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.
Roof framing must be designed to hold up a structural load including what is called dead load, its own weight and the weight of the roof covering, and additional loading called the environmental load such as snow and wind. Flat roofs may also need to be designed for live loads if people can walk on them. In the United States, building codes specify the loads in pounds per square foot which vary by region. The load and span (distance between supports) defines the size and spacing of the rafters and trusses.
Condensation within the roof space is much more of a problem today due to: much less fortuitous ventilation due to tighter building envelopes with high performance windows and door and no chimneys leading. This tighter envelope means the air temperature in buildings has risen, the warmer the air in the building is, the more water vapour the air can carry.
In the UK, a concrete tiled roof would normally have rafters at 600mm centers, roof battens at 300mm centers and ceiling joists at 400mm centers. The United States still uses imperial units of measurement and framing members are typically spaced sixteen or twenty-four inches apart.