Dear PoP – Which is better for resale a Green Roof or Roof Deck?

“Dear PoP,

I am deciding between a Green Roof and a Conventional Deck for a roof top space that I have. It is a good fit build wise for either, i.e. easy roof top access, flat roof etc. A green roof will run a bit more in cost and will require upkeep although there is a potential rebate from DC for installing a green roof. My concern is what a future owner may think of a green roof that they have to keep up as opposed to a conventional deck that they use as they wish. There appear to be a lot of hoops one must go through to get the rebate for the green roof which is only a small percentage of the cost anyway so that which at first seemed to be a plus is not in reality. What do the readers think would be more enjoyment of outdoor space, and a better resale option for the future, green roof or roof deck?”

Can’t you have both – like this one? What do you guys think is best for resale?

32 Comment

  • pablo .raw

    Have you talked to a Structural Engineer to see if your roof can support the load of an extensive green roof? About maintenance, my understanding is that green roofs require minimum maintenance and they even protect the waterproofing layers of the roof so they live longer.

  • I’m not on the market for a house (yet) but when I am, a green roof would be a massive plus.

  • there is no question that roof deck is the answer to your question. we use ours constantly. add some ‘green’ features and call it both.

  • In order to qualify for the rebate you have to have 50% of the space planted which leaves very little for livable space. Yes you should not try it willy nilly : ) Work with DC Greenworks who will walk you through all of the structural things etc.

    • greenroofgoddess

      The roof pictured above is a greenroof in CH constructed by DC Greenworks on a garage–PoP previously did an article about it. We installed a greenroof on our house in CH when we did our renovation and it is the best–a totally gardenable, livable space that covers the entire footprint of the house (+1000 sq ft) and provides us with mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives and tons of bees and butterflies in the summer. And the planting media not only provides amazing insulation for the house that keeps our third floor from being a sauna, but it also is much cooler in the summer than a roof deck would be. Our internal stairs lead up to the roof, where we have a wetbar, so we spend every night up there from May to September, and have 30 people over for the fireworks–so it serves the same party purpose as a roofdeck. There is no comparison, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat–greenroof all the way!

  • I’m in the market for row homes right now. My budget is 700K +/- 50K. So, I’m probably the type of person that you’d be selling to in the future.

    If I see a row home with a roof deck, I immediately get excited and think of it as a big plus. I would pay a premium for a home that has one.

    If I were to see (and I haven’t) a row home with a green roof, I’d think, “Wow, that’s cool.” But in the end, it would really make a difference price-wise. Actually, I probably worry about maintenance and unforeseen costs.

    Therefore, in my mind, roof deck wins.

    Roof deck = excitement
    Green roof = caution

    • I couldn’t have said it better myself. Caution vs. excitement. When I was looking for rowhomes, I always would be wowed when you get to the top floor and there was that “But wait, there’s more!” moment of the roofdeck. Ultimately, I just bought a standard-issue rowhouse, but that was one feature that always stood out to me.

      If the OP is doing this primarily with resale in mind, my guess is that 9 out of 10 potential buyers would be much, much more taken by the roofdeck than the green roof. People just don’t understand them. But a good roofdeck party on a nice summer night … now that is something we get.

    • Well said. It’s excitement vs. caution. Since the OP specifically asks about resale value, I imagine 9 out of 10 rowhome buyers would view a roofdeck as a big plus. And an equal number wouldn’t understand the green roof’s value or would question how much it’s going to cost them when the thing fails. Not that it will, but people just don’t understand them.

      • Also, the only person I ever knew who worked on green roofs was this stoner chick who was my secretary’s roommate. Not the kind of person I would trust to work on one of the key structural elements of my home.

        • Agree – and you can have both. A “green roof” is really nothing more than a bunch of low-water, low-soil needing plants – sedums etc. Doesn’t matter if their containers are permanent or not. Build the roof deck and you have way more fun & more usable living space as well as much better resale value.

          Then you can still cover it totally with container plants if you want.

  • I think you should get what you want. Unless you’re planning on selling in the near future.

  • Ohhh, do the combo! How fantastic. Environmental benefits and a fun place to relax

  • Roof deck.

    If there is such a thing as a stupid question then this is it.

  • At some point I’m planning/hoping to put a combo green roof deck on my rowhouse. I’ve talked it over with the folks at DC Greenworks and, it turns out, the structural requirements are the same for a roof deck and a green roof with (if I’m remembering correctly) 12 inches of soil depth, which is enough to grow herbs and other edible plants. So the two are wholly compatible uses of a roof. Even though it wouldn’t qualify for the DDOE rebate, I think it would enhance an otherwise standard roof deck and the “green” component of the rooftop living space would probably be a plus when it comes to resale.

