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The most sought after amenity in New York in the summer is a roof deck. Although most buildings provide access to the roof, roof decks create a relaxing, private environment with great views. Not only is it a great amenity for co-op and condo residents, but it ultimately can increase the value of the building or to the individual unit. For units that have direct private access to a portion of the roof, designing a roof deck is a great way to add space to the unit, secure privacy and it is cheaper than adding additional rooms. Roof decks can be designed to feature gardens, lounges, swimming pools and outside dining. However, in New York, residents are only permitted to use electric barbeques and not propane or charcoal on rooftops.

Before installing a roof deck, resident must check whether the building’s Certificate of Occupancy needs to be amended to permit the use of the rooftop. Residents in a co-op or condo must also ensure New York City zoning regulations permit roof decks on the building. The New York City Building Code and New York City Zoning Resolution regulate the construction of roof decks, their location and size.[1] Residents must first obtain permission to go ahead with construction and a building permit. The Buildings Department requires that only NYS licensed profession engineer or registered architect can design the addition. If a resident wants to design space for a swimming pool, they will have to follow additional Construction Codes of the NYC Building Code, in addition to other applicable codes that may regulate swimming pools such as, landmark status.[2]

Ensure that the engineer or architect take into consideration the “[m]echanical system components and plumbing vents [which] extend up through the roof … Unpleasant smells from bathroom vents, kitchen, and restaurant exhausts can be a significant issue”.[3] Hiring a seasoned team of engineers and architects who assess the structure of the building and roof will help avoid issues such as these. Overall, it is important for co-op and condo boards to follow the various building and zoning regulations relating to roof decks and ensure residents do the same when constructing new outdoor spaces.

NYC Buildings have issued the following requirement for roof decks:[4]

  • Deck & Balcony Depth: Up to 8 feet from the building into the rear yard. NYC Zoning Resolution and NYC DOB TPPN 4/03
  • Distances to Property Lines: At least 3 feet between the sides of the deck or porch and the property line
  • Safety Railings: At least 42 inches high
  • Railing/Post Spacing: Spaces between the rails and/or posts may be no more than 5 inches.
  • Bracing: Required at column and beam connection for elevated decks and porches
  • Floor Loads: Support at least 40 lbs. per sq. foot
  • Anchorage: Use proper anchors, not nails.
  • Materials: Combustible materials, such as wood, are not permitted within 3 feet of lot lines or in multiple dwelling buildings.
  • Storage: Not allowed below a deck or porch.

[1] Chandler, Rick D. (2017) “Decks and Porches: Alteration Applications.” New York City Buildings. Available at: http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/pdf/code_notes_deck_and_porches.pdf. Accessed on June 5, 2018. pp.2.

[2] NYC Buildings. “Decks, Porches & Swimming Pools.” Available at: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/buildings/homeowner/decks-porches-swimming-pools.page. Accessed on June 5, 2018.

[3] Sidransky, A.J. (May 24, 2018) “Roof Decks: Things You Should Know Before Installing One.” The Cooperator. Available at: https://cooperator.com/article/roof-decks-things-you-should-know/full#cut. Accessed on June 5, 2018.

[4] Op. Cit. n2.

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