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Roofs: Design, Function and Maintenance

Case-in-point: A dramatic roofline can make a bold statement.

Your roof is critical to basic house performance. It gives your house identity, shelters you from the weather, withstands sun, wind, rain, sleet, hail, and snow, and works 24 hours a day to protect the rest of your home from the relentless forces of nature.

A Look at Roof Design
Good roof design is as much art as science. A roof has to seem a natural part of the building, one that helps the building relate visually to its environment. Consequently, the best roof designs spring from the shape of the house and mesh with the overall style of the building. That is why certain roof shapes and roof coverings are associated with particular historical periods and designs, and even the most creative modern architecture selects a roof to harmonize with the overall structure. When modifying a house or adding on, it’s important to be sensitive to the way the new roof fits into the existing design.

Function
Roof design must also work on a practical level: The structure needs to anticipate and support expected loads, the water-shedding details have to work, and the covering must suit the slope and climate. Roof coverings, like roof shapes, serve double duty because their appearance and their function are intertwined. Slate, tile, metal roofing, wood shakes, and asphalt shingles are all associated with certain periods and styles of home. The color and texture of the roof, its patterns of tone and shadow, lend character and personality to the home. On a practical level, some roof coverings are better suited to various slopes and weather conditions than others, and some may be more cost effective in terms of installation and service life.

Maintenance

Build a Strong Roof

How you put the roof together is just as important as the materials you use. When framing and sheathing the roof, for example, how many nails you use and where you put them may determine how well your roof stays in place. Fasten your roof incorrectly and it may blow away in a high wind or collapse under a heavy snow load. The same applies to the roof covering itself. Whether you install asphalt shingles, wood shakes, slate, tile, or a low-slope membrane roof, the fastening details can make the difference between success and failure. Roofing details such as underlayment, flashing, and edge detailing must all be accomplished with care for your roof job to succeed. You must also be aware of underlying structure. Heavy materials like slate and tile need a beefier frame under them than lighter products such as asphalt shingles or sheet metal; so, be sure to have the supporting structure evaluated before reroofing.

Even with a perfect installation, no roof lasts forever. Wind, sun, rain, and hail will take their toll, and sooner or later your roof will have to be replaced. You can postpone that day of reckoning for many years by taking good care of your roof. Pay attention to roof modifications: Any change, patch, or alteration, be it for vent pipe, skylights, satellite dishes, or repair, requires attention to detail. Waterproofing new joints, matching the look of the existing roof, and using proper detailing are all critical to the success and life expectancy of your roof. Inspect the roof routinely, clean it periodically as needed, and make minor repairs in a timely way, and you can greatly extend the roof’s lifespan. Most roof coverings allow you to replace single tiles or pieces of flashing. In the long run, doing these occasional small repairs will cost less than waiting for extensive failure and subsequent roof replacement.

Credit: Renovate Your World