What kind of roof is over your head? Part one: Material matters

Chris Edgar from the Master Builder’s association of South Australia recently spoke to ABC radio Adelaide to discuss the various advantages and disadvantages of different roofing styles and materials … and it turns out there is a lot to consider!

So much in fact, that we have decided to dedicate two blog posts to the topic. This first post will take a look at some of the different types of roofing material available, their associated pro's and cons; and toxic materials that could be hiding in your roof. 

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Sure, it might seem like a fairly inconsequential decision, but the reality is the material making up the roof over your head can have a surprisingly large, and sometimes unexpected, impact on your home.

Some of the available roofing solutions include:

  • Shingles, which are thin pieces of wood, slate, concrete or fibre cement.

  • Thatched roofing made up of dried plant material. Although seldom used in modern housing, thatched roofs remain a popular choice for outdoor structures like pergolas.

  • Flat form concrete, which is treated with an additive to make it waterproof.

  • Tiles, usually made of terracotta or concrete.

  • Tin sheeting, this usually refers to corrugated iron or steel roofing.

In Australia only two of these options have actually seen widespread use and popularity: tiles and tin. As Chris Edgar pointed out in the previously mentioned interview, each of these two options has their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.

Tiles vs. Tin: Which roof reigns supreme?

Tiles vs. Tin: Which roof reigns supreme?

Tin is lightweight and highly versatile, making it the ideal choice if you want to build a curved or irregular shaped roof. However, it does lack the lifespan and visual appeal of tiles. 

Tiles, on the other hand, can last as long as 50 years and look stunning, particularly terracotta tiles. Tiles also win out when it comes to heat regulation -  they absorb heat during the day and gradually release it during the night. 

That said, tiles are not without their drawbacks. They are exceedingly heavy and need to be placed on a pitch angled between 18 and 22 degrees, unlike tin roofing which can be placed at a variety of angles. Concrete tiles can also loose their colour over time as usually only the surface of the tile is painted. 

If you are purchasing a home with the intention of knocking it down to rebuild later, there is yet another factor to consider, namely disposal of the roofing materials.

Due to its light weight, tin can be left on the structure during demolition, requiring minimal labour. Unlike tin, tiles must be removed before the demolition of the structure can take place. Tiles can be recycled, however removing them in tact is tedious and time consuming.

If your house has fibro cement shingles on the roof there is a chance that they could contain asbestos. Asbestos fibre shingles are often mistaken for slate, and like other asbestos products they need to be carefully removed by trained professionals. Unfortunately this is where things get a bit complicated; in addition to the price of hiring professionals to carefully remove the shingles you also have to pay for the cost of asbestos disposal -  roughly 30 cents a kilo.

Although they might look like slate, these shingles are actually made out of asbestos fibre and cement.

Although they might look like slate, these shingles are actually made out of asbestos fibre and cement.

Asbestos isn’t the only hazard that a roof can hide; toxic lead dust can gather in the roof cavity and must be removed before demolition can take place. This is where tiles are advantageous, as a few tiles can easily be removed in order to create a gap to syphon the lead dust out of. 

Well, there you have it, a quick into the world of roofing materials. Join us for the next instalment, when we take a look at different types of roof styles.



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