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.
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.
The characteristics of a roof are dependent upon the purpose of the building that it covers, the available roofing materials and the local traditions of construction and wider concepts of architectural design and practice and may also be governed by local or national legislation. In most countries a roof protects primarily against rain. A verandah may be roofed with material that protects against sunlight but admits the other elements. The roof of a garden conservatory protects plants from cold, wind, and rain, but admits light.
Most building materials are permeable to water vapour; brick, concrete, plaster, wood and insulation all can fall victim to interstitial condensation, this is why UK Building Regulations require roofs to be ventilated, either by the use of soffit vents, ridge vents, or replacement ventilation slates or tiles.