The roof of the house, when properly designed and constructed, should protect the house from the elements for hundreds of years, maybe indefinitely. As a rain gutter contractor here in Michigan I have seen many roof designs that fail at this basic job: protecting the home from the elements. Many of the older homes have stood the test of time though where an addition was added water infiltration, rot and mold is a frequent occurrence. Older homes were generally smaller and complex roof designs were avoided because the basic shape of the house was rectangular. Contemporary, mass produced “spec homes” are mazes of wings, odd shapes, kicked-outs, dormers, gables, cathedral ceiling great-rooms and other features built for no other apparent reason than curb-side “Wow” factor. Living in and maintaining these homes will be an expensive endeavor for the homeowner.
“The roof shall protect the home from the elements”. Start with this basic idea and the appropriate design will become apparent.
1. The roof should channel and collect water for irrigation of landscaping; drywells are required by code in many places and protect our fresh water supply.
2. Avoid long roof valleys at all costs. Short valleys for dormers should be of metal. Never bend shingles into a valley; these shingles will fail long before the rest of the roof.
3. The slope of the roof should always be oriented away from decks, patios,
entrances and driveways; the gable end must be over these areas or a small “doghouse” or dormer be used to channel water from the entrance area or porch.
4. A valley must never end next to a vertical exterior wall.
5. Gutters should be kept to a minimum and always be accessible from the ground with the average home owner kept in mind for cleaning. (see my articles on gutter design)
6. Avoid flat and low slope roofs at all costs!
7. Choose the appropriate slope for the climate the house will be built in.
8. Avoid vertical walls next to a roof surface where snow can swirl and drift.
9. Be generous with eves and soffit for ventilation and insulation. Eves also protect the widows from rain and give shade to keep the house cool and save energy.
10. Consider investing in metal roofing.
The house designed with these features will be moderate in size. The savings realized from a smaller house with a simple roof can be used to upgrade to such things as metal roofing, larger windows, built-in cabinetry, hardwood floors, high quality plumbing fixtures and better heating and cooling equipment. This will create long-term value for generations to comes.
“Form follows function”. The beauty of the design is found in its functionality.
Frank Kalinski is a licensed builder in the State of Michigan and has run a gutter repair service for five years. Now doing home residential rental inspection for property owners he has seen many homes and how people live in them. He sees many products and designs years after construction; some things work well and some not. Simple, basic, tried and true generally last the longest and are most economical. Please visit my new web site at http://frg-s.com/