Ideas for Covering a Deck

A little shelter and shade go a long way toward making your outdoor space even more livable.
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Outdoor Room 2010

Photo by: Jamie Rector

Jamie Rector

By: John Riha

Your deck may be the gateway to alfresco living, but there are bound to be times when you’d like to be lounging outside even if it’s raining or when the sun is at its most brutal. Times like those, a partial deck roof or deck canopy would make a welcome addition.

Deck Pergola

One of the simplest deck covers is a pergola — a system of open rafters supported by posts. They’re often made from the same materials as your decking and railings, so there’s visual harmony. Pergolas don’t protect those underneath from rain, but they can offer shade and a sense of shelter. You can grow vining plants in the rafters, and hang overhead lights for evening get-togethers.

Deck Roof

A full-on deck roof, often called a porch roof, uses basically the same techniques as a regular roof. To build a deck roof, you’ll need support posts, rafters, deck sheathing, roofing material, and possibly a gutter and downspout system. Framing members should be connected with galvanized metal connectors to prevent uplift from high winds.

Retrofitting an existing deck with a deck roof isn't recommended unless the deck was designed to support the additional load. Most decks are made to support 55 pounds per square foot but must support 80 pounds per square foot if a deck roof is added. That means existing footings usually are undersized. Also, decks built with cantilevered beams or joists aren't safe candidates for an additional deck roof structure.

It’s possible to skip the sheathing and roofing material in favor of corrugated panels made of plastic, fiberglass, or metal that shave weight. To keep your deck safe, consult your local building authorities for their recommendations.

A deck roof can be freestanding or attached to your house. Tying into your house adds strength but requires proper flashing at the attachment point and possibly a ledger board to support roof rafters. Consider roofing over only part of your deck so you’ll still have spots for relaxing in warm sunshine.

covered patio provides privacy and peace

covered patio provides privacy and peace

Deck Canopy

A retractable deck canopy or awning is a good option for many decks. They open up to ward off sun and rain and tuck away when shelter isn’t needed. They’re made with treated canvas or weatherproof fabric attached to a metal frame. The frame base attaches to the siding and houses the canopy when not in use. Deck canopies can be hand-operated or motorized. Some sophisticated motorized models have sensors that automatically retract the canopy if high winds are detected.

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