For a long time I wished somebody would invent a cure for the ugly lean-to contraption commonly known as a patio cover. I never imagined it would be me.

Like most people, I had a love/hate relationship with patio covers. I loved the idea of protecting a deck or patio from sun, rain, and wind. But in practice, most patio covers created more problems than they solved. Homeowners lived with the disappointment of leaks, debris accumulation, eventual dry rot, and a dark, stuffy outdoor space.

In my remodeling business I was reluctant to build patio covers because I knew clients would not be happy in the long run. But doing business in rainy Oregon spawns a lot of requests for a protected outdoor entertaining area. It’s easy with an unlimited budget, but most clients wanted an affordable solution. I hated to say “no” patio cover projects, but I couldn’t bring myself to say “yes”.

For a long time I kicked around several different patio cover design solutions. I finally realized that major issues could be resolved by elevating the house-side of the structure. It would provide steeper pitch, encouraging rainwater and debris to slide off. An opening between the cover and house roof would provide ventilation and increased natural light. The design would also allow taller perimeter posts to greatly improve sight lines. No longer would a patio cover feel low-set and it wouldn’t block light and view inside the home!

Doug Lethin, Remodeler

The opportunity to test my idea came when I was asked to solve a client’s back yard drainage problem. Her existing patio cover was attached to the fascia. The gutter system was truncated and rainwater ran unabated toward the foundation. During heaving downpours, additional run-off from adjacent properties turned her back yard into an absolute bog.

As I pondered how to divert water away from the house, I decided to propose something completely outside the box. I told the homeowner we could reuse and rebuild the existing cover only this time, the cover would “float” over the house roof. I sketched a diagram showing my elevated patio cover design. Once she saw it, she instantly understood and agreed to proceed.

The installation turned out to be pretty simple. First, the roof riser brackets were bolted to an exterior wall top plate. Second, standard roof jack flashings were slipped over the 24″ riser then overlaid with roofing to create a leak-tight fit. Finally, the saddles were bolted to the risers, and a cross beam seated in the saddles. The existing cover was disassembled and rebuilt onto the posts and framing beam. Finally, the gutter system was restored to its original working order.

The transformation was dramatic. Not only did the raised roof help solve the water problem, but it also allowed light and air to stream into the patio area. My client loves how the higher roof makes the covered area feel larger and less hemmed in. She says it now feels like there’s no roof at all over the patio even though the weather protection remains intact. She’s also tickled every time friends come around the side of her house and see the patio cover for the first time. They always stop, look up and say, “Wow!!”

After this, I knew the design would be a hit. I began crafting the hardware and tested several prototypes. Soon the SkyLift roof riser hardware was born.

When we began regularly using SkyLift brackets, we garnered unexpected feedback from other construction trades. Roofers commented how the SkyLift would alleviate their patio cover woes. For them, it's a big challenge to re-roof a house when a patio cover is fastened to fascia. The transition from house roof to patio cover can create major re-roofing headaches. And they don't even want to think about the problems when a patio cover sits directly on top of the roof. But because SkyLift is flashed with a standard roof jack cover, re-roofing around the SkyLift is a breeze.

Gutter installers were happy to know that their systems would not be jerry-rigged to accommodate our patio covers. They install gutters to function as an integrated system. It's not possible to blithely cut away a portion of the system and still expect it to work optimally. I can only imagine the calls they must get after a fascia-fastened patio cover is installed.

The best reaction to date has been from a fellow patio cover installer. When I showed him the SkyLift roof riser hardware, his immediate comment was “We've been building patio covers all wrong! This is the way to do it.” They have already placed a large order for SkyLift bracket hardware.

As gratifying as this feedback is, it seems there’s always more problems to solve.

Recently I visited some clients interested in a kitchen remodel. While there, they asked if I’d also take a look at their patio cover. The structure leaked every time it rained and they could tell dry rot was developing. As I surveyed the damage, I had a clear view of the neighboring back yards. I counted six other homes with the same style of lean-to patio cover. Some were attached to the exterior wall and some were precariously fastened to the fascia. My heart went out to all these people because I knew, sooner or later, they would all be experiencing the same kind of problems.

It was then I got the idea of retrofitting existing patio covers. Why couldn't we detach the cover, slide it up and attach to new SkyLift hardware and beam support? The next time I visited a home with a low-slung patio cover I got out my sketch pad and described the process to the homeowners. I was pretty sure it would work. They were enthusiastic. So we marshaled our crew to set the hardware, install the upper beam, move the perimeter posts, then slide the existing patio cover up to rest on the upper beam. Piece of cake. Once everything was secured, the homeowners stepped out to a patio transformed.

Every time I explain to someone how the SkyLift roof riser hardware works, they say something like, “Wow, that’s so simple! Why didn’t I think of that?” Yes, the SkyLift roof riser hardware is simple. It’s simple to install and simple to incorporate into all kinds of patio cover designs. And the best part? It finally allows craftsmen to be proud of building a patio cover.

Doug Lethin literally grew up in the building industry. His father launched C&R Remodeling in 1961 in Salem, Oregon, and Doug was born right around the same time. Lethin took over the business in 1989 and invented the SKYLIFT roof riser hardware in 2010.