DIY Projects: Learn How To Build A Roof Step-By-Step

Roof is an essential part of any home as it protects you and your loved ones from the external world. A roof blocks weather conditions and protects you from wind, rain and snow. Furthermore, roofs provide insulation to keep your house warm during winters and cool during warmer months.

Roof of a house

There are several different types of roofs. The style depends on factors like climate, average rainfall and the structure itself. However, building a roof structure can be tricky, and it is crucial to use the right equipment to prevent accidents. Keep reading to find out how to DIY your roof project. 

Choose the right style and materials for your needs

The type and style of your roof are not determined by the overall aesthetics alone. There are hundreds of roof styles out there, each created with a specific purpose in mind. However, they can be categorised into two main types, flat roofs and pitched roofs.

Flat roofing is particularly desirable for commercial or smaller properties since they are compact. They can also be used for garage covering and extensions. Furthermore, a flat roof is easier and cheaper to install in comparison to pitched designs. 

Having said that, drainage is often a problem with levelled styles as there is less room for the run-off. This can be problematic if you live in an area prone to rain. On the other hand, pitched roofs are more common and remain a popular choice.

Pitched roofing is durable due to its design that allows water to drain through pipes and gutters naturally. In addition, these roofs are more versatile than flat styles and can be converted into additional storage space, attics or even rooms. 

Selecting Roof Design and Style

Depending on the shape and size of your building, you can select from different designs, subcategorised into pitched or flat options. Some popular roof styles include: 

White house with gable roofing

1. Gable Roofing

A gable roof is also referred to as the classic roof shape and is the most common type of roof found worldwide. It looks like an inverted triangle or V. You can find these types of roofs in several design variations to accommodate buildings of different heights and shapes.

2. Hip or Pyramid Roof

Designed for square buildings only, these roofs are in the shape of a pyramid. Hip roofs are the same, but they are longer to fit over rectangular buildings

3. Shed Roof

As their name suggests, these structures are commonly found over porches, sheds or home extensions. Shed roof is flat levelled but have a deeper slope than other designs within the category. 

4. Gambrel Roof

Gambrel roofs are often used over barns to make the most of the space available. In addition, this roof style also extends the size of existing attic space or extra floors.

5. Flat Roof 

Ideal for outdoor coverings such as additional living spaces or gardens, these roofs are mainly flat with a slight slope. 

Depending on the type of roof you decide on, you can choose from different materials. In addition, some designs require specific materials, while most don’t. So, how can you evaluate the best choices for your project? 

How to Choose Roofing Materials?

To build any roof, you’ll need to begin with the trusses. Roof trusses, or roof frames, contain triangular pieces of wood to create the basic structure that will support your project’s load.

Roof trusses can be made of inexpensive wood or metal such as timber or steel. The material you select depends on what the external roof structure will be made of. For example, if you use heavier metals, the support should be made of equally strong materials for support.

You can find ready-made trusses with built-in rafters and joists for your ceiling. This saves a lot of time when creating a roof frame and set the foundation for the rest of your task. 

The exterior structure plays a crucial role in selecting which roofing materials are best for you. You can choose between panels, shingles, slate and tiles for a customised roof design.

Different roof tiles

1. Shingles and Panels 

Metal roofs are durable solutions that come in panels or shingles. If you live in more extreme temperatures, these lightweight structures are ideal for you. Also, keep in mind that metal can get damaged by hail and is noisier during storms. In this case, stone-coated steel panels may be a suitable alternative. 

Asphalt shingles are a common material used for such projects. The main reason behind this is how easy they are to install. Furthermore, if you live in warmer and humid climates, asphalt shingles protect your structure from algae. 

Remember that shingles can’t be used for flat styles. Instead, slate, roof tiles, asphalt, fibreglass, metal or poly-vinyl can be used for the exterior.

2. Roof Tiles and Slating

Extremely resilient and long-lasting, clay or concrete tiles add personality to your roof. With vivid colours, textures and other design elements, tiles are also energy-efficient, making them uber-versatile. However, tiles are heavy and require professional installation. 

