Not everyone has a nice backyard garden to retreat to. But any space can be transformed into a peaceful oasis with the right amount of imagination – even a property’s roof.
Here are 10 steps to take when designing the rooftop garden of your dreams.
1 Know your roof type
The first step of any roof terrace design is to determine the rooftop’s type. A completely flat roof will save you lots of money and hassle because it will require no additional modifications. If your property has a pitched roof, an experienced structural engineer can erect an additional external wall or slice an already existing part to create an even surface. No matter the roof type, however, you’ll need to ensure that everything is made waterproof.
2 Put a firm foundation in place
You’ll next need to prepare your rooftop for the combined weight of guests, outdoor furniture and heavy planters. Bear in mind that such a job should be only handled by a specialist. If the thorough inspection of your load-bearing beams shows that they need to be reinforced, the expert will do so with timber and steel components. An alternative way is to build an additional suspended floor, which will evenly distribute the weight between the supporting walls.
3 Safety first
With great heights comes great responsibility. It’s essential that you spend a significant portion of your roof terrace budget on guard rails. Toughened glass railing is an elegant, reliable and relatively inexpensive safety option that will secure your peace of mind without blocking your view. Or you could go for the more traditional stainless steel rails – it all boils down to your budget and aesthetic preferences.
4 Gain local council approval
With all this excitement surrounding your new roof garden design, it’s easy to forget about your neighbours. But they’re likely to remind you of their presence as soon as you roll up your sleeves and decide to add permanent features to your property. Potentially, this uproar could completely stop your project in its tracks. Planning consent from your local council will give you the leverage you need to put an end to any and all objections.
5 Establish the right microclimate
Heat and wind will be prevalent in your small haven. Creating an ecosystem that will support your vegetation is an essential part of your roof balcony planning. You need to use every wall, trellis or fence at your disposal to shelter your plants. Mesh screens, for example, can easily endure the gusts of wind and provide just enough shade for your flowers to thrive in.
6. Stick to light containers and fertiliser
Opting for the right planters and compost is just as important for your garden balcony design as creating a suitable microclimate. A good container should be deep enough to fit the roots of your chosen plants and wide enough to promote their expansion. They shouldn’t be too heavy to cause trouble to your roof, yet not too light to be blown away by the wind. Instead of classic china pots, you could go for ones made of metal, plastic, or fibreglass. When it comes to fertilisers, you have a choice between soil-based compost and a rich variety of peat substitutes. Keep in mind that the former will retain much more water and will consequently weigh more.
7. Set up an efficient irrigation system
All potted plants will require watering, so it’s best to include an irrigation system in your roof balcony design. You could run a set of water pipes all the way up to the roof. This may be costly, but it will pay off in the long run – especially if you have a covered terrace that is completely sheltered from the rain outside.
8 Choose the right plants
Mediterranean plants, such as olive trees, fan palms, tamarix, griselinia, rosemary and lavender, are a perfect fit for a sun trapped balcony. If you’re having trouble with wind, then you can go for grasses, bamboo, pines, cotoneaster or any other small or needle-leaved plants. If shade is king, then you can plant box and yew instead. Because every inch of space is important, you could also use your mesh screens or trellises to grow an English ivy or a honeysuckle.
Making a proper roof terrace design in London is no easy feat. If at any point you feel overwhelmed, then it’s best to hire an expert landscaping company that will do everything for you and provide you with important gardening tips.
9 Make smart use of your space
Rooftop gardens are often confined within a small area. Therefore, it’s important to choose compact and light furniture that will go hand in hand with your chosen style. Always think in terms of function. For example, a rattan table and chairs will perfectly blend in with almost any roof garden design and won’t take up too much space. If you’re planning on inviting lots of guests, you could place a couple of comfortable sofas with built-in compartments for cushions. If you’re looking for a more solitary relaxation space, then simply add a hammock or a lounger and enjoy your favourite book.
10 Add lights and accessories
Want to take your rooftop terrace design to the next level? Pierce the night with bright hardscape and deck lights or use the more subtle rope lighting. Hide a set of speakers behind the lush leaves to set the mood for a romantic evening. Place a shiny new waterproofed decking or composite decking tiles. Add a fire pit that will keep you warm and your food – pleasantly grilled. Or install a jacuzzi for the ultimate unwinding experience. The possibilities are endless.