How do I build a roof terrace?

Abstract terrace image by Radu Razvan from

A roof terrace makes your home more attractive. It's also an environmentally friendly way to provide a private escape from noise. People living in urban settings usually choose roof terraces because of limited yard space that makes it challenging to carve out space for a garden. But building a roof terrace requires planning and research.

Planning permission

Visit the buildinplanning department of your local council to find out from the building inspector what the regulations are for installing a roof terrace. In some cases, you may be required to reinforce the roof from underneath in order to provide proper support for the additional load. You'll probably need to present a plan to the planning department officials and have it approved in order to get a permission.

Building tips

Inspect the roof for low spots. Use a levelling compound to even out the surface if necessary. Although the existing roof probably has a drainage system in place, it must be reinforced with additional waterproofing material. You can choose a chemical-based waterproof product or use some type of rubber-like membrane or sheeting, which also allows water to drain off the roof. You will also need a drainage system.

Decide on how much area the roof terrace will comprise. You can furnish a roof top terrace with as little as a patio table with an umbrella and chairs. Another option may be to choose a space and make half of it into a patio by installing decking or tile in the area. Plant the remaining space with flowers and shrubs to create an adjoining garden.

Choose plants that are hardy and can withstand the extremes of weather, including heat, wind and shade from adjoining buildings. Perennials are a good choice because they bloom year after year, but for all-season blooms annuals can work well. Use evergreens to provide protection for fragile plants. Put in seasonal plants to add variety and colour to your roof terrace garden for most of the year. To minimise the weight on the roof, use a mixture of compost and perlite, and use lightweight plant containers -- but keep in mind that the containers must be heavy enough so they aren't blown over by the wind. The plant containers must also have sufficient drainage. If wind is a concern, place trellises in strategic locations around the terrace.

Install electric sockets and lighting designed for outdoor use. You can get creative with the placement of the lighting by mounting lighting on small trees. Spotlights focus on specific features of your roof terrace. If you have a cooking area, it must also have ample lighting.

A fire pit can add warmth on chilly evenings. It can also serve as a grill for cooking.

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