider wood decking or tile pavers for a finished look on your floor. An outdoor carpet can give a warmer look to your area or define spaces. Screen off any equipment like air conditioning units and vent piping that can’t be relocated.
If you expect to use your rooftop in the daytime hours, you may want to add some shade. This could be a structure like a trellis that is extended overhead or sail cloth. In addition, these will also provide some privacy if you are surrounded by taller buildings overlooking your terrace. You could also use an umbrella table.
Decorating Your Rooftop Terrace
Once you’re satisfied with the space, start bringing in planters and containers. Choose plants that like full sun. Consider using containers that have a water reservoir built into them so you will be able to lessen the amount of watering you need to do. If you are planning to cook or dine on your rooftop, purchase herb seeds to grow in your pots. The fresh herbs are not only beautiful but can be used in your cooking. Here are a few other things to consider:
1. Add a water feature to your terrace
Depending on weight restrictions, even a tabletop recirculating water feature tucked in among the plants will provide the sound of moving water. If you can have a larger water feature, add some water plants like water lilies and papyrus. Some smaller trees can be successfully grown in containers and add height as well as a little shade.
2. Set aside an area for meditation and fitness
What could be better than starting your day outdoors with tai chi or yoga surrounded by plants and the sound of water or soft music?
3. Add Outdoor Kitchen
If your rooftop is going to be used for dining, consider adding an outdoor kitchen or a state-of-the-art grill with a prep station. A small refrigerator tucked under the counter will be perfect for cold beverages and condiments.
4. Don’t Forget Lighting
If you plan on using your rooftop terrace mostly at night, lighting will be very important. You need to provide enough light for people to see when moving about on the deck, but you won’t want it lit up like a stadium.
5. Set Up Screen or Projector
Furthermore, think about mood lighting. Backlight some of your plants to highlight them while diffusing the light with the foliage. If your local fire codes allow it, install a beautiful fire table. Nighttime is a great time to watch movies or sporting events outside. Set up a screen or projector and have a movie night. Install an outdoor TV and invite your friends over to watch the game outdoors.
6. Have plenty of seating for friends and family.
Purchase outdoor furniture with cushions that can take the weather. Have some extra floor pillows for casual seating. Add a hammock or free-standing swing for fun and relaxation. A waterproof cabinet filled with board games, card games, chess board, cribbage board and decks of cards will ensure fun games for all ages.
Above all, adding and decorating a rooftop terrace can expand the usable space of your home and give you a place to relax and decompress. The right plants and the perfect touches will have your neighbors jealous and your friends grateful to have a place to escape to with you.