Roof design ideas, inspiration & pictures

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Roof styles and types

Roofs are one of the oldest structures which exist. For thousands of years humankind has been using them as a primary shelter from sun and rain alike. Modern roofing is an art form in some ways, with tiling and roofing becoming a very skilled profession. 

Due to the fact that roofs have been around since the first houses, there are hundreds of styles and different reasons that they exists. For instance, the heavy slopes on roofs in the North of Europe exists so that snowfall doesn’t collect on the top of a building and cause collapse. In America today there are as many styles of roof as there are styles of house, but some stand out as being the most common.

Gable Roofs are the most common type used in houses which are a single square or rectangle. They have the standard slope, and are either joined at the top but a single gable topper, or have a long gable topped line which joins them in the case of a more rectangular house.

Hip Roofs are built in the same way as gable. The difference is that they are able to be made over irregular shaped houses with multiple squares or rectangles forming their bases, most commonly on the short T shapes found on colonial style houses. They are joined by “hip joints” that give them their name.

Gambrel Roof is a common type used in barns and other large buildings in the farming states like as Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska. You can recognise these roofs as they are usually made with 2 grades of slope, the higher being only semi-steep, and the lower grade very steep. These are always equal on either side. 

Flat Roofs are exactly as their name suggests. They are very common on mediterranean style houses, and can also be found on some spanish style houses as well. There is a trend in America which has people creating extra spaces on these roofs, with good view space and plenty of natural light. 

Sawtooth Roofs are commonly used in factory building, and can be found in places like the older dockyards in New York and other major East Coast harbors. These roofs are commonly made from corrugated iron or (in the case of some very old buildings) asbestos, though these are less common due to the health risks involved. 

There are others, including Butterfly, Skillion(or shed roof), Dutch Gable, Round roof, Northeastern Saltbox etc., but these are far lass common.

What roofing materials are available?

Roofs are made of a great many things, but again there are many common materials which stand out as being the best either because of their hard wearing, weather durability or availability. 

Asphalt shingles are by far America's favorite roofing material. This comes down to a few factors. Firstly, they are very weather resistant, being able to hold up to cold weather and heat very well, making them a standard in most Northern states. They are also extremely easy to cut and work with, making them able to fit any of the styles we have mentioned. Lastly, they can be painted, and are available in a range of different colors, which adds to their popularity. 

Cedar shakes and shingles are a common Colarado building technique (due to the availability of the wood in the area). They are wood shingles which are applied in layers, and create a beautiful rustic and natural feel. They are hard wearing, and are very well suited to Georgian style homes.

Metal shingles were traditionally used on gambrel roof barns, but have over time become more popular in modern homes as well, due to the longevity of the material. They are also becoming more commonly used in areas which experience high rates of snowfall during winter months because of their strength. 

Ceramic roofing tiles are very commonly found on mediterranean and spanish styled houses due to their much older style look. First documented as common use in ancient Greece, they have become a mainstay of many American homes because they deflect sunlight. This makes them invaluable energy savers in Southern Homes. 

Slate Roofs were brought out of the middle ages from buildings erected by the richest of the time, especially in Wales and England where their dark green and grey black colour added a wonderful aesthetic to large homes and mansions. This is the most expensive material to build your roof from, and is most often applied on the most expensive homes in America. It is very strong, extremely heavy, and can last for centuries.

How do I properly take care of my roof?

Taking proper care of a roof is no easy task, requiring you to climb up onto the roof to get at hard to reach places. This is why we suggest you talk to a professional about keeping your roof clean and in good working condition.  Common problems with roofs include shifting tiles or shingles, moss buildup, and leaking. 

Moss is probably the least problematic issue to solve because it requires no more than a high pressure hose to remove. You’ll want to remove it because it does discolor your tiles or shingles, and in the case of wooden roofs it can hold moisture which does permanent damage. Climb up on a ladder, and carefully hose the affected area down from above where the moss is growing. This will prevent you from lifting any tiles or shingles. Be careful not to slip on the area afterwards. It’s best to do this in the earlier part of the day during summer months, to give the roof time to dry in warmer air and sunlight.

Shifting tiles are easy enough to move, but remember that the way a roof is built is that the layer above and the layer below form a structure similar to a kind of fish scale, with overlapping areas. If you have metal shingles, be careful not to bend these, especially while hammering in roofing nails. Also be aware that if you have tiles or slate that the tile itself may be broken or cracked and in need of replacing, so be sure to get extra of these when you’re roof is completed in case of this. 

Leaks are more of a challenge to fix, and can take some time to find. Firstly, go into the attic and search above the area where you see the leak coming through. Often there is one single tile out of place, bot sometimes the problem can be multiple shifted or broken parts. Look for an area in the roof which is letting in more light than the rest, this is usually the first hint. Take a thin dowel stick with a white painted end, and poke that through the hole. This will allow you to climb up onto the roof and reseat or replace the broken or out of place tile. If you cannot see the problem immediately, apply water to the roof, and with a good torch, follow the trail it leaves inside the roof. This will lead you to the problem area. 

If you’re looking to replace your roof or do any serious work on it, we suggest finding a professional in your area who can best assist you, both in the process of roofing and also in making sure you keep to the style of your home.