What to Do With Your Rooftop When Summer Ends: How to Ensure It'll Survive the Seasons

A bit of planning and a little elbow grease leads to long-lasting outdoor décor.

In cities like Chicago that have winters that seemingly last half the year, high value is placed upon spending time outdoors during the summer months. As homeowners prepare their outdoor spaces for warmer temperatures at the start of spring, it’s important to also start planning for the end of the season.

According to Justin McCollough, general manager of The Dump in Lombard, Illinois, it’s important to consider the weather when determining budget and selecting outdoor furniture and decor. If furniture will be stored away in the colder months, homeowners can get away with a cheaper set, but if it’s going to be exposed to the elements, extra considerations need to be made.

“When it comes to outdoor furniture, you get what you pay for,” said McCollough. “Most people don’t want to spend a lot of money on outdoor furniture. At the Dump, despite our name, we sell sets between $500 and $3,000 and the average quality set costs around $1,000. If people pay less than that, the furniture can rust, bend, break, deteriorate and hold water, which leads to rot.”

McCollough adds that even the higher-end brands like Sunbrella still require upkeep and protection measures.

“Even higher end brands only provide UV protection but aren’t truly sun proof. Eventually, these products will fade and quality covers are a necessity,” he said. “Whether you spend a lot or a little on outdoor furniture, keeping them covered from the elements throughout the year is incredibly important. Your best bet is to take your cushions off and store them elsewhere.”

Jonathan Putman, director of restaurant operations at Fountainhead, Fountainhead Market, The Northman and Montrose Saloon, echoes McCollough’s sentiments in regard to covers and protection. At Fountainhead, one of Time Out Chicago’s best rooftop bars, Putman and his team put the furniture under a canvas and plastic-walled overhang to protect it during the off-season months. As part of the end-of-season preparation, he also suggests turning off any power and water entirely for the colder months.

“We’ve had to replace some of the tables over the years, so to prevent this, at the start of each season, we do a re-coat of sealant on all the tables to protect them,” said Putman. “The deck itself is made of a synthetic material designed to withstand the elements. We haven't had any issues with it yet.”

Synthetic decking has risen in popularity in recent years due to the cost and annual upkeep associated with wood decks. Keeping a synthetic deck clean can help to maintain its integrity, and to do so, Putman recommends using a power washer.

“Because we do such large volume, we power wash the deck nightly, but having a power washer handy for an outdoor space, even at home, is pretty helpful to keep it clean,” he said.

An important aspect of rooftop maintenance and upkeep that is often overlooked is securing furniture, as wind can be a factor on higher levels, particularly in colder months.

“On rooftops, in Chicago especially, furniture and decor can become kites when the wind picks up,” McCollough said. “Wind has been known to throw chairs, umbrellas and even tables around. Make sure to anchor everything down with rope, cable or weights. People often forget about umbrellas, which can turn into a giant helicopter when the wind catches them. This is not only costly, but incredibly dangerous.”

When making an investment in outdoor furniture and decking out a rooftop deck, it’s important to factor in weather conditions, storage options and annual upkeep costs to ensure that furniture and decor will last. Planning ahead, doing research and putting in the necessary work will keep your outdoor space looking great for years to come.