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Roofing 101 – on why the roof is the house

The splatter of the rain on a roof has a calming effect on us all. This is made even more wonderful by the secret comfort of acknowledging that you are in a place where the rain cannot touch. You appreciate the wind blowing the rain and the nostalgia of childhood sweeps you away to an innocent time growing up in your parent’s house. A sudden bolt of thunder takes your thoughts out of your comfort zone and you quietly curse and exhale under your breath “thank God for the roof!”

It’s easy to take the roof for granted – it’s always there, just like an old friend who lives a few blocks away in town but you never get to see. Roofs have been around for quite some time, in fact it is said that they existed in 3000-BC. There is evidence of roofing amongst the early civilizations, notably among the Roman and Greek civilizations where slate and tiles where used. The Chinese also are on record as having used tiles in their early years. Thatch has also been a great favorite amongst different early cultures and has continued to be used even today in various parts of the world.

The use of different roofing material has evolved over time here in Kenya in tune with modern trends around the world. The main reason for this change has been the need for increased safety – hence demand for structurally superior structures such as steel roofing, which also allows home owners to install aesthetically appealing roofs are also more durable than traditional types.

Metal roofs are now the most popular roofs in Kenya – in fact according the Kenya national bureau of statistics, over 80% of houses in Kenya have a metal roof. Companies like Mabati Rolling Mills which has been in business for 60 years manufactures modern coated steel at their world class plant at Mariakani, Mombasa. This modern metal is profiled to look like traditional roofing tile designs or any other corrugated roof, including box profiles that are available across the country. The metal can be made into different finishing – from aluminum coated silvery finish that is used to make Dumuzas sheets, coloured coated sheets in different profiles or double coated textured finish. There is a wide range of colours available for home owners to choose.

Metal roofs are durable, fire resistant and require almost no upkeep (ukiweka umeweka) they are energy efficient because the metal coating reflects the sun’s heat from penetrating the roof and heating the house. They are also affordable from a life-cycle perspective because of their long life span as com[1]pared to traditional roofing materials like grass thatch or even clay tiles.

Roof designs are also a key factor to consider when putting up a house and steel roofing works very well with different roof designs. Various roof designs exist in different markets as influenced by different cultures and prevailing architectural prac[1]tices and standards. The role of the architect is critical in the design of the house as they are the trusted masters of bringing the homeowners vision to reality.

The architects works with other professionals such as structural engineers (to ensure the roof structure is strong), Quantity Surveyors (to recommend the correct materials), Electrical Engineer (for the electrical & IT systems) and Civil engineer (plumbing works and drainage systems)

The journey to the beautiful house starts with a great looking roof because the roof is said to be over 40% of the exterior look of the house. While understanding the roof material type and roof design is important, the most critical decision is on the quality of the steel that is used to make the roofing material a home owner eventually buys. The wise home owner must choose material from well-known suppliers like Mabati Rolling Mills (MRM) and others that not only can warrant their products but also give you value added benefits such as site supervision and also supply all the relevant accessories to ensure your roof works for you. These consist of correct roof fasteners, steel rain[1]water harvesting gutters, roof insulation materials to keep your house cool when it’s hot and event solar solutions to use.

In the end, you need to be sure that the splutter of the rain has a calming effect on you – because there are home owners that live in dread of the rain, because when it rains – it pours into their house. And that is not calming at all.


Harry Muchangi Njagi Is a roofer who writes about what, when it moves him.