Image courtesy of Euroclad

 

We went straight to the top for expert advice on the best shelter options for your home.

The roof is one of those key architectural elements every home needs – obviously. Practically speaking, it’s our first line of defence from the elements and buffers noise. From a design stance, the roof is the single largest surface area of a house, forming the connection between the house and the street. With lots to consider, including budget, functionality, style considerations (and sometimes heritage and streetscape issues, too), here’s how to choose wisely.

 

STEEL

Australia’s architectural vernacular is punctuated with steel roofs. Steel sheeting is rugged, non-combustible and Wolverine-strong, holding up to harsh climate conditions. A steel roof can last at least three to four decades and the baked-on painted finish should withstand at least two decades of soaring heat before flaking.

BlueScope marketing and market development manager Lisa Dent says long-term maintenance will help your roof hold onto its looks for longer. “Areas not regularly washed by rainwater should be hosed down every six months,” she says. “And, of course, don’t forget to keep your gutters clear of any debris and leaves.”

As for energy efficiency, Lisa suggests foregoing the charcoal trend for lighter neutral and grey colours that reflect, rather than absorb, heat. Also, keep an eye out for steel with a speciality finish that is primed for reflecting the sun’s heat, as this will help to keep your home cooler.

Steel roofing is relatively quick to install. A 210 square-metre,
single-storey home takes about one week to finish, weather permitting. But before calling the tradies in, it’s wise to contact the council as there may be height limits, boundary set backs and restrictions in place.

Corrugated steel is a hard-wearing roofing material that’s a popular choice for Australian homes. Steel painted with specialty products lasts longer than unpainted steel.  Fielders 3m corrugated zinc steel roofing in Silver, $35, Bunnings Warehouse. Colorbond British Paints colours: Colorbond Shale Grey, Colorbond Ironstone, Colorbond Surfmist, Colorbond Deep Ocean, Colorbond; British Paints

 

TERRACOTTA & CONCRETE

Tiles are low maintenance, highly insulating and long wearing, with a minimum life span of 50 years for terracotta and 20 years for concrete. Terracotta tiles are formed from kiln-fired natural clay topped with glaze. The colour is locked in, which means they don’t tend to show their age.

Concrete tiles are made from sand and cement, with a pigmented colour coat on top or with pigment mixed through for longer wear. Concrete is unglazed, and UV rays and pollution can dull the colour over time, though a coat of enamel spray revives concrete unlike terracotta.

Even in salt-licked coastal areas, tiles won’t corrode and if one cracks, it can be replaced without having to re-do the whole roof. Monier’s tile expert, Stephen Powell says no-maintenance roofs don’t exist. “Although tiles perform for 50 years, regular maintenance will go a long way to preventing major problems,” he says.

A yearly professional high-pressure clean prevents lichen and moss on tiles. A discolouration called efflorescence can affect concrete, but a sealant will help. Stephen also recommends an annual check of gutters, downpipes and valleys – bi-annually if there are trees nearby.

Want to avoid a leaky tiled roof? Charlie Condo, general manager of Boral Roofing & Masonry East, says sarking – a foil insulation that sits between rafters and roof tile battens – is a highly recommended option. “It’s installed during construction or a re-roof. If you don’t plan for it at the outset, you miss the opportunity to enhance energy efficiency and improve weather protection.”

As far as installation goes, a 260 square-metre, single-storey tiled roof with caps and pointing usually takes between one and three days.

‘Nullabor’ terracotta tile in Granite, POA and ‘Nouveau’ terracotta tile in Earth, POA, Monier

 

ZINC & COPPER CLADDING

When a home requires more than just a roof overhead, specialty metals are a seriously stylish option. Copper and zinc are durable, robust and, unlike other roof materials, the patina actually gets better with age with just an optional wash down required if leaves and dirt build up.

Director of Euroclad Nathan Pilkington says the difference between high-quality metal roof cladding and the cheap stuff is all in the detail. “Metal roofing systems with exposed screw fixings and cut ends simply won’t last anywhere near as long as a copper, zinc or aluminium roof, especially near the coastline,” he says.

Typically, it will take around three to four times longer to install a copper or zinc roof over traditional steel roofing. “This is mainly due to the added plywood substrate and hand-seaming techniques,” says Nathan. Although, if wet weather sets in, the tradies can usually keep working undercover – hand-folding the metal sheet ends – as they wait for the rain to pass.

A copper or zinc roof requires the finest craftsmanship. “Think beyond a ‘cheap quote’ and choose a good installer with a proven history,” says Nathan. “If zinc or copper is not installed correctly, it can really reduce the life cycle of the product but if done right, copper and zinc will look great architecturally and protect all of the valuable assets below for more than 80 years on average.”

Copper or zinc tiles certainly bring a sense of glamour to a roof. While the materials last a long time, bear in mind that they will gain patina with age. Copper shingles, from $605/sqm and VM ‘Dexter’ zinc cladding in Quartz, $462/sqm, Euroclad

 

BLUESTONE & SYNTHETIC SLATE

Bluestone or slate is up there with hardwood floors and high ceilings as an architectural classic. The beauty of this building material is in the subtler variations of textures, drawn from the unique landscape where it was formed. The disadvantages are that slate is heavy, expensive and very fiddly to install.

Synthetic slate, on the other hand, has a textured surface and natural-looking appearance that’s easier to handle and more affordable. Jason Collier, a roof tiler and slate project manager at KWR Roofing, touts Authentic Roof, a Canadian-made recycled plastic polymer slate alternative with a compatible life span of more than 50 years. “This means none of the components will fail before the other.”

As a tiler, Jason has seen it all. “From a tradesman’s point of view, the most common mistakes are the fundamental ones – installing a roofing product on the wrong pitch, using components that are not compatible with each other, and using the wrong materials for the environment, such as a metal roof in a salty coastal area.”

Not allocating enough time for roofing is another common pitfall. Jason suggests factoring in two to three weeks for a slate or synthetic slate roof. “It is always better to overestimate your build time than to underestimate it. A tradesman under pressure will feel the need to rush, which is when quality gets compromised.”

Authentic Roof synthetic slate tiles, $77/sqm,  KWR Roofing

 

For more of our helpful expert advice, try:
>> treat your home like a car: a maintenance guideline
>> buyer’s guide to winter heating
>> buyer’s guide to energy-efficient fridges