How to Build a Roof on a House


Roofs on houses vary in geometry, method of ventilation and covering material. Most roof styles are best left to professional contractors, but if you are familiar with the materials, methods and most importantly, building codes, it is a task an experienced handy man can successfully take on. The building codes vary from state to state and sometimes from municipality to municipality, so become familiar with the codes in your area before building a roof on your house.

Things You'll Need

  • Lumber for framing or premanufactured trusses
  • Sheathing, usually 5/8- to 3/4-inch plywood
  • Felt paper, sized depending on local codes
  • Variety of flashing depending on roof penetrations
  • Roofing nails and tacks
  • Hammers and staplers as required
  • Roof covering such as asphalt shingles or wood shakes
  • Variety of power saws and drills
  • Ladders
  • Frame the roof according to the style you desire. Most framing components, such as trusses for a gable or hip roof, can be pre-manufactured. Give the manufacturer the specifications of the roof and the components will be delivered to your house. All you are required to do is lift the components into place and secure them to the house frame.

  • Nail your 5/8 to 3/4-inch sheathing to the framing components. The rows of sheathing should be offset by half a sheet. Cut holes for the ridge vent, if applicable, and any other necessary roof penetration, such as plumbing vents.

  • Secure the drip edge along all the exposed edges of the sheathing. This metal strip will protect the exposed edges from moisture exposure.

  • Cover the sheathing with a moisture barrier, if necessary, and felt paper. This process is sometimes called "drying in" and adds another layer of protection against moisture. Your local building codes will specify the requirements for nail patterns, amount of overlap and weight of felt paper.

  • Install step flashing anywhere a roof plane meets a vertical surface, such as a chimney. Install valley flashing anywhere two roof planes meet to form a valley. Install vent, apron or any other type of flashing as needed to prevent water seeping through a whole or seam in the roof.

  • Affix the covering to the roof. This process varies by type of covering, covering manufacturer and building code. For example, in areas of high fire risk, wood shakes can not usually be used as a roof covering. Asphalt shingles are the most popular covering, but there are alternatives available. In warm climates, homes can be built with flat or low-pitch roofs with roll roofing as a covering. All of these coverings must be installed according to building codes and manufacturer's instructions.

Tips & Warnings

  • It is important to think about ventilation with every step. Improper attic ventilation can lead to premature roof deterioration or even severe roof damage.

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