Covering/roof for deck
July 9, 2024 12:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm buying a house with a big deck (yay!). I think one of the joys of life is sitting outside during a rainstorm. So I'd like to get some kind of roof for at least part of the deck. Please share your thoughts and experiences.

Some things I'm considering:

Retractable awning: what are the pros and cons of these? Does automated retractable mean something that is going to break in no time flat? What else is likely to go wrong?

Pergola/canopy: these seem to come in a lot of different types and a lot of different materials. I don't want to get into the $5000 range, but $2000 might be manageable.

This is a topic I really know nothing about, so feel free to chime in with whatever seems relevant.
posted by FencingGal to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Your best bet is to get a contractor to look at your deck and house specifically to see what options you have. We wanted to put a retractable awning on our deck but two contractors told us it was a no-go with our house, and I wish I'd started my research with them and not with picking out what I wanted only to find out it wouldn't work.
posted by twelve cent archie at 1:04 PM on July 9

one of the joys of life

My house has an aluminum awning over the back windows and it makes such a nice noise when it's raining. Or rather, I just really love the sound of rain on corrugated metal. I don't know how many decades it's been there, maybe all of them.

Modern? No.
Luxurious? No.
Cute? No. (Debatable.)
But that sound tho? 🎶🤤🤌
posted by phunniemee at 1:05 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]

How big is the deck and how permanent a solution are you looking for at the moment?

If you just want something to use now while you think about more elaborate options, you can get some pretty good screened in 10x12' gazebos in the $200-$300 dollar range like this one at Ocean State Job Lot. If you're willing to settle for a pop-up gazebo, those can be had for around $100.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:22 PM on July 9

Do you want it to be available year round or seasonally or random ad hoc times? Does it snow or get very windy where you live? Will it need a ceiling fan?

A covered porch is a wonderful thing, I encourage you to do it. The details are going to be context-dependent.
posted by janell at 1:27 PM on July 9

Response by poster: I live in the Salt Lake City area. There are sometimes big snowfalls, and it gets extremely windy. I don't think it will need a ceiling fan. I am stupid with measurements, but it's quite large. Current owners have a large dining table, a freestanding three-seat swing, two rocking chairs with a table, and a small side table.

I'm not sure about seasonally versus year round. Realistically, I probably won't go outside when it's freezing.

I was assuming a permanent solution, but a pop-up gazebo might make sense while I figure things out.
posted by FencingGal at 1:36 PM on July 9

Reddit's r/decks is a fairly active forum that includes (in addition to jokes and DIY-gone-wrong photos) some reasonable discussion and advice from professionals. You might be interested to browse or ask there.

Does your area have mosquitos? If so, that'll make the space less enjoyable unless you screen it in.

I bought a house that has a pergola and find it pretty useless, in that it provides neither useful shade nor rain protection. But maybe it's just a bad pergola?

My parents had a motorized roll-out awning. I didn't like the way it looked, but it worked fine for them for a decade or so. Note, you can't really use it when it's windy.
posted by hovey at 1:43 PM on July 9

We installed a gazebo on our large deck which has substantially increased our enjoyment of the outdoor space. We have it screened in as we largely bought it to allow us to enjoy the deck in the buggy summer, but I have also enjoyed many rainstorms under it. It’s not quite as lovely as a custom built situation, but it looks nice enough for us, and though it’s anchored down, I love that it’s removable if need be. I’m 100% happy with what we did.
posted by obfuscation at 1:47 PM on July 9

I too like the sound of rain on metal. But I’d go for something permanent not retractable, as retractable can get damaged more easily in heavy winds.
posted by j810c at 1:49 PM on July 9

If you are handy, Toja Grid makes some nifty brackets to build your own pergola. Link here.
posted by museum nerd at 1:50 PM on July 9

I commissioned/built a pergola a pergola for my patio about 10 years ago.
The way I did this was to hire a fencing company to sink 10 foot 4x4 posts 2 feet into the ground for the corners and put cross beams across the corners in pairs, then I had a local blacksmith make two arches to connect the two sides. The arches have decking boards going across them.

Here's what I like about it - looks awesome, great for shade, has held up well over 10 years, works well for hops to climb up to the top, it was pretty cost effective compared to cookie cutter solutions.
Here's what won't work for you - it doesn't keep out the rain.

My neighbor has a deck with a retractable canvas fly that he can pull out. I think it works better for the shade than rain. It also hasn't aged well. Not many fabrics do. In looking at retractable flies for decks, it looks like they're mostly made as sun blocks. An awning is probably your best bet for rain and sun, frankly.
posted by plinth at 1:52 PM on July 9

One thing to consider is the orientation of the deck. Will putting a permanent roof over it keep a lot of light from coming into the house during the winter? A retractable awning would be good in that case. How about just starting out with a big umbrella over a table. Live in your new house for a year and observe how light comes in. Don't jump too quickly into spending on a permanent solution.
posted by mareli at 2:13 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]

My deck roof is solid for about four feet out from the house, then it's made of some transparent plastic stuff. That way it shades the house in summer, but lets in the light in the winter. It's a great compromise.

Also, I hung a laundry drying rack from the deck roof, just outside the back kitchen door where the washing machine is, and it's fantastic.
posted by quacks like a duck at 2:26 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]

I have a big deck - 12 x 20. I have 2 tables, 1 seats 4, the other might seat 2, and both have big patio umbrellas. A recent microburst wrecked both umbrellas, so I got these on sale and they're quite nice. I have a skeeter screen that fits over an umbrella and makes it possible to stay out at dusk when they're fierce. Might be a good temporary solution. Ideally, I'd like a frame to drape with skeeter netting and maybe some water-resistant fabric.

