Building Your Dream Home:Roofing

Building Your Dream Home:Roofing

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Building Your Dream Home:Roofing

Published at April 26 2024 by JFord

You’re finally able to see some results in your home building saga from all of your efforts. You can walk through your home and start seeing where the rooms are going to be. You’ve got walls, places for doors, spots for windows… Wait. Why is it so bright? Oh. We’ve forgotten about the roof. Let’s fix that.

House plan featured above is our Corbin Manor (MEN 5199) plan.

So when you are building your home, a roof is a huge investment. It is literally going to be the piece that protects all of the rest of your home. This is not a time to skimp out on products or to not know what your contractor is doing. If you are building your own home DIY style, this post is only going to give you the rough basics of how to do it. There are, however, plenty of resources out there that can teach you how to do everything from the simplest type of roof to a much more complicated one.

Roof Diagram

Types of Roofs

So you got your plans and you’re looking over them with your contractor and he names what seems like an absolutely enormous sum of money and starts talking about gables, gambrel, hips, trusses, etc. Suddenly you’re completely lost. Don’t worry. You’re a smart person. We got this.

There are 5 basic types of roofs. Each one has its purpose and challenges. What type of roof you put on your home should depend almost entirely on the climate of the area where you are building. When we say climate, we mostly mean precipitation. If it rains a lot in your area, you probably don’t want a flat roof where the moisture can gather. If it snows a lot in your area, you don’t want anywhere for that snow to sit for long periods of time.

Gable Roof

The gable roof is the most common type of roof. It’s also the most easily identifiable. It’s the one young children draw when they grab the colors and draw a picture of a house. A gabled roof is one that each side goes straight to an apex in the middle. You can elaborate on this in multiple ways, but the basic concept is the same. My home has a gable roof. It’s good for any precipitation area.

It’s also great in both warm and cool climates. Gable roofs are more affordable for the homeowner. They require less work when building and maintain them is easier because you don’t have to do complicated measurements and calculations.

Gable roofs are designed to prevent snow build up. Snow build up is a big problem in areas where snowfall counts are high. Snow is very heavy and can cause structures to collapse if it is there too long without adequate support.

Hipped Roof

A hipped roof, hip roof or hip-roof is all the same thing. This is a roof where all the sides slope downwards to the walls. It is usually not a very steep roof. Basically it’s like a pyramid. If you imagine a pyramid stuck on top of a house that is what a hip roof looks like.

A hip roof has four slanted slides that all meet at the tip of the roof. This shape has some great advantages. Not only is it designed to clear rainwater and snow, but it is has roof eaves all around the structure. This gives your home more shade and helps keeps the pesky electric bill down in the summer.

A hip roof doesn’t have any ridges. So the other advantage is that it is easy to maintain and durable. Ridges in roofing are places where the roof can leak and become damaged.

Flat Roof

The flat roof is kind of a misnomer. It’s not really flat. It does have a slight pitch so that water can drain from it but it is not obvious to the naked eye. Flat roofs are usually used in areas that do not have much rain or snow. While it does have a slight pitch it’s still not a good idea to use in someplace that does get a lot of precipitation.

An advantage of a flat roof is that it gives you extra space on top of your home. Some people use this to create a garden area or an outside entertainment area. If you are in a very urban environment, it may be the only place where you can put in an outdoors entertainment area. A flat roof is also a great place for a solar panel.

Shed Roof

A shed roof is sometimes referred to as a skillion roof. It’s a roof that only has one pitch, so only one side of the roof goes up. When I first saw a picture of a shed roof, my first thought was of a lean-to. A shed roof is super simple and easy to maintain. Shed roofs are really affordable and like the flat roof above give you space for a solar panel. They do, however, cut down on attic space.

Curved Roof

Curved roofs are a great choice if you are going for a Contemporary Modern home or if you want a unique look. Curved roofs have a huge effect on the temperature indoors. Because the roof is curved and is not taking the full brunt of the sun all the time, they don’t get as hot. And we all know that most of our heating and cooling cost is from heat either escaping from the roof or coming in through the roof. They also look pretty cool, too. (Get it?)