On the contrary, slates are also a great way to add some colour to your roof. Slate roofs are entirely fire and waterproof, making them resistant to wear and tear

Other Tools

To build a basic roof, you will also need: 

  • Sheathing: This material is used for decking. You can use plywood or fibreglass.
  • Underlay: Depending on the climate, include a weather barrier if it is colder outside. Tar paper is usually used for this purpose.
  • Roofing Nails, screws and a drill 
  • Circular saw  
  • Stable gun 
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Chalk

In addition to the tools and materials listed above, always use safety gloves and goggles. 

Man mounts the roof trusses

Preparing for the project

To avoid mishaps during construction, preparation is key. Before you cut the materials for your project, begin by measuring and designing an overview of your structure.

First, determine the span of your roof. This is the width between each outer wall that supports the structure. Then, measure the rise or pitch. The pitch of your roof is the exact angle or ratio at which the roof rises horizontally.

The ideal pitch of the roof varies between the ratios 1:6 and 1:1. The steepest angle is 45 degrees, which creates a 1:1 ratio. This means for every 30 cm increment, the roof also rises 30 cm. But, if the ratio is 1:6, each 30 cm increment would increase the height of the roof by 5cm. 

With the help of the pitch and span, you can sketch out a basic triangle structure with two supporting legs, i.e. the walls of your house. This is called a roof rafter. Next, connect the highest point of the rise to the edge of your span. 

Roofs are based on a right-angle triangle, and using a calculator; you can determine the line length. This is an external measurement of the wall that connects to the centre of the roof. 

Once you have the sketch and measurements, it’s time to get started. At this stage, you can purchase and prepare or precut your materials to save time. 

Building a gable roof step-by-step 

The roof building process can be broken down into four stages. First, you begin by creating a frame for your structure or use prepared trusses. Then, sheathing is added on the top of the roof, creating a surface for other materials.

The final steps are adding underlays which are protective barriers around the sheaths and covering the roof. To build your roof, follow these steps: 

1. Create or mount the trusses

Using a ladder and extra assistance or a crane, hoist the trusses on top of your roof. If you are building your own frame, space each frame between 30 cm and 60 cm apart, depending on the roof’s weight. Alternatively, if you are using readymade trusses, lift them onto the top in a flat position. Then, raise them.

Man covers roof with ceramic tiles

2. Brace the trusses

Before you can mount them into place, you need to support the trusses with temporary braces. Use a long wood board, approximately half a metre in length, in the middle of both outside walls. The height should always be more than your anticipated roof length, so it extends over. Use nails to mount the boards to the top of the roof and fasten it to a stud. Then, add two more panels of the same length to either side of the first brace. 

3. Nail end trusses to temporary bracing

Using battens, install the end trusses to your roof’s front and back at the ceiling joist. Mount the ends using nails. Then, add battening longer than the spacing between each end truce to support the frame further.

4. Install standard trusses

Working from back to front, nail the standard trusses to the batten. If your battening is too short, you can always add more to extend it. Then, replace the bracing with permanent fixtures. 

5. Sheathing

After you have anchored your roof construction, install your selected cover lengthwise. Remember to begin at the same edge each time. Next, use fasteners such as shank nails to mount the panels to the trusses

6. Add a drip edge

This is a small metal birdsmouth or overhang that drains rainwater away from the roof. In the absence of this birdsmouth water can gather on the roof resulting in seepages.

7. Underlaying

Using roofing felt, asphalt or tar paper, roll your selected material out lengthwise. Staple it onto the sheathing, overlap each layer till you reach a depth of at least 20 cm. Add an extra layer on top, letting it overlap the sides and end of the roof

8. Cover your roof

The final step is to install a roof covering. Beginning at the side of the roof, layer it lengthwise from bottom to top. Next, overlap the shingles to stagger them. To finish the roof, add ridge tiles or caps. 

Modern house with flat roof

At this stage, you can also experiment with lightweight brickwork, tiles or plates to further enhance your roof and help it stand out. Remember, refer to local building laws and ensure you have the necessary permits before beginning construction. Also, always wear proper safety and fall equipment to avoid serious injuries.

Coming next: Learn how to build a pitched roof extension.

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