A roof is the covering on the uppermost part of a building. A roof protects the building and its contents from the effects of weather. Structures that require roofs range from a letter box to a cathedral or stadium, dwellings being the most numerous.

In most countries a roof protects primarily against rain. Depending upon the nature of the building, the roof may also protect against heat, sunlight, cold, snow and wind. Other types of structure, for example, a garden conservatory, might use roofing that protects against cold, wind and rain but admits light. A verandah may be roofed with material that protects against sunlight but admits the other elements.

The characteristics of a roof are dependent upon the purpose of the building that it covers, the available roofing materials and the local traditions of construction and wider concepts of architectural design and practice and may also be governed by local or national legislation.

Maintaining Your Roof

Recommended maintenance for your roof includes cleaning the leaves and debris from the roof's gutters, valleys and eaves, as debris in the valleys can cause water to wick under the shingles and cause damage to the interior of the roof. Clogged rain gutters can cause water to flow back under the shingles on the eaves and cause damage. In colder climates, clogged gutters can cause ice dams to form, obstructing snowmelt from freely flowing from your roof.

It is important to inspect your roof periodically for damage, and to remediate leaks, lost shingles and other signs of wear or damage in order to keep your roof in top condition and to maximize its life span.

In the case of leaking roofs, it's best to take care of any water infiltration right away, since water damage can be permanent and can be a source of mold growth in your attic or ceiling.

There are do-it-yourself products out there including caulking, tars and waterproof sealants that will let you fix your own issues, and it's also a good idea to keep an extra package of matching asphalt shingles on hand in case you need to replace individual shingles after a storm or high winds.

To keep your roof looking nice, trim back overhang branches and brush the leaves off the roof sproadically, to prevent them from rotting and discoloring the roof. If time or safety is a concern, a roofing contractor or general handyman can help you with simple maintenance tasks like this. It is much less expensive to pay someone to do simple maintenance to your roof than allowing it to fall into disrepair which can cause you to have to replace it before its time.

Roof Shapes and Materials

While the shape of roofs differs greatly from region to region, the two main types are flat and sloped (pitched). Main factors which influence the shape of roofs are the climate and the materials available for roof structure and the outer covering.

Roofs vary from almost flat to steeply pitched. They can be arched or dome. They can be a single flat sheet or a complex arrangement of slopes, gables and hips.

Many residential roofs are covered with shingles, although metal roofs are gaining in popularity, since they last longer and require less maintenance than traditional shingle roofs. While conventional asphalt shingle roofs that average 12 to 17 years of service, professionally installed metal roofs can last well over 50 years. Metal roofs come in a variety of colors and are available in tin, copper, zinc, aluminum and steel.

Types of Roofs—How They Can Be Made Cool

There are many types of roof systems available, but the surface exposed to the sun is the one that determines if a roof is cool or not. You can usually make a new or existing roof cool by selecting the appropriate surface.

Low Sloped Roofs

Steep Sloped Roofs

Low and Steep Sloped Roofs

The National Roofing Contractors Association has more information about these and other roof systems.

Replacing Your Roof

Roofs can last for many years if properly installed, and are often repaired rather than replaced. The average life expectancy of a typical residential roof is 15 to 20 years. Water damage to a home's interior or overhangs is commonly caused by leaks from a single weathered portion of the roof, poorly installed flashing, or from leaks that form around chimneys and skylights. These problems can be remedied and do not necessarily mean you need a new roof.

Fire-Resistant Materials

Some roofing materials, including asphalt shingles and especially wood shakes, are less resistant to fire than others. When wildfires and brush fires spread to homes or businesses, it is often because burning branches, leaves, and other debris buoyed by the heated air and carried by the wind fall on roofs. If the roof of your property is covered with wood or asphalt shingles, you should consider replacing them with fire-resistant materials. As shown in the figure, you can replace your existing roofing materials with slate, terra cotta (clay) or other types of tile, or standing-seam metal roofing.

Replacing roofing materials is difficult and dangerous work. Unless you are skilled in roofing and have all the necessary tools and equipment, you will probably want to hire a roofing contractor to do the work. Also a roofing contractor can advise you on the relative advantages and disadvantages of various fire-resistant roofing materials.

Keep these points in mind if you plan to have your existing roofing materials replaced:


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