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An Overview of Roofing
hroughout history, mankind’s need for shelter was second only to the need for food. Prehistoric man took shelter under a roof of stone, arguably the best protection from the elements. Unfortunately, caves were not available everywhere, so early man looked for a substitute roof. And one of the earliest and still most important principles of roofing was discovered—lapping. When the length of any covering for a building, including the walls, is too short to protect the entire run of a wall or roof, it must be installed in rows, or courses, and each course, beginning at the top, must lap over the next course below. As simple and obvious as this sounds, it is very important for draining water off of a built struture. In many parts of the world, abundant natural fibers, such as grass, sticks, heather, and straw, were woven into effective shields against the weather. Thatched, pitched roofs, which are still common in parts of Africa, Asia, South America, and Polynesia, proved to be remarkably efficient. Raindrops travel along each reed several inches and then, before they can penetrate the bundle, are conveyed to the roof eave by lapping the courses. From the eave, the raindrops fall harmlessly to the ground. America’s first settlers from Europe continued to use thatched roofs in this country, particularly in the East. As the settlers pushed westward,



Inc. at their feet. Manufacturers voluntarily submit materials for testing. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is a voluntary organization concerned with the development of consensus standards. let’s consider the three factors that architects. The materials then are classified and labeled according to the classes below. builders. made of sod. . designers. slate. Class B. and property owners must address before they choose a roof. even worse. not-for-profit public safety testing laboratory. Class A. UL established the standard for the testing of roofing materials with the assistance of nationally recognized fire authorities. testing procedures. Before we take a look at roof classifications and materials. and cement panels and tiles are used mainly for residential projects. This class rating indicates that the roofing material is able to withstand severe exposure to fire that originates from sources outside the building. literally.2 CHAPTER ONE however. Kansas bricks. Built-up roofing (BUR) and single-ply membrane roofs are typically used on commercial structures. clay and ceramic tile. Time marched on and so did the search for the perfect roof. wooden shingles and shakes. an independent. the available hay was needed for animal fodder and other purposes. The fire resistance of roofing materials is tested by the Underwriters’ Laboratories. The sod bricks were heavy and difficult to manage. Settlers searching for an alternative roofing material found it. Fire Safety and Protection Fire safety is a particularly important consideration. Today there are many fine roof coverings available. they often leaked during heavy rainstorms. since the roof is vulnerable to fire from overhead or airborne sources. metal. Asphalt shingles and roll roofing. and. and specifications. The highest fire-resistance rating for roofing as per ASTM E-108. soon became the roofing standard. This fire-resistance rating indicates that the roofing material is able to withstand moderate exposure to fire that originates from sources outside the building. (UL).

roof coverings have a life expectancy. most of today’s asphalt shingles are designed to provide satisfactory service for 15 to 25 years. 9). offer natural fire protection. that a more expensive . Generally. such as wooden shingles. This fire-resistance rating indicates that the roofing material is able to withstand light exposure to fire that originates from sources outside the building. You might find. To qualify for the UL wind-resistant label. however. Wind-resistant shingles demonstrated their effectiveness under hurricane conditions during the winds brought to Florida in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew. Some roofing materials. the longer the life expectancy.AN OVERVIEW OF ROOFING 3 Class C. the more expensive the shingle material. such as slate and clay tile. Estimating Life Expectancy In addition to fire and wind ratings. Self-sealing asphalt shingles that bear the UL wind-resistant label are manufactured with a factory-applied adhesive. Although self-sealers originally were developed specifically for high-wind areas. shingles must withstand continuous test winds of at least 60 miles per hour for two hours without a shingle tab lifting. Many communities require new roof coverings to meet at least the UL Class C standard. Readily combustible materials. Once the shingles are applied. This requirement has the backing of nationally recognized authorities such as the National Fire Protection Association and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. they are standard in most parts of the country today. which at the time was the worst hurricane ever recorded in the United States. For example. Wind Resistance UL also tests shingle performance against high winds. Manufacturers offer a guarantee or warranty for their products. Asphalt shingles are manufactured to meet the Class C standard or better. the sun activates the preapplied thermoplastic sealant and each shingle is bonded to the one below it. do not meet the UL standard unless they have been chemically treated for fire retardancy (see Chap.

