When constructing, the roof is king

Wednesday November 27 2019
Top roof

Today, roofs are also a testament to the overall beauty of the home and the homeowner’s personal style. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK


The roof of a home is integral to its function. It acts as a buffer for changes in the atmosphere and shelters your family and belongings from external elements. Today, roofs serve more than this particular function, as they are testament to the overall beauty of the home and the homeowner’s personal style. As times evolve, so do roofing styles in Kenya. From the thatched (makuti) roofing materials that defined our past, today’s home owners have a variety of options when building their houses to suit each individual style and function.

The style one settles on relies on a variety of factors. First, the climate and weather of the location of your home should be considered. If it is prone to harsh weather conditions, this may affect the longevity and durability of your roof. This may lead to leaking if the design does not allow for adequate drainage, or the development of mould, which could corrode the roof’s structure.

Second, the interior of your home should have adequate ventilation and insulation to maintain the roof’s structure from the inside out. Lack of ventilation can cause a build-up of warm, moist air that could encourage the growth of mildew and mould, which could result in the rotting of the roof.

Third, ensure that the professionals installing the roof are thorough and well-established in their craft. Even with the best roofing materials, improper installation could affect their durability. With all these factors considered, what is left is for the homeowner to settle on a roofing style and durable materials with which to construct the roof. Popular roofing styles include:

Gable style


This is the most common style in Kenya. The design involves two sides of a roof coming together at the peak to form a ridge. It is identifiable by the triangular or ‘A’ shapes formed, visible on the sides of the roof. They are preferred because they are the cheapest and easiest to install. This is because there is minimal cutting and fitting of shapes required, as the shingles that make up the roof can just be placed in long rows.

They are suitable for areas with cold weather as they can easily shed water during the rainy season. However, they can prove to be unstable in windy conditions if the frames lack adequate support, leading to the peeling off of the roof’s materials. They are suitable for home owners who want more headroom in their house for loft conversion, as well as adequate ventilation in the attic area of the house.

There are different variations of this roof style, including the box gable, front gable, cross gable, Dutch gable and gable with shed roof addition. Each is suitable for different aesthetic qualities, but the cross gable and gable with shed roof addition are most suitable for complex home structures and home owners looking to extend their space respectively.

Hipped roof


Another common style is the hipped roof. It has slopes on four sides of the roof that come together at the peak to form a ridge. This type is preferred because unlike the gable roof, it is more stable due to the inward slope of all four sides that make it far more durable. They can also offer additional living space in the home, in the form of a room called a dormer.

Though they are also economical, installing a hipped roof is more expensive than installing a gable one as it is more complex to build. For instance, the trusses that make the roof more stable tend to be more difficult to put together.

The additional seams in the design also affect the durability of the roof if not adequately secured and maintained, as they could form valleys that make it easier for water to leak through the roof. That said, installation is paramount to the longevity of this roof style.

Types of hipped roofs include: simple hip, cross-hipped and half-hipped. Like the cross-gable roof, the cross-hipped style is suitable for homes with different wings.

Flat roof


The style is fast becoming as popular in residential areas as it was mostly common in commercial and industrial building styles. This is as a result of modern architectural advancements.

The roof is flat above the structure, with a slight pitch to allow for water shedding and drainage purposes. It also provides extra outdoor living space, which comes in handy for townhouses with limited backyard space.

For homes that are energy-efficient, a flat roof provides space to keep solar panels out of sight. They are also cheaper to construct than pitched roofs, as they often follow the natural structure of the home.

However, they tend to be more expensive to maintain due to the costs attached to roof repair and replacement. They are also easily susceptible to leakages and are unsuitable for areas with heavy rainfall. This can be, however, be countered by ensuring the roof is waterproof.

Another great plus for this roofing style is the rise of the “green roof”, where one can place plants on the roof to combat insulation in urban areas due to their cooling effect. The roof is layered using beneficial plant life, soil, drainage and a waterproofing membrane to prevent leaks.

Skillion roof


It is also referred to as a shed roof. The design is essentially a single-sloping roof attached to a taller wall. It looks like half of a gable roof, or a flat roof with a more pronounced slope.

This design is common in modern architectural designs, though it has historically been used for home additions such as servant quarters or car sheds. In modern homes, this style performs double the work by being both aesthetically useful and allows for easy water shedding. This makes it a great choice for houses in high rainfall areas.

However, in windy areas, it can be quite unstable. The pronounced slope of the roof could also mean lower ceilings in one part of the house.

As for roofing materials, Kenyans have many options in terms of concrete tiles, wooden tiles, shingles and corrugated iron sheets. Engineered materials have become more preferred as natural materials become more expensive and inaccessible.

In an article on the Construction Kenya website in June 2019, corrugated iron sheets are the most affordable at Sh300 per square metre for the thinnest grade, with high quality pre-painted sheets going for up to Sh700 per square metre.

Clay roofing tiles will set the homeowner back Sh600 per square metre, while concrete roofing tiles will cost around Sh800 for the same. Slate stone tiles cost Sh1,500, wooden tiles Sh1,800, and stone coated steel tiles sell at Sh2,000 per square metre respectively.

Roofing shingles made of asphalt are gaining popularity among Kenyan homeowners for their attractiveness as well. They cost Sh2,000 per square metre. Copper felt tiles and transparent insulated roofs are other available options, with the latter costing Sh5,000 per metre.

When it comes to durability, slate roofs reign supreme, lasting about 85 years. A shingle roof could last about 15 years. Either way, while deciding what style and material combination is best for you, remember that cheap is eventually expensive; always invest in quality that will stand the test of time.