The roof of a home has some incredibly important functions. It helps support the entire building, keeps it structurally sound, serves as protection from environmental elements and prevents debris, dirt and water from entering the house. Along with functionality, many home owners also see aesthetics as an essential element.
Australia’s outlooks are wide and varied, boasting idyllic coastal seasides, vast desert plains, cool lush rainforests and rocky outback ranges. Therefore, such contrasting topography calls for a range of roofing materials to suit our country’s diverse climatic conditions. Here is a basic guide to Australian roof types.
From iconic Queenslanders to Art Deco styles and modern-day masterpieces, roofing trends have emerged throughout several periods in Australian history, resulting in a variety of different roofs across the country. Here are a few of the more common varieties of roof types:
Popular in the 1840s, these homes were simple structures made to withstand heat, pests and flooding. Constructed of tin and timber, they featured an elevated design, a wrap-around verandah and a pitched roof.
In the 1860s, British-style housing heavily influenced some of the Australian architects of the 19th century, with Victorian homes (named for the period in which Queen Victoria reigned) being the most popular. Early Victorian homes were traditionally made of brick with pitched roofs made from tiles, slate or corrugated iron.
Edwardian or Federation
This style of home rose in popularity around the Federation of Australia in 1901 and drew heavily on the period known as Queen Anne (1895 to 1910). These homes are typically identified by their fretwork, red brick exteriors and steeply sloped tiled roofs.
These became popular in the 1920s as a result of American cultural influences. This style of home was traditionally single-storeyed with a sloping roof and constructed of brick with signature columns holding up the front verandah.
Australia embraced this style between the two World Wars (1918 to 1939). This was a more solid, practical approach to construction, with closed-in balconies, wrought iron gates and chimney and roof designs that featured geometric shapes.
Post-war Brick Veneer
These were abundant after 1945 and were among the first houses to include garages. Homes often featured low profile colours with hipped roofs, which are roofs with sharp edges or edges from the ridge to the eaves where the two sides meet.
Notable in the 50s and 60s, these often featured open-plan living and were characterised by their flat roofs and floor-to-ceiling windows.
First appearing in the early 20th century, these are now the foundation of the contemporary box-like structures that populate our suburbs. Features of a modern home include reinforced concrete frames and flat or skillion (or sloping) roofs.
While there are a variety of architectural styles of houses existing in Australia today, the types of roofs on homes also play a big part in the look of a home. Here are some of the more common roof shapes:
- Hip – In terms of types of roofs, a hip roof is very similar to a gable roof. The difference is that instead of just two roof planes, hip roofs have at least three or four roof sides that connect at a single point called the ridge. It is a popular roof choice in Australia — particularly in houses located near coastal areas — because of its high wind resistance. It’s also a great “all-rounder” because of its durability in terms of being able to withstand all types of climates. However, some of the drawbacks of these roofs are that they can be challenging to maintain and a lot more expensive than other roof types because of all the materials required to cover the roof surface.
- Gabled – These types of roofs are easily recognised by their classic triangular shape. Gabled roofs normally consist of two roof planes connected to a ridge at the centre, forming a triangular shape. Hence the name, peaked roof. They are often used in combination with a hipped roof (instead of just two roof planes, hip roofs have at least three or four roof sides that connect at a single point called the ridge). This gives ample space for an attic. They are a great option for those on a budget, as their simplicity often means cheaper construction costs. They are also easy to construct, as most builders have mastered this style already!
- Flat – There are lots of pros and cons of flat roofs, and they are a popular choice among builders of modern homes, commercial buildings and high-rises because they are stylish, economical and easy to build. Australian flat roof types can be made with cement or other types of metals, and because of their structure, they actually minimise the area the roof covers (hence, their economy). Flat roofs aren’t entirely flat though — they will always include some pitch for water runoff. However, one of the downsides is that they require a bit of maintenance to remain clean, as they often hold rain and snow longer than sloped roofs.
- Curved — An unusual yet aesthetically pleasing roof choice, curved roofs are most often found in beach or coastal areas. Because they have thicker base metals under them, they are sturdy and can withstand strong winds. However, they can be expensive, hard to maintain, and harder to install because of their complex structure.
- Skillion – These are flat roofs with a visibly significant pitch and are normally a single roof not attached to another roof surface. The term “skillion” can also refer to a smaller addition to an existing roof, where keeping the same roof pitch puts the skillion roof lower than the ceiling height of the main house structure. So even though the main roof has a flat ceiling, the skillion component will have a sloping ceiling line that maximises ceiling height. They are sleek and aesthetically pleasing, with the clean and modern appearance of a flat roof but the water runoff efficiency of a gable roof. They are also the best type of roof for solar panels, and these roofs are typically easier and cheaper to install as they usually only need a single roof plane.
- Butterfly – These are found on two skillion roofs where there is a box gutter (a rain gutter on a roof that is rectangular) in the middle. This roof shape resembles a butterfly’s wings and consists of two planes slanting down towards each other (rather than away from each other), which eliminates the need for traditional gutter/downspout systems as rainwater drains into the central trough where it can be drained away or harvested. Drawbacks include more frequent maintenance, and they can also be expensive to install because they are a complex piece of architecture.
- Bonnet — This type of roof has two sides that lead to either a gentle or sudden slope. They are most common in houses that have a verandah area, with the slopes covering that portion.
- Pyramid — Not surprisingly, these roofs are shaped like a pyramid. They are usually on smaller houses or put on peripheral units like sheds or garages.
- Green – These are also known as “living roofs” and have a flat or pitched surface planted partially or entirely with vegetation. These roofs can absorb and redirect rainwater, create a habitat for wildlife, and help to lower a home’s temperature.
In terms of the different types of Australian roofs, the material from which a roof is constructed is another crucial factor that defines a roof’s overall visual appearance and character.
- Terracotta Tile Roofs – These are made from a natural clay product that provides protection from the elements. They are durable, aesthetically beautiful, and available in various colours and profiles. They can also be energy efficient because their natural density can help to even out temperature fluctuations. However, they can be expensive compared to other types of roofing.
- Concrete Tile Roofs – These tiles are durable and can play a big part in reducing energy consumption and controlling internal temperatures. However, they are generally more porous than terracotta tiles and can fade quickly due to paints only being applied to the surface.
- Metal Roofs – Metal roofs are one of the more common types of roofs in Australia. The types of metal roofs can vary from steel and aluminium to copper and zinc. However, one of the more popular choices is from companies like BlueScope that offer top-quality metal roofing products that are not only aesthetically appealing but durable, meaning they can withstand some of Australia’s toughest weather conditions.
The technology of metal roofing is also continually advancing, so it is an extremely popular choice for roofing on Australian homes. Products like Colorbond® offer thermal efficiency and long-life performance with five layers of corrosion-resistant coating, and Zincalume® steel products are some of the toughest around. With their patented Activate® technology, warranties are offered for up to 30 years, depending on the roofing application.
Need a new roof and not sure of the options available? Contact us on (07) 3623 4422 for a quote!