Trouble choosing material for new deck roof

peachymomo(Ca 8)September 10, 2012

Well, the structure has been done for a couple weeks but we still can't decide on what to cover it with. Here are a couple pics, we have some roof samples up and aren't quite happy with any of them. The bracing is still on, it won't come off until the roof is on and the railings are built.

I want a cover that will give protection from rain in the winter, and sun in the summer without being too dark. After weeks of research I'm not sure such a thing exists. The options I have found are metal - which I think will be too dark. Solar gray polycarbonate - we put some samples up and like the look but feel that it doesn't cast enough shade, I still feel like I need a hat or sunglasses sitting underneath it. Solar control silver polycarbonate is another option, but because it is so new I haven't found any testimonials from people who have used it and liked it, and the few pictures I was able to find of it in use made me think I wouldn't like the way it looked. We have a color sample coming in the mail, but I'm not sure that a 2" square will give me a good enough idea.

I'm also starting to think that something that gives enough shade during the heat of summer might be too dark during the gloom of winter, and maybe clear or gray poly with a shade sail that can be put up and taken down might be the best option.

Any thoughts or advice will be greatly appreciated!

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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

That roof looks pretty high and the winter sun cuts in at a low angle. I think you will get a lot more winter sun than you anticipate. Which way is south?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 9:29PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

Good question!

The side that has the poly samples on it is south facing. We were aiming for a structure that would let in plenty of light and preserve the view of our oak trees, while blocking the summer sun from about 2-5pm when it shines on the western wall of the house and makes it hot inside.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 11:09PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I am guessing you are planning to leave the structure open with no ceiling. If this is true I would look into applying insulation before any roofing material to stop the re-radiation of the heat from the roofing material. Al

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 9:14AM
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dbardot(z10 CA)

Are you going to let vines grow on it? If you are, I would go with the poly and in the winter when the vines have died back you will get your sun. Either way you go, it looking great!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 10:56AM
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dbardot(z10 CA)

Are you going to let vines grow on it? If you are, I would go with the poly and in the winter when the vines have died back you will get your sun. Either way you go, it looking great!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 11:16AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

For best long term property value, if I was doing that, I would match the shingles on the roof, but your posts look too small to support much weight. Solar control polycarbonate, probably best.

I question the size of those support posts--those are not just 2x4's are they? How are they secured to the deck?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 4:03PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Building code would require 4 by 4 posts secured to the top of concrete piers and I am sure that is how they are done, this is obviously professionally built. For continuity I would also look to match the house roofing. Al

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 4:34PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Those are obviously 4x4 posts.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 4:46PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I disagree that the roof should match the house. They have a major physical discontinuity already with the roof line of the patio being higher then the roof of the house. If you make the roofs of the same material it is going to look like a mistake.

Now that I know about the oak, I can see it's shadow on the ground. That oak is probably going to shade the interior of the patio during midday during the winter. Of course, you have lived there so you would be better able to make that determination. The house is probably going to block most of the morning light and it looks like you will get quite a bit of light during the latter part of the day.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 4:57PM
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wcgypsy(10 / Sunset 23)

I also feel that the roofing you choose does not have to match the house roofing...but whichever material you choose to use, I would repeat it in another place or two to give some continuity....repeat the material used....

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 6:18PM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

I think the dark color would be fine. We have a completely different type of patio cover that lets in no light at all from above, but plenty of light enters from all 3 open sides (east, north, and west). It's plenty bright all year without being exposed to direct sun which is a welcome relief in summer.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 11:02PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

Wow, thanks for all the replies!

Here's the view from the deck, looking out at the trees:

I like that you can still see the trees a bit with the grey poly, it provides some shelter without making it feel too closed in. After living with that for a while that it's hard to choose a completely opaque option. I'm sure insulation and shingles would keep it cooler, I'm just not sure we need to go that far. It's really not that hot, considering all the shade we get from other sources. The biggest problem was with 3-4 hours of afternoon sun on the wall of the house (and no a/c) it was getting up to the mid eighties inside, which is too hot for me. My main concern is keeping the house cooler in the summer, but also having a comfortable space in the gloom of winter. And winters can be pretty gloomy here, our neighbors to the south have some very tall evergreen trees that cast a lot of shade on our property. The oaks drop their leaves and look gorgeous, I love the bare, mossy branches and the fascinating shadows they cast.

I don't think we'll grow any vines on the structure, I'll have some on trellises at a safe distance where they won't be able to attach and do any damage.

The support posts are 4x4's on concrete piers, I'm not sure how they attached them to the deck, maybe lag bolts. My bf and his buddy spent a day figuring out how to make it sturdy enough for them to be happy, but high enough for me to be happy. I wanted them to preserve my view of the oaks, and I think they did a great job.

I think my main issue is that I like the look of the grey poly best, I just don't like that I have to squint my eyes when I'm underneath it. I wish they still made multiple options for light diffusion, they used to have 50%, 35%, and 20%, now all anybody has is 35%. A friend came up with the best solution - something that can change from darker to lighter depending on light conditions like those transitions sunglasses. That would be awesome.

Still waiting for those samples to come in the mail, until then I don't have to make a decision... I never thought that choosing the covering material would be the most difficult part of the project.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 12:38PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

you could always use some shade cloth in the summer time for some extra shading if necessary. I think you can get some that reduces the amount of light all the way to 5%.

