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OCTOBER, 2009.

We shall explain in this discuss the roof structure that is common within our
vicinity. These are, the Gable and Hip roofs. Other roof structures shall
only be mentioned in passing with safety measures to be considered
when carrying out roofing construction.
Functions of the roof
The primary function of a roof is to protect the building below from the
weather. To carry out this function effectively, it must have: strength,
stability and durability. As an addendum, it must provide good thermal
insulation and prevent the spread of fire from adjacent or adjoining

Roof Terminology

Wall plate- sawn timber, usually 75x100mm fastened on the roof

beam using 8mm stirrups @ between 1200 - 2000mm centers or
galvanized strips( langa langa) not less than two blocks below the
roof beam.

Common Rafter- sawn timber placed from wall plate to ridge to carry
the loads from tiles (roofing sheets), rain and wind. Long rafters may
need support from struts. From technical point of view, rafters should
be anchored on the wall plate with a birdsmouth joint. This gives the
members proper anchorage and leveling before final fixing. See
diagram above.

B1 Jack Rafter- sawn timber rafter cut between either a hip or valley rafter

Ceiling joist (Tie beam)- sawn timber connecting the feet of the
common rafter at the wall plate level. When it is raised above the level
of the wall plate, it is called a COLLAR BEAM. This allows more head
room for the space below.

Ridge- sawn timber member which connects the upper parts of the
common rafters. It is the horizontal roof line at the uppermost part of
the roof.

Fascia- planed timber member used to close off the ends of the
rafters, to support the soffit board (ceiling under the eave) and last row
of tiles( roofing sheets) at the eaves and to carry the rainwater gutter
support brackets. It can also be protected from the weather by
cladding it with aluminium. Today, it is in vogue to use concrete fascia

roof with facia board (wood)

roof with facia board (concrete)

wood. The aesthetics is very appealing and there is little or no

maintenance apart from painting.

Hip rafter- sawn timber member at the external intersection of the

roof slope (sloping ridge), used to support the jack rafters forming the

Valley term used to describe the intersection of two roofs creating a

valley on either side. It is sometimes called the gutter.

Dormer- the structure used to form a vertical window within a roof

slope. It gives increased floor area of full ceiling height within an attic
roof construction, and is usually fitted with a window hence the term
dormer window

Barge board- this is fascia board which is fitted to gable end of a

building. See diag. above.

Dormer cheek describes the triangular infill wall area between

dormer roof, main roof and dormer front.

Roof window/ Roof light - the former being able to be opened for
ventilation hence becoming a true window. The latter being fixed
simply allowing additional light into the attic roof space.

Gablet- a small gable over a hip end. It is used as an architectural



Soffit board- the ply or other sheet material panel used to close off
the space between the back of the fascia and wall of the building.

Eaves- term used to describe the extreme lower end of the roof (area
around the fascia and soffit).

Gable- triangular area of wall used at the end of a roof to close off
beneath the roof slopes. This is usually a continuation of the wall
construction below.

Purlin they carry the roofing sheets while being nailed to rafters.
They are usually sawn in 50x75mm or 50x50mm.

Kingpost this is the central vertical component of the truss system

that connects the rafters at the ridge board to the tie
beam( perpendicular to it).

Struts These are other members of the truss system that

complement the kingpost. Their major function is to brace the rafters,
keeping it rigid and preventing sagging of the truss system.

Ventilation openings these are openings created in the soffit board

to aid cross ventilation of the void in the roof. The ventilation should be
equivalent to a continuous 10mm gap along each side of the roof. In
shallower roofs it can be increased to 25mm.

Binders These are sawn timber nailed across a number of truss

systems (along kingpost, tie beam, rafter or struts) to secure the whole
roof structure as a unit and prevent movement.

Please see attached diagram of roof section with specifications overleaf:

Some types of wood used for roofing within our vicinity are:
Black Afara- This is claimed to be the best type of wood for roofing. It is not
eaten by termites so many people do not treat it with solignum. But for
safety factor, it is recommended that all wood types be treated. It is also
one of the most expensive types of wood for roofing when compared
with others within its range.
White Afara- Unlike the black Afara, this one needs treatment with
solignum. This is achieved by soaking the wood strips in a trough
containing solignum for some hours. It is then lifted out and stacked
neatly on a level floor with perpendicular battens in between. This
prevents the wood sticking together while allowing air to ventilate them
in a shed not in direct contact with the sun. It is also cheaper in cost.
Mahogany- This wood needs the same treatment as the white Afara.
Ochakoro- This is the cheapest red hardwood in the market and does not
need treatment. It cannot be penetrated by normal roofing nail except
with China nail. It has a major disadvantage, which is for maintenance
purpose. Once it is nailed, the nail cannot be removed. If there is a
mistake in the roofing work and roofing sheets have been put in place, it
must be condemned. This calls for high precision which most artisans
lack in this part of the globe.

Roof Shapes
Roofs are broken into two basic shape families: gabled and hipped.

Gabled refers to the family of houses classified by the straight slope falling from ridge to
eave, creating a peak or triangle on the side or front facade. Gabled houses have rakes on
the gable facades and eaves on the non-gabled facades.


This style of home

locates the front
door on the nongabled faade.



houses have the

Houses have additional
peak or gable facing sections or wings crossing
the front.
perpendicular to the main
section, meeting in a
valley, each with its own
peaked or gabled faade.

