Untapped potential: Making the most of your rooftop space

Decking specialist Steve Schneider explains how homeowners are capitalizing on their exterior space.

Space is often a luxury in metropolitan areas such as Chicago, New York City and San Francisco, but it comes with a high price tag to match. To maximize what they already have, many homeowners are now choosing to take advantage of a commonly forgotten feature: the roof.

Finished rooftop decks are popping up everywhere, and ESTATENVY has all the details on the movement from Steve Schneider of Schneider Construction. The San Francisco-based contractor, who specializes in decking, spoke to the current trends and sudden appeal of a view from the top.

Why the recent growth in popularity?

Schneider explains that there has been a large increase of interest in rooftop decks over the past five years. He chalks this up to the growing desire for integration between a home’s interior and exterior, as well as the age of evolving technology, knowledge and accessibility. “Exposure is just different,” he says. “There are a number of renovation programs that flip properties and create masterpieces; people are enamored with it.”

People are also just looking for a change. Existing rooftops need renewing, both stylistically and physically. What was popular five years ago is outdated, and older models need rejuvenating. Today’s materials typically come with 25-year guarantees and limit the chances of future mold and deterioration.

The idea of getting more out of less.

A rooftop deck adds value the same way a kitchen or bathroom renovation would, without the fuss of displacing a tenant from his or her home. It’s underutilized space that is typically maintenance free.

“Creating a rooftop space is entirely different from an interior renovation, but it’s still something truly special,” says Schneider, who also advises that simpler is better. Combining a few basic elements and textures will seamlessly transition from the indoor space but create a new aesthetic altogether.

Getting started.

One of the many reasons Schneider loves decking is the ability to start with a blank canvas. Rooftop spaces have so much potential that he gets to amplify by blending colors with the environment and catering to existing client style.

But first he takes a look from the inside. What in the home will inspire the design? Perhaps it’s the orientation and curvature of a window or the direction the floorboards flow. Schneider looks for any way to take personal style elements and incorporate them into his plan without sacrificing the architectural integrity of the building.

Making the most of the space.

Rooftop style and design differ from coast to coast, for both practical and geographical reasons.

Built-ins often act as multipurpose features. Benches can act as a hiding spot for air conditioning pipes, on the other hand, while a short wall or planter box might conceal lower, above-ground mechanics.

In colder climates, Schneider has seen tented roofs as well as enclosures that result in greenhouses or sunrooms. He has built fire boxes atop decking and piped fuel source underneath for those who wish to enjoy the snowy weather from above. In Schneider’s native California, though, it is much more common for rooftops to equip some sort of sun shade. Valances, sails and umbrellas are the most popular. Some might contain skylights, trellises or landscaping to complement the design.

The possibilities are endless, whether the available space is large or small. A bare roof can easily become a stories-high oasis that provides a great escape and an even better view.