Everything You Need To Know If You Want a New Deck or Roof Deck

West Canton St, South End Roof Deck

Dreaming of a new deck or roof deck this summer????

East 7th St, bi-level deck
Well now is the time to get the ball rolling. Too often we have customers call us in the early summer months asking to build a roof deck ASAP! However, while the building process itself may take 3 or 4 weeks, most people are unaware that you MUST HAVE A PERMIT first and unfortunately after applying to The City it could take anywhere between 4 – 14 weeks depending on your zoning district…… our guide below will give you a good idea of the time and costs involved so you don’t get caught drooling over your neighbors enjoying summer evenings sipping margaritas al fresco in Summer 2017!!!

*The information in this article applies to Rear Decks, Triple Level Decks, Roof Decks & Balconies

Step 1 – Contractor
Do your research! Find a reputable contractor that is experienced in deck building, preferably local to your area as they will already be familiar with your zoning laws and restrictions. A good contractor should be able to give you a Free Estimate in about a week. If your budget allows then proceed to step 2.

Note: At Abacus if a customer is happy with their Free Estimate we then do a site visit, followed by a meeting with our estimator to select materials to work out a detailed proposal and price breakdown before the customer signs anything.

Also,It’s good to shop around but remember “cheap work is rarely good and good work is rarely cheap”.

Gold Street Roof Deck

Step 2 – Find out which permit you need

East 5th St Rear and Roof Decks

There are two types of permit, Short Form and Long Form.
Short Form: If you have an existing deck but want to update it with new decking or handrails you need just the Short Form Permit.This type of permit can be gotten in 24 hours from the building dept. with the assistance of a licensed contractor. However, you cannot change the size, shape or location of the original permitted deck. Here at Abacus we procure permits on behalf of our customers and can have it next day. This is because you are replacing a deck that has already been approved and ISD already has the original plans. (If your deck is very old you should check first that it was built legally, this is something we come across from time to time, it would mean that you would have to go through the Long Form process, see below)

Long Form: Changing the size, shape or location of an existing legal deck or structure will require a Long form permit.

The application to do this type of work will require a set of plans stamped by an architect/engineer and submitted to the building department for approval. If what you have designed with the architect meets zoning requirements, a permit can be issued in as little as 30 days.

However, if what you have designed does not meet local zoning requirements, your plans will be rejected and you will have to file an appeal with the city and ask them to grant you relief from zoning violations. This process can take 6 months to 1 year depending on many factors.

Note: Permits cost 1% of total project cost, for a $30,000 deck expect to pay $300 for your permit

Step 3 – Architect Drawings
This step only applies to Long Form applicants. We here at Abacus have 2 or 3 architects we work with year round, so we point our customers in their direction as a good place to start. Depending on the time of year you can expect to wait a week or two for a site visit. After that, you will get a rough estimate. Drawings, depending on deck size, run between $3000 – $6000, if this suits your budget then you begin work on the details and design with the architect and hopefully have finished drawings for submission in another couple of weeks. Overall, allow for 4 – 6 weeks.

Note: After agreeing on the price the wait time depends greatly on you the customer. The architect will send you questions and such that if answered promptly will speed things along. A steady flow of communication is key – check your inbox!!!

Upton St, South End, Roof Deck

Step 4 – Construction

Gold Street – custom roof deck kitchen
As soon as you have your permit the contractor can order all the materials. Usually, the bulk of our materials and supplies are readily available at National Lumber, Beacon Sales, Home Depot etc and we can get everything delivered to the site in just a couple of days.

Skylights, Hatches, Metal Railings and spiral staircases take a bit longer but the guys we use at American Design Iron Works and Fortress Railings provide great lead times (If any item is a special order or custom it’s better to order ahead of time to avoid unnecessary hold ups). Overall build time is 3-4 weeks.

Note: The cost of a crane to deliver materials to the roof and Police Detail to block off your street should all be included in your contract price.

Step 5 – Invite Your Friends Over

All told, from start to finish, it’s going to take approx 12 – 18 weeks. For urbanites everywhere its well worth the wait for a little piece of outdoor living in the city. Invest in a couple of outdoor lounges, planters and an outdoor heater so you can enjoy your new deck well into the fall.


Don’t hesitate to call our office, we will guide you through the process and connect you with an architect if necessary as you may need drawings when applying to ISD AND we will give you a FREE ESTIMATE.

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