This family of houses avoids having a peak or triangle at the roof junction by breaking the
roof plane along the slope line, allowing the roof to bend or wrap around the house. Hipped
houses have an even roof to wall junction all the way around the house and eaves on all



A hipped roof where all A hipped roof where

four roof faces rise to a all four sides come
ridge across the top,
to a point at the
often with broader
roof peak.
faces across the front
slope and narrower
side sections.

Additional Roof Shapes


A roof with multiple

sections or wings that
cross the main section,
meeting in a valley,
each with its own
hipped profile.


A gabled roof that

peaks at the ridgeline
then falls away in a
broad, low slope,
breaks horizontally and
changes to a steeper
pitch. A gambrel roof
has a broad upper story
and side faade, and is
often associated with

A gabled roof with

asymmetrical roof
faces. This asymmetry
produces one facade
that is two stories high
dropping to a single
story or story and one
half on the opposite
side of the building.

A hipped roof with two

distinct roof pitches,
low-sloped from the flat
top or ridgeline then
breaking to a steep
pitch above the wall

A gabled roof with a

single roof face falling
away from the main
building. Shed roofs are
often used for porches,
additions, and raisedroof sections.

Actually its own roof

type, flat roofs have no
slope and may
terminate with or
without eaves.

Roofing safety
Do this before starting work on a roof.

Walk around the whole building and make ABSOLUTELY SURE that you know the
position of any electrical services. The main point of entry for power, any other power lines
in the vicinity.
Assess or measure the pitch or angle of the roof, with a view to having to take extra
safety measures on steeper roofs.
Make yourself aware of potential hazards like noxious fumes from chimneys or vents.
Position your access to the roof well away from any of these.
If you are using a ladder make sure that you know how to use it safely.
Keep the area around the roof access clear and any work area on the ground clear.
If the site is wet and muddy, provide a flat clean area at the base of the roof access
and a mat to clean off shoes.
If necessary make a positive identification of the roofing material. It may have special
characteristics that you need to be aware of. The cladding may have turned brittle with
age etc.
Inspect the roof with a view to finding out how sound or fragile it is. Some roofs may
not be able to carry the weight of people or materials.
Asses any likely danger from tools or materials falling within the roofed area and say
3M of a roof edge. If necessary provide warning signs.
Do not allow anyone on the roof who does not have to be there, who has not got a basic
grasp of roofing safety.

Roofing safety - A worker fixing steel purlins on a large site, wearing

safety clothing, hard hat, harness and having roof edge protection.

Roofing safety, a list of don'ts.

The most important aspect of safety on a roof is to have a sharp and clear mind, to be alert
looking out for yourself and your work mates, on the roof and below you. I may be stating
"the bleeding obvious" here, but there is no harm done repeating any of this stuff.
Don't take drugs, impairing medication or drink alcohol before or while working on a

Roofing can be hard exhausting work so do not push your physical limits to the extent
that you are "not thinking straight".

Likewise with extremes of weather, do not continue working on a roof if you are
starting to feel the effects of dehydration or heat stress, or numbing cold.
Quite often I see teams of roofers with a radio on the job. At times roofing can be a
boring repetitive task, but even so I believe that the mind should be focused on the job in
hand, not external entertainment. Warnings have to be so much louder and insistent when
a radio is blaring.
Don't go on a roof in inclement weather. This includes high winds, rain, frost or even
dew on steeper roofs.
Don;t use inappropriate footwear. Bare feet, thongs, or slippery soled shoes or boots.
Steel toe cap boots may be mandatory on the site, but if the soles are slippery use good
none skid soled runners on the roof.
Don't step onto ladders, scaffolding or a roof with muddy shoes.
Don't drag electrical leads over sharp edges, lay them out so that they are clear of
obstructions and snags.

Always use and wear your roofing safety equipment.

Things to do when working on a roof.
A bit of repetition here maybe.
Tie off your ladder, top and bottom if it going to be in the one place for a while.
Wear your safety equipment. Wear rubber soled non slippery shoes.
Check the work of the previous guys on the job, is it finished, is it OK, no missing
bolts or loose pieces.
Keep alert watch what you are doing and what is going on around you.
Keep the roof clean, don't leave scraps lying about.
Watch your electric leads. Keep them tidy.
Don't work on too steep or otherwise slippery roofs without taking extra measures to stop
slipping. Don't risk it and just rely on the edge protection. These roofing safety items are
there to stop pure accidents only. They are not to be used as an excuse for otherwise unsafe

Roofing is one of the most complicated elements of house construction. Understanding the
various components that make it up, demystifies these complexities. Common problems
observed during roof construction include but not limited to LEVELING (purlins and ridges
not sloping evenly), ROOF REMOVAL (due to improper fastening and securing of roof
members during heavy wind loads) and LEAKAGES (due to improper over lapping of roofing
sheets and treatment of roofing nail holes)
Since, the roof, like an umbrella in the rain or sun light, protects the bearer from the
elements, it must be treated with utmost care and precision. Care must be taken not to
compromise quality of materials and building standards which can achieve stability, strength
and durability. When the head is sick, the whole body suffers with it. So a sound roof leads to
sound sleep when the elements are raging.

DUNCAN MARSHAL & DEREK WORTHING, The Construction of Houses, 3 rd Edition,
C. N. MINDHAM, Roof Construction and Loft Conversion, 3 rd Edition, 2006
ALLAN STAINES, The Roof Building Manual, 4th Edition, 2004
INTERNET, Understanding House Structure & the Language of Construction
Field Research