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Roof Coverings: What Types are Available for Your Build?

 this chapel restoration project uses several types of roof covering
(Image credit: c/o Damon Ball)

Roof coverings can make or break your build, but rather than be daunted by the variations in roof structure, pitch and material you can choose from when it comes to picking roofs, think of it as a chance to add some crowning character to your project. 

To show you exactly what you have to choose from, we've pulled together a gallery of your options for roof coverings, along with practical advice on what they'll mean for your home. 

(MORE: Clever Roof Design Ideas to Inspire Your Build)

Tiled Roof Coverings

Beloved by developers and supermarkets, interlocking tiles, usually made of concrete, are the cheapest way of covering a pitched roof. They are very large and don’t require much in the way of an overlap and so as few as ten can be used to cover a square metre, which makes them very quick to lay. However, they lose much of their cost advantage where the roof shape is more complex and lots of cutting is involved.

Both interlocking and plain formats are available in either concrete or clay. Concrete is always cheaper, usually around 20% less, but it never weather as well as clay roof tiles, which tend to improve with age. In contrast, the colour of concrete roof tiles tend to wash out after a few years.

Pantile Roofs

pantile roof tile covering

(Image credit: getty images)

The forerunner to interlocking tiles, these are widely specified in the east of England and work with traditional and modern designs.

Plain Tiles

concrete roof tiles

(Image credit: Marley)

Laid at around 60 tiles per m², plain tiles give a far more traditional look than pantiles or interlockers. They vary in price and look: at the upper end are the handmade plain tiles, where every tile looks different, adding a wonderfully rich texture to the roof, both in terms of colour and shape.

Slate Roof Tiles

Traditional style house with slate roof covering

(Image credit: Nigel Rigden)
What is stone belt roofing?

If you are building in a stone belt, such as the Cotswolds or many parts of the north of England, you may well be required by planners to use local materials. In such instances, you are unlikely to have much choice as to what you use.

Slate roofing became the roofing material of choice for the Victorians, with the railways opening up the Welsh slate quarries to the whole of the country. Today it continues to be in demand, both as a replacement and as a new material, though most slate is now imported from Spain, China or Brazil. Slate looks good in both traditional and modern designs and is a fair, mid-priced option for roof covering.

Natural slate can be used to stunning effect, and just gets better with age, as on this custom build home in Dorset that was build almost exclusively from locally-sourced materials

There are a number of slate alternatives available. Some are basically thin concrete tiles, some use fibre-cement, and a range use reconstituted slate, basically slate dust bound together with resin. These can be moulded to look like natural slate and are available as interlockers, making the laying much simpler and quicker.

Thatched Roof Coverings

Thatched roof covering on cottage

The Norfolk reed thatch roof of this self build cottage in Cambridgeshire works with the Dutch herringbone patterned brick to give the appearance of a home that has been standing for centuries. (Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

Thatching today exists primarily as a restoration activity, but every year there are few thatched new builds as well. Thatching is not something you would ever consider adding to a house as an afterthought — you more or less have to design the house around it. It’s expensive and it requires fairly frequent attention over the years.

Green Roof Coverings

an extension with a biophilic green roof

This large extension preserves the views from its own (and neighbours') upstairs windows by using a green roof covering. (Image credit: Adam Scott)

There is currently enormous interest in green roofs, whether that's wildflower planted or turfed. In fact, these are nothing new – being commonly used in parts of Scandinavia and Scotland for hundreds of years – but today’s green roof is a very different beast. 

You have to build such a roof up in layers, paying careful attention to waterproofing details, and the planting regime has to be carefully thought through. There are many environmental benefits claimed to derive from using green roofs, but these are hard to substantiate.

Metal Roof Coverings

Timber frame house with metal roof

The metal roof on this timber-framed farmhouse adds to its contemporary design, which also echoes the military history of the plot (Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

Metal is a somewhat specialised roofing material. It’s laid in sheet form and the two most popular metals currently being used are zinc and copper. Lead is now mostly used for flashing material, around chimneys and at roof junctions. There are also steel roof tiles available, which are an alternative to concrete, clay or slate, especially suitable for windy sites.

Mark is the author of the ever-popular Housebuilder’s Bible and an experienced builder. He’s just finished his latest self build.