    • If you don’t mind me asking, what are the costs, and structural changes you have to make to support this stuff?

      • I have a greenroof. You don’t necessarily need structural work. COsts vary immensely but at a minimum you need a roof with TPO or nonorganic covering, which usually means getting a new roof. If you’re replacing your roof, greenroof is slightly more. If you just want a deck and don’t need a new roof, it’s going to be way, way cheaper.

  • I for one would be extremely hesitant to buy a house with a permanently built green roof. I would assume that there would be expensive problems with it in the future. And expensive to deconstruct if I wanted to put in a roof deck.

    • I’ve always wondered if people actually use their roof decks. I, for one, would probably be too lazy to lug the beer, wine, cosmos, and snacks up three levels or two or whatever. I used to live behind a house with a gorgeous roof deck accessible by an outdoor iron circular stairway and a gorgeous view of the cathedral. I have never, ever seen anyone up there enjoying it.
      Not really the point of this string, but just an observation.

      • Actually, yes. We probably overpaid for our condo because of the large, private roof deck with views of downtown, but it’s been worth it. We use it all the time when the weather is decent, and there’s almost always a cool breeze during the warmest of evenings. And yes, we lug the dishes, food, and beverages up the two flights to be able to dine out and enjoy the city views.

      • we use ours literally on a daily basis 6 months of the year. among other things it is private and the mosquitos don’t fly up this high. amazing for entertaining. best thing about our house is the roof deck.

  • It just dawned on me that the picture here is probably an example of a green roof. If that is what the OP is talking about (the seating, planting, etc.), then by all means, that is huge added value and as attractive a feature as a roofdeck, if not more. But if it is just an environmentally friendly roof, a la what is on the DC Greenworks website, then I’d think twice about it.

  • I’d vote roof deck as well, but some more info regarding green roofs:

    A typical green roof installation uses plastic trays that hold about 4 inches of growing medium. You can pull the trays out if required–I wouldn’t call it permanent so don’t let that scare you if that’s a worry.

    Second point, you cannot walk on a green roof, so don’t think you are going to lay down a lush carpet of vegetation that you can use like a lawn. It is a more akin to a garden or planter you view from afar.

    • greenroofgoddess

      Sorry David, but you are wrong. While some companies advertise greenroof media and plants in containers (ie. GreenGrid), real greenroofs are permenant installations. And yes, depending on the plants you choose, you can walk on them or at the least put stepping pavers to form a path. Wooly thyme and low growing sedums fit that bill perfectly. We spend tons of time on our greenroof, and bring people up there all the time, and it blows them away.
      BTW, we opted not to apply for the grant when we installed ours as it required you to allow DC Greenworks to bring people to see your roof for the next two years. Since you access our greenroof through sliding doors from our internal stairwell, we didn’t want random people tramping through our house.

  • But, where are the integrated solar hot water and PV systems? 😉

    You’re right, the average consumer might want the basics and wouldn’t be at all concerned with stuff like — can large scale move toward greenroofs help cool the urban heat island we all endure? And help us cut our collective A/C bills and coal use? What scale of replacement would be needed to make even a slight difference and would enough folks ever be willing to make the move?

  • “Green roof” typically doesn’t mean that you can plant Kentucky Bluegrass up there, without major structural modifications.

  • This is a photo of my green roof deck designed and installed by Greenworks on top of our detached garage. The 600 square foot installation features a flagstone seating area, 300 square feet of perennial beds, an herb garden, extensive sedum ground cover, and a LOT of happy wildlife. Not to mention happy friends that come over for rooftop cocktails. This once unused and ugly garage roof is now actively employed as our back yard, while at the same time reducing run off by nearly 400 gallons in a typical 1″ rain storm.

    The structural costs would have been about the same for a typical roof deck and the maintenance has been minimal. To each their own, but this was a perfect combo for us. Greenworks was extremely professional and accountable and we received the DC demonstration grant without any problems.

  • Buzz: we have a 5 kWh of PV on the main roof. Haven’t paid a Pepco bill in months. 🙂

  • Buzz: we also have a 5 kWh of PV on the main roof. Haven’t paid a Pepco bill in months. 🙂

  • Rooftop deck is definitely the better choice as far as value. It’s like adding a whole additional floor to the home! You could still grow some plants and herbs to make it feel “green” in that sense, but the deck for sure would increase the value to buyers more than a green roof.

  • How much is a 500SF roof deck?

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