Along with the bricks and windows, the roof is one of the most defining elements of any house, so it’s important to be open-minded when selecting the best roofing material. The choice of material will doubtless be influenced by the design of the property, its age, the local climate and – perhaps most significantly – the available budget. In terms of expenditure, it’s recommended that around 10% of any new-build budget be allocated to the roof, with an additional 5% being set aside for the covering materials, but those percentages are not set in stone. There’s no doubt, however, that the most appropriate roofing solution will also be dictated by the level of rainfall and sunshine, the surrounding environment and the size of the building.
An older house will clearly require a style of roof that is sympathetic to its vintage, while a modern new-build may offer opportunities for a more adventurous design. From a technical perspective, the type of roof may well be determined by the pitch of the roof and the quality of the framing that currently exists. In other words, it’s important to marry the aesthetics with the reality of the structure and to ensure above all that the resulting roof will not only be safe but also keep the occupants warm and dry for years to come.
One of the most common roofing materials is slate, which needs a pitch of 30 degrees and has to be laid on battens to overlap in order to achieve a watertight finish. It also needs to be finished with clay or metal at the ridges. A natural product, Welsh slate is the optimum as it looks fabulous, ages gracefully and is incredibly hard wearing, unlike modern manufactured alternatives. Slate roofing is available in a variety of finishes and colours but will come in at the upper end of a roofing budget.
Increasing in popularity for modern structures, concrete roofing can be formed to any shape at a lower pitch than slate and is, in general, more cost-effective. Each tile is made from a composite of cement, sand and pigments, and when combined will form a lightweight, watertight roof. Extremely low maintenance, concrete tiles are very versatile and require a minimal amount of maintenance throughout their life.
Historically, clay has been a popular roofing material due to its flexibility and longevity. It can be used for intricate shapes and also requires very little maintenance despite having high resistance to wind, frost and fire. Interestingly, clay also reflects, with the result that the property is less subject to fluctuations in internal temperature, and does not expand or contract with the seasons. Clay is, however, relatively heavy, so it is wise to double-check that the existing roof structure can support the weight of clay tiles before starting work.
It might not be the first material that springs to mind, but metal is proving increasingly popular for roofing due to its strong environmental credentials. Formed of up to 95% recycled material, metal roofs are fully recyclable when they become surplus to requirements, and they also offer a lightweight, fire-resistant and energy-efficient solution for both domestic and commercial properties. Metal roofs are very quick to install, and lead, in particular, is capable of lasting anything up to three times longer than alternative roofing materials. On the downside, metal roofs can be noisier during heavy rain or hailstorms, although the impact can be reduced with noise-cancelling insulation. Depending on the exact material used, metal roofs can also be prone to denting in extreme weather conditions.
As architectural design continues to lean more towards the contemporary, the once-maligned flat roof is making a comeback. Recently more the preserve of commercial properties, a flat roof is becoming the default solution for domestic new builds, home renovations and extensions. In the past, the flat roof has featured asphalt or tar, which was applied over roof decking, but technology has improved to such an extent that fibreglass is now commonplace. A flat roof has benefits both inside and out as it can offer more flexibility with the use of height and space internally while also creating a terrace area for barbecues and socialising. And finally, flat roofs are welcomed by environmentalists as they provide the perfect setting for green roofs, either featuring a setting for wild flora and fauna, or space for rooftop vegetable gardens.
Kelley Malcher of Surrey builders, Refresh Renovations, believes that when it comes to building projects we all tend to take the roof for granted but that in reality, it’s worth looking up and giving more thought to what’s going to be above our heads. ‘At Refresh we like to encourage our clients to think carefully about the range of roofing options available to them,’ says Kelley. ‘In our experience clients will tend to opt for the standard tiles unless we talk through all the alternatives with them. There’s obviously a balance to be struck between the aesthetics, the practicalities and the budget available, but we always urge our clients to consider the full range of different materials before specifying the roof. It goes without saying that some materials will be more appropriate for their project than others, but it’s definitely worth thinking outside the box when it comes to something as important as the roof.’
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Surrey builders Refresh Renovations offer design and build services. To discuss your new-build, home extension or renovation project roofing options, please get in touch today using the enquiry form listed alongside, or if you would like to submit a more comprehensive enquiry, you can do so on the Get In Touch page.
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