The durability of a roof is a matter of concern because the roof is often the least accessible part of a building for purposes of repair and renewal, while its damage or destruction can have serious effects.
The supporting structure of a roof usually comprises beams that are long and of strong, fairly rigid material such as timber, and since the mid-19th century, cast iron or steel. In countries that use bamboo extensively, the flexibility of the material causes a distinctive curving line to the roof, characteristic of Oriental architecture.
A more recent design is the installation of a roof deck with foil-backed foam along with a second deck that is air-gapped away from the foil-backed foam to allow air to flow vertically to a ventilation outlet at the peak of the roof—it is a double deck design with an air gap. This design improves efficiency.
A simple rafter roof consists of rafters that the rafter foot rest on horizontal wall plates on top of each wall.The top ends of the rafters often meet at a ridge beam, but may butt directly to another rafter to form a pair of rafters called a couple. Depending on the roof covering material, either horizontal laths, battens, or purlins are fixed to the rafters; or boards, plywood, or oriented strand board form the roof deck (also called the sheeting or sheathing) to support the roof covering. Heavier under purlins or purlin plates are used to support longer rafter spans. Tie beams, which may also serve as ceiling joists, are typically connected between the lower ends of opposite rafters to prevent them from spreading and forcing the walls apart. Collar beams or collar ties may be fixed higher up between opposite rafters for extra strength. The rafters, tie beams and plates serve to transmit the weight of the roof to the walls of the building.
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