Rooftop decks are hip, providing open space for some


Outdoor space is an essential part of a home, be it a yard, deck, porch or patio. In the middle of an urban setting where outdoor space is a valuable commodity, the rooftop garden is becoming a hip part of the urban dwelling landscape.

Theres a lot of people who wont buy a house if there isnt some outdoor space somewhere, said Kathy Brandel, sales agent at EYA/Urban REALTORS, who has a listing on Pendleton Street in Alexandria  with a roof deck, as well as one on her own townhouse a few blocks away.

Roof decks as they are called, became chic about five years ago as a way to get outdoor space if theres no room for a yard, Brandel said.

EYA is a builder that built townhouse communities throughout Alexandria with roof decks as a big selling feature. EYA communities included townhouses near the Braddock Road Metro station called Braddock Lofts, Potomac Yards, and Chatham Square on Pendleton Street in Old Town.

Brandels own roof deck at Chatham Square looks out over the rooftops of Old Town, and with minimal stretching of the neck, there are views of the Potomac River.

In the summer months, we tend to go up [on the deck] in the evenings, but they can get very hot, during the day, she said. She also has a good view of the flight line for Reagan National Airport, which provides some scenery as well. We love the airplanes, Brandel said.

A few doors down, a neighbor who goes by Carr, has a roof deck as well but noted the summer heat keeps him inside except after dark. I did like that when I bought the house, a few years ago, Carr said.

An oasis
Brandel has plants and a barbecue out on the deck, and there is a spigot for a hose to water the plants, and a gas line for the barbecue. There is another advantage to going out there as well. Visitors and family members love to sit up there so they can smoke, she said.

On the third level of the house she is listing, there is a bedroom, bath, bar area with a refrigerator, and a door leading to the deck. In the real estate listing, Brandel describes it as a loft with wet bar and roof terrace. This deck is bigger than her own deck, but its located on the front side of the house facing the street with a street view. This four bedroom townhouse lists for $999,990, but would be worth more if it had a better view, said Brandel. If you actually have a nice view from a roof deck, its golden, she said.

A good example of golden is a townhouse in the Bromptons at Monument Place in Arlington, that offers unmatched river and monument views, as described in the listing. The Arlington listing is a three bedroom townhouse, listed by Long and Foster, priced at $3,985,000.

Roof decks can be built on existing structures, but the City of Alexandria discourages them in the historic district, according to Dana Hunting at the Planning and Zoning office. In some cases, they are allowed in the historic district as long as they do not interfere with the historic roofline of a building, as stated in the citys design guidelines, which can be found at .

Furthermore, material used on a roof deck needs to be carefully chosen so it does not detract from the historic architecture.

In other residential zones in Alexandria, such as an RB/townhouse zone, roof decks are encouraged to provide open space, and meet the citys requirements in that area. Open space calculations must be provided when applying for a deck building permit.

Since the roof decks are flat and exposed to the rain, drainage is an important part of the equation. For Brandels listing, the drain is in the middle of the deck, piping the water down and out the side where a gutter connects it with the front porch gutter system.

During a storm, Carr sometimes worries about the drainage from his deck. Thats always something I think about when it starts raining real hard and Im lying in bed, he said, but there have been no leaks so far.

Roof decks have found their way outside the Beltway, too. Chris Carlson, an agent at Century 21 New Millennium in Kingstowne, has a listing in Leesburg with a roof deck that overlooks a lake and natural preserve. The door to the deck comes off a room she describes as a fourth level loft or guest room, and a perfect hideaway for your guests, her brochure reads. Its an extra, she added.