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Fundamentally, the purpose of a roof is to keep out the weather. Often in New Zealand this means the rain, but it should also to protect us from the extremes of sun, wind and snow. As such, it is important that a roof should be strong and long lasting.

As the backbone of a house, the framework of the roof and the house itself must be strong enough to carry the weight of the type of roof you wish to have. Consideration must be given to whether the house will be single or multi-storied, and whether there may be a need to add another level later on.

The pitch of the roof must be determined, both in terms of the desired profile of the finished product (steeply pitched roofs give a different character to a house to flat, Mediterranean-style roofs) but also in terms of the requirements of the roofing material itself and then in terms of the effectiveness of that style in coping with the weather in your region. When we are sure that it will fulfil these requirements, the rest is a question of personal style. So what styles are available?

Concrete and clay tiles

Terracotta, or clay tiles, have been around since as early as 4000 BC and are still available today. A more modern alternative to terracotta that retains many of the benefits of its pricier cousin is concrete tile roofing. The main difference between the two is that the colour of the tiles is inherent to the clay terracotta tiles are made from, whereas for concrete tiles a coloured glaze is applied and baked on, meaning it will fade over time.

Both can claim to be rust and rot free. They are effective at blocking noise from outside the building, including the noise of rain and hail. They don’t make the cracking noises associated with expansion and contraction. They cope well with wet weather, as the laps in the tiles allow moisture and dampness to dry out and escape. They are inert, meaning that as long as the flashings used do not contain contaminants and nasties like bird droppings and dirt are filtered out, drinking water can be collected from them safely.

Both are easy to take care of, with required maintenance mainly consisting of cleaning the roof and removing lichen from time to time.

Pressed metal tiles

Another modern alternative to traditional clay tiles is pressed metal tiles. Nearly 50 years ago New Zealander Lou Fisher, founder of AHI Roofing (Gerard Roofs), produced the world’s first steel tile. Gerard pressed metal tiles not only give the look of a tile, shake or shingle roof, they are light-weight, durable and perform well in the most extreme conditions.

Manufactured from Zincalume® and colour-coated in-house to twice the coating thickness of normal coloured steel and with satin or textured coating finishes, Gerard Roofs offers a 50 year pro-rata weatherproof warranty even in coastal locations.

The lightness of this type of roof results in structural cost savings in some cases as less timber is require to support the roof. New Zealand is earthquake prone and in the event of a large quake, less weight from the roof may mean less damage overall and less chance of it coming down on you.

All Gerard Roofs also feature interlocking tiles secured in place with a unique horizontal fastening system.  The result is a very strong roof with superior wind resistance – which allows for use in very high wind zones and again provides added strength in the event of an earthquake.

Longrun metal roofing

Another lightweight roofing option is longrun. From the corrugated profiles that bring to mind the kiwi architectural vernacular of the bach, to classic standing seam profiles, the versatility of longrun steel roofing or cladding enables you to make a personal style statement when building or renovating your home.

Select pre-painted steel copes well with the corrosive, salt-laden air of most of New Zealand and are suitable for almost every design, whether you choose sleek long straight lines, modern innovative draped curves or a villa with a traditional bullnose veranda. Steel can provide a delicate quality and lightness of a building within a landscape or a solid, strong rock like structure. It also blends or provides a contrast for concrete, wood, schist and many other building materials.

Other roofing materials

Although the roofing materials listed above are the most popular in New Zealand, there are many other roofing materials available. Whether your tastes run to the “green” or the “champagne”, there is a roof type to suit your style and budget.

From the Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa to a roof installed by the Waitakere CityCouncil in 2007, green roofs – the modern equivalent of sod roofs – are gaining in popularity in “green” circles in New Zealand. Green roofs commonly consist of a flat or low-pitched roof topped with a membrane roofing material then a layer of earth, on which plants (typically drought-resistant ones) are encouraged to grow. Green roofs can slow stormwater run-off, naturally cooling a building and can even be used to grow vegetables.

For flat, Mediterranean-style roofs, rubber membrane roofing is an affordable option. Installation must be done carefully however, and any holes or tears in the membrane over the life of the roof must be repaired immediately or the roof will leak.

Roofing shingles can only be used on pitched roofs, like tiles. Asphalt shingles, on a fibreglass or plywood substrate with a textured coating, are a mid-range roofing option. Timber shingles and shakes, which tend to be hand-split individual units as opposed to shingles, which are sawn on all sides, are a more expensive, rustic-looking option. Copper and aluminium shingles are more expensive again, but certainly provide an individual look.

Slate roofs, where the roof tiles are actually cut from the stone slate, are the heaviest, but definitely the most durable option of them all, with slate roofs lasting upwards of 100 years. Slate roofs are rare and very expensive in New Zealand however because it is not quarried in this country and also because of the specialist skill needed to install a slate roof.

Choose Your Roof Wisely
Your roof goes beyond simply keeping the rain off your head. From a design standpoint, it creates an important part of the silhouette of your home when viewed from a distance. Whether simple or complex, elaborate or functional, your roof says something about your personal style and perhaps even ideology. Consider this before deciding what your statement will be.

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