In the 19th century, iron, electroplated with zinc to improve its resistance to rust, became a light-weight, easily transported, waterproofing material. Its low cost and easy application made it the most accessible commercial roofing, worldwide. Since then, many types of metal roofing have been developed. Steel shingle or standing-seam roofs last about 50 years or more depending on both the method of installation and the moisture barrier (underlayment) used and are between the cost of shingle roofs and slate roofs. In the 20th century a large number of roofing materials were developed, including roofs based on bitumen (already used in previous centuries), on rubber and on a range of synthetics such as thermoplastic and on fibreglass.
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.
Ventilation of the roof deck speeds the evaporation of water from leakage or condensation and removes heat which helps prevent ice dams and helps asphalt shingles last longer. Building codes in the U.S. specify ventilation rates as a minimum of 1 sq. ft. of opening per 150 sq. ft. (1:150) with a ratio of 1:300 in some conditions. Warm air rises so ceiling insulation is designed to have a higher r-value and the insulation is often installed between the ceiling joists or rafters. A properly insulated and ventilated roof is called a cold roof. A warm roof is a roof that is not ventilated, where the insulation is placed in line with the roof pitch. A hot roof is a roof designed not to have any ventilation and has enough air-impermeable insulation in contact with the sheathing to prevent condensation such as when spray foam insulation is applied directly to the under-side or top-side of the roof deck or in some cathedral ceilings.
In the southern US and Mexico, clay tile roofs are also very popular, due to their longevity, and ability to withstand hurricane winds with minimal or no damage.
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