In the process of building homes and other structures, one of the most important features is the roof. The roof provides the building with interior protection from the elements by way of a weatherproof outer shell. This protection is important, so roof construction is one of the first things to be handled after the basic framing of the building's exterior and load-bearing walls is in place on most construction sites. There are many different methods of roof construction that vary according to local conditions, product availability and local customs.
The biggest component of roof construction is achieving a suitable design. The design of roof includes three main elements: the roofing materials used, the construction process and the overall durability and cost-effectiveness of the roof for the application. These three factors are the deciding elements for the appropriateness of a particular roof for a given application.
When planning the materials to use for roof construction, the local weather conditions must be kept in mind. The traditional thatch roofing materials of a tropical island hut would not be a suitable form of roofing material in the extreme cold and snow of a northern winter. By the same logic, a heavily insulated, asphalt roof might make life in that same island hut unbearable as it collects the heat from the noonday sun.
Local conditions also play a part in deciding the construction of the roof. In some areas of the world, steeply pitched roofs facilitate the rapid shedding of water and snow. This peaked roof construction makes it possible for homes and other building to shed the heavy blankets of snow that could cause damage. In other areas, a broad, low-peaked roof construction is more common. This design protects the building's interior from rain but is able to withstand the savage gale-strength wind with less damage than a peaked roof.
Finally, the durability, aesthetics and cost of a particular type of roof construction must be considered in the design process. Although the stone or clay-tiled roofs of Mexico might be beautiful to look at, the freezing and thawing action of a northern climate could quickly leave this type of roof construction in shambles. Similarly, the comparatively low cost of metal roofing has led many builders to abandon the costly but beautiful shake shingled roof for the less expensive and more durable metal roof.