in feet (Fig. For example. the pitch would be 1 ⁄ 4 and its slope would be 6 inches per 12 inches of run. Slope is defined as the degree of roof incline expressed as the ratio of the rise. insulation. and one of a number of surfacing options. Keep in mind that while the labor cost to apply the shingles varies with the product. Whether a particular roof incline is expressed in pitch or slope. If the rise of the same roof span were 6 feet. To control the application and improve the quality of low-slope roofing. to the run. 1-1). Expressed as a slope. . Roofing systems that meet these specifications normally can be expected to give satisfactory service for many years.4 CHAPTER ONE shingle is the most economical in the long run because the cost of materials and labor is amortized over a longer period of time. it is the same whether the life expectancy of the shingle is 15 or 25 years. a variety of specifications and procedures apply to the assembly of the roofing components. Estimate the probable annual cost of a new roof by adding the cost of labor and materials and then dividing the total by the shingle’s design life. Building Low-Slope Roofs Low-slope roofs can have slopes as minor as 1⁄8 inch per 12 inches. the results of area calculations are the same. if the span of a roof is 24 feet and the rise is 8 feet. in inches. The formula for determining the annual cost of use is Total cost (materials and labor) ᎏᎏᎏᎏ = annual cost of use Design life Classifying Roofs The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) classifies roofs into two major categories: low slope roofs and steep-slope roofs. These roofs employ a waterproof roofing system and are found primarily on commercial structures. These specifications and procedures are generally accepted and used throughout the United States. A low-slope roof system generally consists of a roof membrane. the same roof is said to rise 8 inches per 12 inches of horizontal run. the pitch is 8 ⁄ 24 or 1 ⁄ 3.

and surfacing. In single-ply roofing. In BUR and modified bitumen roofing (MBR). at a specific location. which can vary greatly in different parts of the country. Climatic conditions and available materials dictate regional low-slope procedures. The waterproofing agent is the most important element within the roof membrane. Lowslope roofs are essentially a custom product. see Chaps. In BUR. the waterproofing agent is bitumen. Some materials within the membrane might perform more than one function. The reinforcement element provides stability to the roof membrane. 7 and 8). reinforcement is typically provided by organic or glass-fiber . Membrane Components Low-slope membranes are composed of at least three elements: waterproofing.AN OVERVIEW OF ROOFING 5 F I G U R E 1 .1 Degrees of slope. and manufactured on the jobsite. it holds the waterproofing agent in place and provides tensile strength. They are designed for a specific building. the waterproofing agent is synthetic rubber or plastic (for more information. reinforcement.

Many commercial buildings in this country have BUR roofs. Con- . The popularity and specification of MBR membranes has increased steadily for more than two decades. and even 40-year-old BUR roofs that are still sound attests to the system’s durability and popularity.or factory-surfaced. which is fabricated into the finished sheet by the manufacturer. single-ply membranes. traffic and hail protection. (See Chap. are increasing in popularity. Asphalt tends to be more popular with most roofers than coal tar.) MODIFIED BITUMEN ROOFING (MBR) Since the first MBR membranes were manufactured in the United States in the late 1970s. Smooth-surfaced coatings. into the general categories reviewed below. and mineral granules. please refer to the referenced chapter. which are usually factory-applied.6 CHAPTER ONE roofing felts. In MBR. or that might be appropriate in several categories. which is field-applied. is by far the oldest of the modern commercial roofing methods. There are. Roofing materials continue to evolve. Aggregate. 5. hybrid systems that might not fit into a category. Some singleply membranes do not require reinforcement because the waterproofing material is inherently stable. Some single-ply membranes are self. the basic bitumen components of BUR. they have become one of the roofing industry’s fastest-growing materials. are the most common types of surfacing materials. Membrane Classifications Low-slope roof membranes can usually be grouped. however. or classified. however. 30-. They also provide other properties. BUILT-UP ROOFING (BUR) BUR. such as fire resistance. and improvements are continually being made to asphalt and coal tar pitch. the reinforcement is generally glass-fiber felt or polyester scrim. The surfacing materials protect the waterproofing and reinforcement elements from the direct effects of sunlight and weather exposure. however. and reflectivity. A brief overview of each category is provided here. Polyester and other woven fabrics are used as reinforcements for elastomeric and plastomeric. which uses asphalt or coal tar products. The large number of 20-. For specific information.

these high-tech products have proven themselves in a wide variety of climates during more than three decades of use. single-ply materials have become increasingly popular in the United States. Of the three types. The most popular is the square-butt strip shingle. Constructing Steep-Slope Roofs Steep-slope roofs have a pitch greater than 21⁄2 inches per 12 inches and are generally found in residential homes. especially in the residential reroofing . MBR systems provide a time-tested. or one tab (without cutouts). ASPHALT SHINGLES Asphalt shingles are the most commonly used material for residential roofing in the United States today. Whether imported from Europe or produced domestically. For more information. there are many different single-ply roofing products. or architectural. Aesthetic Considerations Unlike the case with low-slope roofing material. appearance is very important. when designing the steep roof.AN OVERVIEW OF ROOFING 7 tractors have found the materials easy to use and easily inspected. the square-butt strip shingle provides the most attractive roof covering. The slope of the drainage surface dictates the type of roofing material that can be used. Less popular today are the hex shingle and individual shingles which are available with interlocking or staple-down tabs. reliable roof. As a part of design. Today’s generation of dimensional. this water-shedding roof system uses the roof’s steep slope for water runoff and leakage protection. high-performance. 5 and 6. As described in Chap. SINGLE-PLY SYSTEMS Since they first appeared in the 1950s. They are made in a variety of styles. A brief overview of the most common steep-slope materials is provided here. which has an elongated shape and is available with three. 6. please refer to the referenced chapter. two. Let’s look at some of the materials used to cover steep roofs. asphalt shingles has elevated the art of roof design. See Chaps.

