Decks, Home Improvement, Remodeling, Renovation

Roof Deck with Pilot House in South Philadelphia


The clients for whom we recently built the tri-level roof deck in South Philadelphia were thoughtful enough to invite me to their deck warming party. I chatted with a young couple that had recently moved a few blocks away, and before long we were in their kitchen hunched over deck plans. The only access to the roof would be interior steps. Luckily the large master bedroom on the 3rd floor could sacrifice about 4 feet along one wall for the purpose. So we designed a pilothouse - the small, shed-like structure on city roofs that allows covered access to the roof.

Before opening up the roof, we relocated their bedroom door and framed the interior work, including a closet under the new staircase.

Setting the pilothouse walls on the rear corner of the roof presented a new challenge – the adjoining house was a story lower and 15 feet shallower than our clients’, so we couldn’t capably access the rear or one side of the pilothouse, even from ladders. Our solution was to pre-fabricate those two walls by framing, sheathing, siding and even flashing them before installing. And of course, as we’re set to stand the two walls up and secure them to the roof and reach other, the wind turns gusty. Typical.

Once the hole in the roof was cut and the walls were up, we moved quickly to roof the pilothouse and get it insulated and weather-tight (Hurricane Sandy was on the way that week, I should mention). We then installed pre-made oak steps to match the home’s existing stairs.

We also installed a powered ventilation fan system in the roof and at the top of the pilothouse to keep air circulating.

The homeowners were kind enough to also invite me to their own deck warming party this past New Year’s Eve. But this time, beckoned by a rare quiet evening at home with the family, I had to decline.

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