Some types of roofing, for example thatch, require a steep pitch in order to be waterproof and durable. Other types of roofing, for example pantiles, are unstable on a steeply pitched roof but provide excellent weather protection at a relatively low angle. In regions where there is little rain, an almost flat roof with a slight run-off provides adequate protection against an occasional downpour. Drainpipes also remove the need for a sloping roof.
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.
With continual improvements in steel girders, these became the major structural support for large roofs, and eventually for ordinary houses as well. Another form of girder is the reinforced concrete beam, in which metal rods are encased in concrete, giving it greater strength under tension.
Asphalt shingles is the most used roofing material in North America, making up as much as 75% of all steep slope roofs. This type of material is also gaining popularity in Europe due to lower installation costs. Asphalt shingles dominate North American residential roofing market, because they are about half the price of other materials.
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