Chapter 7 discusses asphalt products in detail. and product diversity have . Permanence does not come cheap. tile. slate is bought by the square. depending on local availability. Thicker. wood shakes and shingles are used for a variety of architectural styles and effects. slate is long-lasting and extremely durable. Certain types of slate have a longevity of more than 175 years. dimensional shingles add a visual effect of depth and distinction to homes. laminated tabs. hemlock. and thatch. stronger. quality. Today. and high-tech gas-fired kilns have replaced the primitive method of shaping clay tiles over human thighs and then baking them either in the sun or in wood-fired beehive kilns. and cypress were used. Modern extrusion. an era in which the most common roof coverings in Europe were slate. Chapter 9 discusses the cutting of slate and its application. The abundant supply of forested land on the newly settled continent made wooden roofs prevalent in Colonial times. WOOD SHINGLES From a historical perspective. No manmade roofing material can make that claim.8 CHAPTER ONE and new construction markets. Wood shingles from trees as diverse as oak. wood shingles and shakes could be considered the most American of all roofing materials. with the addition of shadowlines and random. Like other shingles. 8. and more natural looking than typical three-tab shingles. architectural shingles can capture with uncanny accuracy the old-fashioned warmth and elegance of roofs constructed of wood shakes or shingles and slates.) SLATE ROOFS As a roofing material. (See Chap. but maintaining a slate roof and replacing the few slates that might chip or break is relatively inexpensive when compared to replacing other roofs every 20 to 25 years. CLAY TILE Their simplicity of form and shape makes traditional tapered mission tiles ideal for funneling and shedding water from pitched roofs. spruce. pine. What is more. eastern white cedar. With these advances in manufacturing. pressed-form processes. tremendous improvements in performance.

the weatherproofing capabilities of metal roofing exceed those of any other materials available. FIBER-CEMENT SHINGLES Because of manufacturing processes and the raw materials used within them. steep-roof styles vary greatly (Fig.AN OVERVIEW OF ROOFING 9 developed. the gable roof is the most common. This roof style gets its name from the gable. 10. When the roof is high-pitched and part of the integral building design. When the roof is low-pitched and serves solely as a functional water barrier. It has a high point. or ridge. METAL ROOFING The reasons for selecting metal roofing are both obvious and surprising. which is the triangular section of end wall between the rafter plate and the roof ridge. The gable roof of the saltbox house is an . 1-2). Metal roofing allows the owner or architect to make a design statement. Fiber-cement products are discussed with clay tiles in Chap. and splitting. cracking. fiber-cement products do not experience the natural decomposition that can occur with wooden roofing: curling. And because of the absence of organic fibers. The features and benefits of clay tiles are discussed in Chap. Steep-Slope Roof Styles While low-slope roofs are generally limited to flat-roof styles and are seldom found on residential structures. The roof on one side of the ridge is usually the same size and slope as the roof on the other side. The roof slopes downward from the ridge in both directions. other problems like dry rot and the attraction of termites are nonexistent. Chapter 11 discusses the types of metal roofing available and their application methods. Of the steep-roof styles. at or near the center of the house or wing that extends from one end wall to the other. the architectural possibilities of metal roofing are not attainable with any other material. 10. Most fiber-cement shingles and tiles are manufactured with an efflorescence preventative. which inhibits the unsightly leaching of salts associated with other manufactured products.

The lower edge of the roof. but the ridge does not extend from one end of the roof to the other. is at a constant height and the roof slopes downward to the eaves on all .2 (A) Typical steep-slope roof styles. or eave.10 CHAPTER ONE F I G U R E 1 . An architecture common in New England. (B) Roofing terminology. A hip roof also has a ridge. the saltbox has different slopes and slopes of different lengths. exception.

Up to 40 percent of the building is roof with the mansard roof design. the lower slope replaces the upper exterior walls of a two-story house. Just as a gambrel roof is like a gable roof with two different slopes. the roof slope becomes much steeper. The junction where two roof surfaces meet at an inside corner is called a valley. has double slopes: one pair of gentle slopes and one pair of steep slopes. like half a gable roof. A shed roof slopes in only one direction. Like a gable roof. or barn roof. In addition to typical residential applications. The shed roof has several variations. The wall between the two roofs is called a clerestory. however. but do not meet at a ridge. where two shed roofs slope toward a low point over the middle of the house. for light and ventilation. the roof drops in two distinct slopes to eaves that are the same height all the way around the structure. The roof has no ridge and the walls that support the rafters are different heights. The point where two roof surfaces meet at an outside corner is called a hip. commercial buildings. . One is the butterfly roof. called dormers. the gambrel roof slopes in both directions from a center ridge. At a point about halfway between ridge and eave. a mansard roof is like a hip roof. In another variation. In effect. and even institutions such as schools. two shed roofs slope upward from the eaves. A gambrel. From a shorter ridge. It is common to add projections through the roof.AN OVERVIEW OF ROOFING 11 sides. mansard roofs are often used for apartment complexes. and is often filled with windows to let light into the interior of the house.