Roof terrace design ideas, inspiration & pictures

Why convert a roof into a rooftop terrace?

It’s not hard to find examples of roof terraces in South Africa, especially in industrial areas, as numerous restaurants, bars and other social settings incorporate flat roofs into terrace designs. A lot of high-rise residential spaces (such as flats and penthouses) also provide open patios on roofs, either privately-owned or shared by numerous units. The main advantages of a rooftop terrace is to produce users with a view of the surrounding cityscape, enhance outdoor relaxation, present potential in terms of rooftop gardening, and increase a house’s value.

Especially in summer time in South Africa, rooftop bars and social settings are quite popular, such as Elevate Rooftop Venue situated on the rooftop (16th floor) of the Reef Hotel in Johannesburg, or Harald’s Bar & Terrace which provides a breezy setting and sublime views of Table Mountain on the 11th storey of the urban hotel, Park Inn by Radisson, in Cape Town.

Keep in mind that a rooftop terrace differs from a balcony – a balcony is usually off an upper floor space (meaning it leads directly into an interior room of the house/flat, such as a living room or bedroom), while a terrace is a flat platform or patio serving as an outdoor living space, therefore the use in rooftop terrace.

Is planning permission required in South Africa?

Whether you are building a new home or planning a house extension (which includes converting roof space into a living area, such as a rooftop porch), you will require building approval from your local authority. Even if you are simply opening up a wall or partitioning a room by erecting a new internal wall, most councils will insist on working drawings.

Matching your home’s style or material won’t be a concern, yet they will consider all the elements that relate to building codes and building standards (it will, however, be an issue if you are adding a rooftop patio to your flat or townhouse situated in a complex where all units need to have the same/similar façades in terms of styles, materials and/or colours, in which case permission from the relevant body corporate will be needed).

How to build a rooftop terrace

Want your own little haven in the middle of the city where you can get some (relatively) fresh air and enjoy an open setting? Or are you planning to sell your current flat/townhouse, yet want to increase its value first? A rooftop terrace can be a splendid idea in both cases, yet you need to know the correct steps to follow.

1.    First consider whether building a roof porch is feasible. Can your property’s roof and walls take the weight of a roof terrace, as well as additional heaviness of furnishings, fittings and people walking around on it? Remember that planning permission also plays a part. Although it’s cheaper and more straightforward to build a porch on a flat roof, sloped roofs can be adjusted by either building up an external wall or cutting into the roof.

2.    Consider your neighbours, because if your roof terrace is going to overlook their property, block their sunlight or view, they may have grounds to object.

3.    Consult with an architect to find out more regarding planning permission and local councils’ processes and preferences. Always take professional advice into consideration when building.

4.    Consider water drainage. The architectural / building firm you work with can advise on what steps to take, and they may build the patio into a gentle slope and modify pipes to ensure that rainwater drains properly. Know that you will be responsible for maintaining the drainage system to avoid damage to your own and adjoining properties.

5.    Your new roof terrace could become a bar area, a roof garden, a second living room or any space you wish it to be. Roof gardens can be much lower maintenance than ground-level gardens, and can be a haven for bees and butterflies. Use lightweight plant pots and furniture and ensure that any lighting cables etc. are completely waterproof.

Keeping your rooftop terrace cool

It’s one thing to enjoy the fresh air on your rooftop patio, but keep the South African sun in mind – if you don’t provide adequate shading, that terrace will be sizzling in no time. For this reason, a canopy, awning or roof needs to be considered, which brings the following options to mind:

·         A wooden pergola. As a wooden pergola’s roof isn’t fully opaque, it still allow some sun to filter through, which is perfect for plants, yet not so much to protect your new terrace from rain. Of course a glass pane on top of the pergola is always an option to make it more watertight. Keep in mind whether that pergola will be stable enough to withstand the wind in your area.

·         Polycarbonate roofing. This Plexiglas material is available in numerous shades to help block as much sunlight as desired. Although it’s adequate for keeping rain and sunshine out, it might not be the best bet for areas that are prone to high winds (i.e. Cape Town).

·         Aluminium shading/awning. Available in adjustable designs to allow maximum sunlight penetration when fully opened, aluminium awnings can also be closed when shading is required, although it won’t be 100% waterproof. Powder-coated aluminium designs are easy to maintain and ideal for coastal climates.

How homify can help

Whether it’s a rooftop terrace, flat roof, hipped roof or any other design you require, homify is chock-a-block with inspiration. Browse through our ever-increasing collection of roof designs, and have a look at our vast range of professionals in South Africa (from architects and interior designers to roofers and carpenters) who can help make your dream roof (or any other space) a reality.