Exposed Trusses

Building a Roof

My husband and I built a shed last year. OK, it’s more like a small barn, but we call it a shed. We built the entire thing by ourselves. Probably shouldn’t have, but we did. One of the trickiest things to get right was the roof itself. We didn’t do a gabled roof; we did a barn style roof which is called a Gambrel roof. The process is basically the same and I am going to walk you through the basic steps of a Gable roof because those are the easiest to picture. A roof is installed in 4 steps.

  1. Framing
  2. This is when you are putting the frame of the roof into place. Before you do anything to the roof, you’ll want to make sure that the frame of the building is completely done and that it is secure. Then you’ll want to put bracing at each end of the building. You’ll want to put in 3 pieces of bracing. For a Gabled roof this bracing will have two heights. Two will be the middle of the rise of the rafter and the other will be the apex of the rise.

    This will help keep the framing sturdy while you put in the rafters. Now there is a super complicated way of calculating rafters, but there are a number of resources available to make this easier. You can use a carpenter’s square and calculator to do the calculations of the rise and run.

    There are also online calculators that will do this calculation for you and tell you how long your cuts should be. Or you can just order premade trusses that will be perfectly cut from a manufacturer. If you have a builder, they are going to take care of all of this for you.

    You’ll start installing the rafters at each end of the building and running bracing between them as you install them. This will keep them from being unstable and also keep you from worrying too much about your building. Once you have all of the rafters in place and they are all secure you can move on to the next step in the process.

  3. Sheathing
  4. This is the material that goes on top of the rafters to create the base surface of your roof. The most commonly used material for this is plywood. You place the plywood down on top of the rafters and secure them into place. You’ll want to work from the bottom and move up toward the apex of the roof. With a Gabled roof, this is fairly simple and just allows you to build upwards.

    With our shed and its barn type roof we also had to install extra flashing where the angle of the roof changed. Flashing is simply a lightweight piece of metal that can be screwed or nailed down that directs water away from areas where you don’t want it.

  5. Underlayment
  6. After you put the sheathing down, you’ll need to put in a layer of underlayment. This is usually something like tar paper or asphalt paper that will help seal the sheathing and give the roof covering something to grip on to.

    On our shed we used asphalt paper. It was a little more expensive for just an outdoor building project, but we had read the reviews online and it lasts longer and gives more protection against the elements.

    At this step, you may have to install some sort of ice barrier at the top of the underlayment. Here in Arkansas we don’t get very much snow, but we do have a problem with ice. So we put in a layer of flashing to direct the moisture away from the apex of the roof. This is when you will also install flashing on the eaves of the building to keep the water from gathering at the edges.

    Make sure when you are installing the underlayment that you are overlapping the edges. Water is a tricky thing. It will work its way into any place that has even an inch to give.

  7. Roof Covering
  8. This is the last step in putting in a roof. This is when the shingles, metal roofing, tile roofing, etc., are put on the building. Once again you’ll want to start from the bottom and work your way upwards. Just like the underlayment, you’ll want to overlap the layers.

    The experience that I’ve always had was with shingles. Not just with the shed either. One summer when I was a teenager we had to repair my grandparent’s roof. They were living on a fixed income so my dad and I climbed up there and did the work.

    The premise is the same no matter what type of material you are working with. You run the bottom layer first and then offset the next layer above it. The next layer looks the same as the first layer and so on and so forth.

    You do both sides of the roof and at the top you run a cap of the material to make sure that water flows over it and not through it. And that’s roofing in a nutshell.

Bad flashing work

Check Up On the Work

If you have a builder or contractor, you don’t have to worry about how to do it. I do want you to know the basic steps to make sure they are doing it the correct way. Your roof is one place that you don’t want them to cut corners. If you can, get on a ladder and look at the entire roof. Make sure that it looks waterproof.

I’ve heard horror stories of bad companies making it look good from the ground but cutting corners where you could only see it if you were on a ladder. Remember, this is your home and a good roof will last you 30+ years. Make sure it’s worth the investment.

If you’re still in the planning stage of building a home, check out our other blogs in the homebuilding series:

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