Rooftop Longevity Planning, Maintenance and Safety Tips

Winter in New York can be brutal—piles of slushy gray snow to wade through and frigid winds that keep you inside. So you curl up with a good book, sip a cup of tea and watch the flurries through the window. As the flakes fall, you might find yourself daydreaming about spring and a spot where many New Yorkers go to be social—the rooftop.

Up on the Rooftop…

Roughly 35 percent of New York City rooftops have usable roof decks. They are standard for newly constructed housing developments, but for many building communities, these rooftop social spaces are added after initial construction. The uses for roof decks are various, but they are typically outfitted with an assortment of amenities that inspire relaxation: chairs, picnic tables, planters, even the occasional hot tub.  

Many consider those luxuries well worth the investment. The purposes of rooftop spaces, however, are something that must be taken into consideration during the planning phase. How will you use your recreational space? Grilling? Gardening? Catered events? Enjoying the outdoors during the spring and summer months is the easy part, but ensuring your deck is safe and well-maintained is essential for its longevity.

Rooftop Planning 101

Before board members and property managers begin to envision what their rooftop space will be, the first steps to be taken concern the actual roof. The New York City Zoning Resolution of 2012 specifies that buildings constructed before 1961 must meet certain structural requirements in order to acquire permits for new rooftop construction.  

A licensed and certified engineer should conduct a roof level survey to check for problem areas on the roof, such as ponding or damaged roof membranes. Once trouble spots have been repaired, the next step in determining the amount of support a roof has for recreational use is through a structural evaluation and load calculation assessment. This will measure the roof’s ability to handle “dead loads” (the actual roofing system) and “live loads” (people, chairs, patio furniture, etc.). It is also necessary to plan for potential problems that can occur once the deck is installed.  


Related Articles

UWS Condo Project Tops Out Despite Legal Battles

200 Amsterdam Avenue Continues to Move Ahead

Official Calls for Investigation Into Condo Tower's Alleged Zoning Violation

It Could Mean the Removal of Five Floors

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Launches Exhibit in Response to Towers Project

It Argues the Development Would Block Sunlight for Its Plants

Repurposing Unused Space

Making Amenities Out of Nothing

Maintaining Exterior Spaces

Safety, Longevity, and Aesthetics

Reopening Your Community

IREM Offers a Roadmap



  • I'd like to take the first step in exploring the possibility of building a roof deck on our building in East Harlem. Is there anyone I can talk to? Thanks.