Creating a roof terrace - the essentials

With property prices and the costs of moving constantly on the rise, more and more homeowners are looking upwards to add space and value to their properties, with the result that demand for roof terraces continues to increase.

Friends dining on roof terrace

By Philip Saich
With property prices and the costs of moving constantly on the rise, more and more homeowners are looking upwards to add space and value to their properties, with the result that demand for roof terraces continues to increase.
Before embarking on creating a roof terrace, however, it’s important to consider all aspects of what can be a very rewarding addition to your property. Above all, in advance of thinking about the design and visualising the finished project, it’s imperative to establish that your home is actually suitable for a roof terrace in the first place. Clearly, if a flat roof is already in place then adding a roof terrace can be relatively straightforward but it will also be necessary to ensure that the current structure can support the additional weight that will be generated. Remember that weight will not only be added by the terrace itself, but also by the fixtures, fittings and furniture, and – most importantly – by the people who will frequent it. To be on the safe side, it’s advisable to commission a surveyor to assess the suitability of your roof for a terrace.

Planning permission

Whatever your location and the configuration of your property, it’s likely that you’ll need to apply for planning permission. As well as necessitating some fairly major structural work on your property, adding a roof terrace will increase the chances of your neighbours being overlooked, which is always a contentious issue. With any building project it’s helpful to maintain a healthy and harmonious relationship with your neighbours so it’s worth sharing your plans with them even if planning permission isn’t mandatory. Involving your neighbours by keeping them informed is helpful in avoiding complaints further down the line and in ensuring that they’re prepared for the noise and disruption that would result from the build.

Safety first

Access is an important aspect of any roof terrace and it’s crucial to plan this from the outset. While most roof terraces will be accessed using a conventional door, other creative alternatives such as a roof-light leading to the stairs below also exist. Rooflights can be either hinged so they open to 90 degrees or can slide open to provide access, and both versions allow natural light to flood into the room directly underneath.
Carefully planning the electrics is central to a successful roof terrace as you are certain to need outside lighting and sockets. In reality, a roof terrace doesn’t need a large amount of light as you’re trying to create a mood rather than brightly illuminate the area. Low-level lighting around a decking area or raised flowerbeds can deliver ambient lighting, while brighter LEDs can create a focal point if required. Outdoor entertainment systems and TVs are growing in popularity, although they have to be used with care to avoid alienating the neighbours, and fireplaces and firepits which can double as barbecues also regularly feature in contemporary roof terrace designs.
Given the height of the building and the resulting risk of falling, in particular for young children, you will need to install protective railing which is at least 1,100mm high with no gaps greater than 99mm wide. Building Control will advise on this and, as with most renovation projects, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Design for the weather

Although a roof terrace comes into its own in the summer, it’s important to plan for inclement weather and, above all, for how rainwater will drain away. The perception is that finished roof terraces are perfectly flat, but in reality, they all slope slightly and direct standing water towards one corner, which will usually be served by a single downpipe. If a downpipe isn’t already in place it will need to be added to avoid an unpleasant accumulation of rainwater. As well as drainage, it’s also worth considering an outside tap so you can easily water any plants you introduce.
Inevitably, due to its lofty position, a roof terrace will probably be windier than a conventional garden so it’s advisable to include some latticed screening in your design. As well as acting as a windbreak, the screening will also create a degree of privacy and further reassure your neighbours about being overlooked. The likelihood of windy conditions will also have an impact on your choice of flora and fauna for any planting that you’re planning – in general it’s sensible to opt for hardy plants that can withstand the wind. From a practical perspective, artificial grass is ideal if you’re looking to create a splash of green, but it is equally possible to introduce a natural lawn.


It’s easy to overlook storage, but it’s an essential element of any roof terrace design. The fewer things that need to be carried up and down, the more you’re likely to use the terrace, so think about sourcing or commissioning benches with in-built storage. Nothing will ruin the wow factor of your roof terrace more effectively than stray cushions and garden tools, especially if they’ve all been left out and exposed to the elements.

The benefits

Simon Kelliher of Cambridge builders Refresh Renovations, believes that roof terraces in cities such as Cambridge offer a range of benefits, not least of which is the value they can add to your home. ‘At Refresh we’re all about creating fantastic environments in which couples and families can enjoy quality leisure time,’ says Simon. ‘When examining how to create more space, most people will believe that adding an extension or conservatory is the way to go, but there’s also an option to add a roof terrace. A roof terrace can become the ultimate refuge from the stresses of everyday life and an exciting al fresco entertaining space, but it can also increase the value of your property by around 20%. In addition, some estate agents report that houses with a roof terrace can command a higher price than similar houses which have no garden, even if those properties are larger or have an additional bedroom.’

Contact Refresh

Refresh Renovations UK are Cambridge builders offering design and build services for roof terraces. To discuss how Refresh can take your home up a level by adding a roof terrace, please get in touch today using the enquiry form listed alongside, or if you would like to submit a more comprehensive enquiry, you can do so on the Get In Touch page.

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