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I currently have a flat roof over my patio which looks really solid as it is an extension of a flat room from my living room. I want to have someone come out and verify the integrity of it along with providing guidance on how to transform it into a deck.

Would I use a contractor? Would roofers be able to weigh in on it?

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What are the joists made out of? How far apart are they?

"Looks really solid" isn't a very scientific assessment. ;-)

If the joists are wood, what kind are they? Are they suitable for wet outdoor conditions? Or is the deck going to be sealed so that the joists never get wet?

You want to start by determining what kind of wood the joists are made out of to determine if they're even suitable for the deck you have in mind.

Then you should look at some span tables to see if they're going to be strong enough to support the load you want to put on the deck.

Here are a couple of examples.

http://www.southernpine.com/span-tables/joists-rafters/

http://www.awc.org/calculators/span/calc/timbercalcstyle.asp?species=Alaska+Cedar&size=2x6&grade=Select+Structural&member=Floor+Joists&deflectionlimit=L%2F360&spacing=16&wet=No&incised=No&liveload=40&snowload=-1&deadload=10&submit=Calculate+Maximum+Horizontal+Span#answer

EDIT after a few comments: I'd probably still talk to an engineer, just to be on the safe side both with the 15 foot (?) span and the 28" centers (was that centers? Or distance between the beams?), and to make sure the 4x4 columns are adequate. Let's say 15 people weigh 3,000 pounds, plus whatever furniture you put on the deck, plus the weight of whatever additional treatment you use to create the floor of the deck.

You're more or less talking about parking a car on top of that thing.

What are those slats that make up the flat roof? I think for the 2 foot span between those beams, 2x4's (on edge, not flat) would be the minimum size if you were using joists (on 16" centers). Since those existing slats are continuous rather than joists, that might make a difference. But I'd get a little local advice.

Playing around with the calculator here, for Douglas Fir, it seems like the minimum beams for the main span might need to be doubled 2x10's. You're pretty close to that, but I do not think it's overbuilt for what you want to do.

Are the 4x4 columns pressure-treated? If not, they're subject to rot especially at the base and your deck could collapse, which could be catastrophic if people are on it or under it.

EDIT 2: As @fungku mentioned in his answer, it's super important to confirm that you have a solid ledger connection to the house. I've seen decks where the ledger was just nailed to the house (presumable some of the nails hit studs) where the deck was literally pulling away and falling off the house. This really requires lag screws at the very least, preferably lag bolts running clear through with washers and nuts on the back side, and/or joist hangers designed for decks (lateral load hangers).

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  • haha, thx for the info Craig. I measured and the joists and they are 3 1/2" x 9" in size and the distance between the joists are 2' 4". I'm not sure what type of wood it is as it is painted and I intend to seal it again. The roof slopes down and is supported by three 4x4s at the end. Here are some pics: First Second Third – coreyg Apr 11 '15 at 23:57
  • Yeah, that looks pretty sturdy. ;-) – Craig Apr 12 '15 at 5:25
  • As far as next steps, it has rolled roofing on it currently, so I know I have to remove that. Any other recommendations as far as prepping it to be a deck? It seems like it can handle a good amount of load. Looking to support a max of 10-15 people. – coreyg Apr 12 '15 at 15:53
  • Thanks for the additional details Craig. That is exactly the direction I needed. – coreyg Apr 13 '15 at 5:22
  • I hope it turns out well (and safe). Good luck! – Craig Apr 13 '15 at 5:52
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Would I use a contractor?

Yes.

Would roofers be able to weigh in on it?

Not really, you want a surface people will be walking on. You'll want someone with specific carpentry knowledge. A general contractor, a framing contractor, or better yet a deck-building contractor would be better.

My advice based on your photos in the comments:

The beam looks fine, but your joist spacing is likely way too much for a normal deck, even with the T&G planks you have on there now.

With 2x decking you can sometimes get away with 24" spacing, but 2'4" is really pushing the envelope there. I typically use 5/4x6 decking and space joists 16" on centre. Or, if running the decking at an angle or using composite, then I go with 12" on centre.

If it were my deck I would at the very least add joists in between the ones you have now and add blocking or bridging mid span.

Also, most importantly, verify the connection to the house at the ledger. That is where most decks fail and then people get injured (or killed).

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  • Thanks for the feedback. I'd vote up your response, but need more reputation in order to do that. – coreyg Apr 17 '15 at 22:22
  • Upvote, particularly for pointing out how important it is to double-check the connection to the house and beef it up if necessary. – Craig Apr 27 '15 at 21:57

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