The owners of this Washington, D.C. row house wanted an outdoor area where they could entertain and enjoy views of the Washington Monument and Capitol Building. Our design team worked closely with the clients to help them maximize the usable deck space on the roof and create the relaxing vibe they wanted. As the deck is on a historic row house, we had to work with the Historic Review Board to make sure the design met their requirements. We constructed the supports for the new deck, walls, and provided comfortable access through a structure with a full size door.
The clients’ previously could only access the roof by using a ladder on the second floor to reach a door in a skylight tunnel to the three-foot high attic space. They needed another ladder to reach the roof hatch.
We built new light-filled stairs that reach a full-light door to the roof. Windows on two sides of the structure also bring in natural light. The full door is required by code.
Historic Review. Since the roof deck is on a house in the historic district, the city’s historic review board had to approve the design. Any roof structure could not be visible from the street. The roof pitch of the L-shaped structure at the front of the house is located along the sight lines of the building, so you can’t see it from the street. For the review, we actually framed a mock-up out of the structure and then checked if it was visible from the street.
The shape and size of the access structure on the roof was dictated by both the historic rules listed above and structural/code issues.
Structural Review/Code. Our designer used every square foot available based on set back and historic requirements. This included creating a two-level deck with steps in between. The roof deck is actually treated as a penthouse, so it has to be set back a certain distance. Structurally, each of side party walls is a bearing wall. The structural beams are excluded as a part of the “structure” and are not included in the setback space. The horizontal setback had to equal the height of the floor above the existing structure. With a pitched roof, that ends up being at 2 levels. The step is as much zoning issue as it is an aesthetic one.
Stairs. The shape of structure was also dictated by the stairs below. The new stairs had to be angled over the stairs from the first to the second floor such that the lower set of stairs provided head clearance. That set the L-shape and angles of the roof access structure.
We used a 3D modeling program called Revit to review four critical height locations. This assured us the design provided the necessary stair clearance without making structure on roof visible from the street.
Code dictated that the party walls on both sides of the deck had to be solid walls. The client reviewed options for the other wall that were more open, but opted for a uniform look with a solid wall wrapping all the way around. The walls are made of James Hardie panels painted light blue with aluminum reveals in between the panels for a modern look. The aluminum top cap is pre-finished in a contrasting blue color that matches the standing seam roof on the roof access. The deck material is Trex Select.
The clients wanted a contemporary look for the stairs, and selected stainless steel cable rail. This material also allows natural light to pass through. We also rebuilt the stairs from the first floor to the second floor, so all the stairs have a consistent look.