Ahh I see you have oaks that actually drop their leaves in the winter unlike me.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 4:31PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I like my clear poly. It makes it much lighter in the house. We planted two deciduous trees next to the patio roof, so it is shady in the summer and warm and bright in the winter. Would you like a deciduous tree on the south side of the patio?

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 11:17PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I would like to add some smallish deciduous trees, but we have a septic tank and a greywater tank both to the south of the deck so I don't think it's a good place for trees. I keep thinking about your 'magic spot' for plants though, and I want one too!

In the morning, when it's foggy, I go out there and think: 'there's no way we can put an opaque roof out here.' But by the time the sun comes out and I'm hovering in the small amount of full shade I start to think: 'I don't want to have to wear a hat on my covered deck!'

The color samples still haven't arrived, we might have to call the rep and ask a second time for them to be sent. Also, with continuing research I've started to come across some warnings against Suntuf poly, people who say it's a cheap knockoff and Lexan is much better, but Lexan is also harder to source. *sigh*

So anyways, I'll just keep thinking about it and maybe in a month or two I'll be able to post pics of the finished product ;oP

Thanks for all your thoughts and advice!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 11:58AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Yes, I have the Lexan. We got it at Home Depot.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 10:09PM
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Dick_Sonia(Sunset 17)

That cheap corrugated stuff won't last many years before it starts to crack, especially if you get winter wind after high summer heat. Much of the money you save on the panels will be taken up by buying all the corrugated trim and the special corrugated ridge cap that it requires for installation.
I'd use flat 10mm twinwall polycarbonate. Much more durable and much better looking. You can also get rid of all those light-blocking purlins as the twinwall has plenty of structural rigidity to span the 24" rafter spacing. You can get it from Interstate Plastics in Sacramento.

Here is a link that might be useful: Interstate Plastics

This post was edited by dick_sonia on Wed, Jan 9, 13 at 21:38

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 9:34PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Not true, dicksonia. Perhaps you are confusing the panels with clear fiberglass. The Lexan panels are very sturdy. Mine have been up for fifteen years with no damage, and they are almost flat, so I powerwash them every so often. No cracks, no sun damage, and I live in "windy valley" with summer temps in the triple digits.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 12:10AM
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Dick_Sonia(Sunset 17)

No, I'm thinking of the difference between the wavy roofing panels (Suntuf is a common brand, but there are others) and a genuine structural, light-transmitting roofing product. The corrugation in the Suntuf-type panels increases their rigidity, but they are still single-ply, nonstructural panels. What I want to stress is the distinction between structural and nonstructural roofing panels.

Lexan is the brand name for GE's line of polycarbonate thermoplastics, and is not any specific roofing product (there are also many other manufacturers of polycarbonate besides Lexan, just as there are other manufacturers of facial tissue besides Kleenex. They are just as good and often less expensive).
The first picture below shows some of the structural roofing panels manufactured by Lexan (they make hundreds of different products). The webbing between the plys functions much like a miniature truss. This is what makes them structural. The bottom picture shows another one of their products, clear polycarbonate sheet. It is nonstructural, and using something like that is probably penny-wise and pound-foolish since you're going to need much beefier framing to support it, both to keep it from sagging and to prevent wind-shear damage.

Naturally, homeowners are free to use whatever they like, but I would seriously question the building credentials of a person who advocated the use of nonstructural panels in a situation where structural panels are called for.'s the stingy man who pays the most in the long haul.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 6:28PM
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Dick_Sonia(Sunset 17)

As an additional note, if you are trying to find the right balance between a panel that lets in enough light, but not so much ultraviolet radiation, you probably want a short-wave diffusion product. These have a milky or pearlescent cast to them. They're not quite white, but not completely clear, either. Lexan Thermoclear Softlite is one such product.

Here is a link that might be useful: Softlite panels

This post was edited by dick_sonia on Thu, Jan 10, 13 at 18:40

    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 6:38PM
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I would love to know what kind of roofing you put on your patio and if you are happy with it. We are building a wood deck and half of it is covered. We are not sure if we should use Suntuf Clear or Solar Grey. The roof beams and purlins have been engineered for Suntuf with our snow load. We have very rainy grey falls, snowy winters and really hot summers. The open walls of the deck face south and west. There will be grey metal siding on the unfinished wall. I think the clear panels would be great for 10 months of the year, but I'm worried that they will create a bit of a greenhouse hot space in summer. We plan to mount shade sails on the underside of the roof for those hot months, but I'm still worried that with the clear, it will be too hot. But I'm concerned that the grey will feel too dark on the rainy cloudy days. I would love any input you have from your experience. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2014 at 12:18AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

After much research I settled on Suntuf Solar Control Silver, it is a translucent product that is supposed to reflect most of the heat energy while allowing the cooler light waves through. I love it. On a hot, sunny day it's comfortable in the shade, but it's not so dark that it is gloomy when it's cloudy or foggy. I have very pale blue eyes and I can't stand having the sun in my face but I am comfortable on our deck on a sunny day without a hat - which is not the case with the regular grey panels. We get lots of compliments from friends and visitors, several have commented that they wished they had used the same product instead of corrugated metal or the more see-through plastics.

Good luck on your project!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2014 at 9:47AM
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I replaced the Solar Grey with the Solar Control Silver. Much cooler underneath and plenty of light transmission. Solar grey lost transparency (crazed) within few years of installation and heat transmittal was significantly higher than the Solar control.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2015 at 12:15PM
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