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Can You Build A DIY Rooftop Garden?

Who doesn’t love a good garden? Even if you don’t have a green thumb, per se, they are great spaces to enjoy the sun and relax, your own little haven that no one can interfere with. A lot of people find gardening therapeutic and there’s a growing popularity of growing fruit and vegetables at home - and we admit, they do taste nicer when you’ve grown them yourself!

When space is at a premium, however, you need to get a bit inventive. You might be in the heart of a town or city, or in an apartment block with no outdoor space, and that’s where a rooftop garden can be a great idea.

Before you rush out and buy those plants you’ve been dreaming of, this needs a lot of thought and planning before doing anything.

What Do You See When Picturing A Rooftop Garden?

When you think of a rooftop garden, what do you think of? Is it soil and grass, or raised beds and planters? Do you see lights and benches that you can enjoy on those warm evenings? There are plenty of options, depending on the space you have to work with.

Fully Planted Green Roofs

The most ‘garden-like’ option you might think of is a full path of soil, grass and flowers. This is versatile and has plenty of benefits, such as releasing more oxygen and acting as a natural level of insulation and soundproofing from outside noises in your home.

You do have to watch the weight, though, and this is a big consideration. This will be the heaviest option you can choose, and when water accumulates, it’s going to increase. Without the right structural support, you could run into trouble.

Raised Beds And Containers

An easier option, especially if you have limited roof space to use (it might be a communal space, for example, is an area with raised planters and pots. This is much lighter and as versatile as you want it to be. These beds and pots can be arranged at will to create a gorgeous display that suits your style and season.

A Space To Relax And Enjoy

Flowers, plants and shrubs are just one part of what makes a garden. It can look as pretty as you want it to, but if you can enjoy your time amongst them, you only get half the effect. Even a solitary bench amongst the colours and leaves offers a nice change of pace.

Especially on the top of city buildings or apartments, this can often become a communal area with people meeting and mingling - if the rooftop garden has the right barriers and supports for people to regularly be spending time up there.

A Roof Conversion With A Difference

Any roof conversion is a lot of work, and there’s a lot of planning involved before any work takes place. You absolutely can build a DIY rooftop garden in theory, but in practise, there are several things to consider first.

Check What Permits You Need

Before undertaking any work, you should always check what building permits you need to complete it. In some situations, you might not need any, but for bigger jobs, like a roof conversion to accommodate a garden, you’ll more than likely need planning or building permits.

These come from local governing bodies, and while you can carry out and complete projects yourself, the benefits of an expert will make things much easier and are worth considering. They can also help make sure everything is done to the right standards, which matters for if the time comes to sell your home.

Speak To An Architect And Structural Engineer

Before undertaking any work, speak to an architect and a structural engineer to make sure your roof can handle the increased weight a rooftop garden will bring. You want a good amount of leeway, as more people in the garden will add even more. There’s also water weight, as well, so plenty to think about.

If your roof isn’t suitable, they’ll tell you what you can do to make sure it will support the extra weight without causing damage to the rest of your home. Flat roofs, for example, are the most common for rooftop gardens, but not exclusively. This is one thing you may have to change if it’s something you want to push ahead with.

Work Out Access Routes

How are you going to get onto the roof? Do you need to build a structure for a stairwell and door? Is there a hatch from the attic to the roof, and is it easy to use? Is there a metal landing and staircase on the outside of the property to a room on the lower level?

It’s great to have a rooftop garden, definitely, but you want to make it easy to enjoy it - not only for yourself but family, friends and other guests. This is less of an issue for apartment building roofs as they will have a door already in a lot of cases, but it’s an extra factor to consider.

Install A Water System

One thing you’ll grow tired of very quickly is carrying full buckets or watering cans to your roof every other day to keep your plants healthy and thriving. In some cases, you might need to do this twice a day!

It might not be the most important thing, but plan for a water system that you can access from the roof to make your life easier. It could be a separate tank for rainwater or an additional pipe, but a plumber will be able to advise you on the best options.

Protect Your Rooftop Garden From The Weather

One big difference between a rooftop garden and a regular garden is the wind. Even in a windy suburb, you’ll notice it more at heights. Strong winds can scupper any garden plans you have, so not only do you need rails and fencing for safety, but windbreakers, like bamboo screens, can help keep your plants alive.

In some environments, overhead sheets will help protect from excessive rain or constant UV rays. We know that water and sunlight are needed for plant life, but work out what’s too much and take steps to protect your garden.

Good drainage is needed, too, so excess water can run off and not add even more weight to your roof. If you live in an area where snow and hail are common at certain times of the year, you’ll need to make sure it’s cleared often, too.

Planning Your Rooftop Garden

The biggest thing to keep in mind with a rooftop garden conversion is the cost. There are a lot of steps involved, and you could find the budget becomes a lot more expensive very quickly. Make a plan and stick to it - you can always add more later.

Make sure everything is safe and easy to access and look after, and you’ll have a space that is unique and different from anyone around you. Once everything has been planned and checked, you can get to work. Think carefully about the supplies you’ll need, such as roof materials, safety equipment and then the garden materials.

There’s nothing wrong with consulting with and hiring an expert to help or carry out parts of the work you’re not confident in doing. In the end, you want a great rooftop garden to enjoy, and that takes priority over everything else. 

If you have any questions about what you need to make our roof ready for a rooftop garden, or want to know more about the steps involved, feel free to contact our team.