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05 Jan 2022

Taking Roof Designs to the Next Level

As a key part of the external envelope and overall design scheme, it’s always worth taking the time to get the roof of your build right. Here, Matt Birchall from online builders’ merchant Roofing Superstore takes a closer look at some of the top trends that are likely to influence roof designs in the coming year and explains why investing in environmental efficiency will always be the best use of your time and money.


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A roof is an essential part of any self-build or restoration project, and not just because it keeps the rain out. Protecting a structure from the elements might be the obvious purpose of the roof, but it’s by no means the only one. As well as creating a strong design statement, different types of roofs, and different roofing materials, can help reduce a building’s carbon footprint and boost energy efficiency. Being one of the biggest areas of a building, the roof also has the most potential. Here are just a few ways you can take your roof to new heights.

Improve your insulation

Everyone knows about the importance of improving the energy performance of your home but understanding exactly how you can achieve this can be more of a challenge. One of the main discussion points of the last year has been the planned uplift to Part L of the Building Regulations and the introduction of the Future Homes Standard; with both focusing on the need to make buildings as efficient as possible to reduce heat loss and carbon emissions, and create homes that are healthier and more affordable to run.

As all properties can lose a significant amount of heat through the roof, any new roof design must consider the type and amount of insulation required to be able to achieve the new U-value targets and be as thermally efficient as possible. You must put some time, and budget, aside to ensure that you have insulated the roof as well as you can. The insulation required will depend on the type of roof, the property’s age, and whether the roof is to be ‘warm’ or ‘cold’.

Generally speaking, a ‘cold’ roof is when the insulation is placed between or below the roof joists, which, in effect, only insulates the floor below – this is a common feature of flat roofs or attic spaces that aren’t going to be used as habitable space. On the other hand, a ‘warm’ roof would have insulation under the pitch of the roof in the joists – a must if you are planning to use the attic as an extra room. Speak with your roofing contractor to get advice on what type of insulation you need and where you should install it.

A breath of fresh air

This year expect to hear more about taking a ‘fabric-first approach’ as the wider construction industry pushes forward with the idea that the best way to improve efficiency is to focus primarily on the different materials and components that make up the fabric of building, before looking at other mechanical or electrical systems. This method can be beneficial for self-builders too, as it highlights the importance of making sure that the roof area is as efficient as possible – both in terms of airtightness, to reduce heat loss, and natural ventilation, to avoid the associated problems of condensation, mould and mildew. This is where the use of roof vents can make a big difference, and there are plenty of options available to suit the needs of roofs, large and small.

Lofty heights

Roof windows are also likely to remain big news this year as the trend for converting attic spaces into useable areas to live and work continues. It’s essential to get the right balance of windows for the overall area of the room, though, so always bear in mind the 20% rule, which is an excellent guide to the optimal ratio between the amount of glazing to floor space.

When calculating the number of natural light sources, it’s also important to remember that other fenestration units, such as vertical windows, can complement a roof window so you can choose the best combination for your needs and budgets. But did you know that roof windows can let in twice as much natural light as vertical windows? This makes them a great option when space and money are limited as less glazing is needed to create brighter interiors.

‘Versa-tile’ designs

With so many different types of roofing tiles to choose from, much will depend on your individual taste and budget, but it’s safe to say that clay tiles will remain a popular choice for the next 12 months and beyond. The range of colours and styles available means that clay offers self-builders the scope to be creative yet are also a safe bet to source. The ongoing global material shortage and shipping delays could make getting hold of more bespoke tiles a bit trickier.

As sustainability continues to be a significant influence in the way people choose building materials, considering reclaimed rather than new tiles is another good option. This type of tile is excellent for adding authenticity to renovation projects, especially if you’re working on a heritage project or live in a conservation area. Clay or slate tiles that have previously been well maintained will almost certainly have a lot of life left in them, but stumbling blocks can appear if you can’t source enough tiles to do the job. It’s also important to remember that all reclaimed tiles need to be fitted in accordance with the current standards, regardless of how they were previously installed.

It’s always a good idea to check in with your roofing contractor so you can be confident that you are creating a roof that has a positive effect on the entire project in terms of thermal performance and energy efficiency. As well as all the latest product innovations, your merchant or supplier can also provide valuable help and advice to make sure you not only choose the best roofing materials to suit your project but also purchase the right quantities, helping to boost your build and your budget.

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