Wind wants to pick up any unsecured item; umbrellas get blown away every 4 - 5 years, so far only damaging umbrellas, but someday I could lose a window. The umbrellas provide significant shade, keeping the living room much cooler.

Also, fairy lights, lots of 'em.
posted by theora55 at 2:33 PM on July 9

Your city (should) list what size, style (lean-to, free standing, etc) are allowed under code. There is usually lower limits as to what needs a permit. Any structure that requires a permit is going to be stuuuuuupid expensive compared to one that does not. This does not mean a lack of quality, necessarily.

In my area, it’s something like 120sq ft. Years ago, I built this, which is a few inches smaller than what triggers permits. It has survived with zero issue and withstood loads of snow and ice a foot thick, some burly-ass winter storms, and plenty of wind. It is pleasant to sit under in both sun and rain (wind and rain, it struggles with; shelter during wind and rain needs one side or to be pretty wide). It was very cheap to build, but is solid.

If you’d like something between napkin drawings and proper blueprints, memail me. This is an easy structure to build durably, and cheaply, if you have a tall laser and a friend to help.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:56 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]

You might end up unintentionally shading a part of the house that now gets regular natural light, so keep that in mind if you go for something permanent. I also agree to bring in a professional sooner rather than later. Sometimes we spend a lot of time researching solutions when they come up with something better right away that we wouldn't have considered.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:01 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]

On a previous house, I had something similar to what furnace.heart has, and it was great. We put a metal roof on for blocking the harsh western sun, and it had the added benefit of sounding wonderful in rainstorms. Dig the footings in deep, and it can be a permanent structure. Ours was not attached to the house, so no permit needed. It was taller than the roofline, and went a bit over the house, so we could walk out the back door without getting wet in the rain.

Ours was probably 14'x14', and was a nice size. A neighbor built one that was smaller, perhaps 10x10, and she couldn't go outside in the rain without getting wet. So if you want to sit outside in the rain, size of the structure will matter.
posted by hydra77 at 3:40 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]

Our house has a large deck with a big metal pergola (canopy, we like saying pergola more though) and we love it. The rain sounds are really nice, it's very sturdy. But we recently discovered that because it doesn't cover the entire deck, there are spots where the flooring is rotting from rain drops. I've got buckets and barrels set up right now, enjoying the rain sounds and bugglessness, but I've got to figure out how to get some gutters on for better direction.
The deck is a few steps down from our enclosed back porch, so there's a gap between that door and the covering of the pergola; this is annoying though not awful.
We moved in winter and I enjoy sitting outside bundled up with a cup of tea looking at the snow covered yard. No issues with snow as it's a big structure and it heats up with any type of sun.
Right now, summer, we've put up the western facing deck curtains; we could add screen curtains if we wanted, but it's probable hopeless as we're surrounded by jungle greenery anyway.
I can work outside on the deck most days, potting plants, reading, hanging laundry, until the sun slants directly inside and the bugs come out. We hope to keep the pergola and move the deck, someday, when we can expand the back porch and kitchen, but that's a long ways off.
Seconding lots of twinkle lights, it's so lovely in the evening. I set up a little fan and a special bug incense and that helps.
posted by winesong at 4:21 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]

Be aware that you will need to mount the pergola to the structure of the deck (not the deck planks, but the actual structural frame) or it will go airborne in a strong enough wind and anything/anyone it hits becomes your responsibility. This may entail reinforcing the deck substructure (mainly sistering up some joists, in all likelihood but your engineering may vary).

...having said that, Costco frequently carries a metal pergola with tilting slats (such that it can be fully-closed and waterproof, or almost entirely-open-to-sky) that fits within your budget. The one I'm speaking of also includes an internal rain gutter system, so you can handle runoff. The names change, but the current name is "Mirador" and it comes in two colors, two sizes (roughly 10x10 or 10x20), and has optional side shades.

Note that it should be left entirely open to the sky during snow, so in your location probably all winter, to avoid snow buildup crushing the ceiling slats. You can orient it such that the slats are parallel to your windows, allowing you to angle the slats so they don't obstruct the sun hitting your windows (when you want that).
posted by aramaic at 5:08 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]

I would get in a local contractor or two to give you suggestions and approximate costs of what could be done - they'll be well aware of the limitations any local building code may put on and what cost that may add. There are likely solutions you didn't even know existed. Once you can decide what you want, you can consider options to save money - you won't get much of a professional build for $2,000.
posted by dg at 6:38 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]

Most "temporary" add-ons I've seen have gone from open back deck, to open porch, to screened porch, to glass sunroom.
Plan accordingly at the beginning so that the structure can accommodate the finished design. You may not take it to that point, but the next owner may want a four-season solution.

Seconding getting a professional involved, both for design options and local code requirements.
What utilities are you adding? Are you incorporating existing electric and water outlets? Adding a hot tub, an outdoor kitchen, or a heating source?
What is below the deck? Is it several feet above the dirt, on a concrete slab, or directly on the ground?
Are tree roots compromising your foundation or tangling into your water or sewer lines? Are limbs too close to your roof or power lines?

Also seconding waiting four seasons to see if the deck meets the desired usage. Neighbors may have information about whether the previous owners loved or hated it.
posted by TrishaU at 10:10 PM on July 9

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