Why so few Chicago roof decks?

In the past four weeks I’ve spent a lot of time above Chicago, in the air and on high-rise and mid-rise roof decks.

From those vantage points I’ve seen a lot of private roof decks as well as shared ones on apartment buildings, and I’ve been led to wonder why there aren’t far more roof decks in the parts of Chicago where yard space and private balconies are virtually non-existent.

Chicago home buyers and renters, in theory, place a high value on private outdoor space. In practice, they pay to build few roof decks.


  • Ryan 6 years

    The bigger tragedy is the lack of outdoor hottubs in the winter.

  • Ryan,

    I can’t think of any. Do you know any buildings with year-round outdoor hot tubs?

    • Barb 5 years

      There is a building on Addison east of Racine that has a hot tub on the roof. It was featured on cribchatter.com

  • Ron 6 years

    Joe, The inability to meet egress requirements is the biggest reason.

  • Buster 6 years

    The inability to afford one is a key reason on my building.

  • Roof decks may also affect common insurance and warranties at a building in addition to the the obstacles of a “legal” deck as mentioned above. They may sometimes make it difficult to maintain roofs and are certainly a luxury if you have a few extra bucks as an individual or association to deal with the construction and issues that spring up.

  • SheridanB 6 years

    First of all, Chicago has more outdoor space than NYC (i.e. two-flats and bungalows have nice enough yards) for instance, but more importantly, the city is very stringent on roof decks, typically requiring two means of egress in many situations (not every, but many), which is the real reason for few.

  • I see a lot of roof decks that don’t comply with the egress requirements.