A Roof is a Shelter

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By: David Rennison

 

How many different roofs do you have over your head in a single day? From your home to work, the bank or the grocery store, every building we enter has a roof of some kind, but we hardly ever take notice. When we do notice our roof, we are usually unhappy about it. It is leaking or insurance says it is too old, so we complain that we must pay to fix our roof. Why do we complain and why do we never notice the greatness that is a roof? Don’t believe me when I say a roof is great, well let me explain why.  

A new roof should be exciting!
Modern day home with a new roof.

First, what is a roof?

The roof is the covering on the uppermost part of a building or shelter which provides protection from the weather and wilderness.  We have been building roof like structures to shelter us from the weather since we were hunters and gatherers. These hunters and gatherers would build tent like structures on sticks. The roof materials would be leaves or grass they found from local vegetation and animal skins. In many places around the world they would tie these materials together in a mat like shape and then tie the mat to the sticks. One of the most important parts of survival was shelter and these roofs provided shelter.

Tent like structures made form local vegetation
Tent like structures made from local vegetation

As the hunters and gatherers started to farm, the shelters started to take root as well. Instead of tent like structures, walls were built under the roofs, usually with mud, rocks and vegetation. The roof on these structures started to get more complex as the farmers needed waterproofing to protect food storage but also ventilation to allow smoke from cooking to leave.  This is believed to be the beginning of Thatching.

Completed thatch hut
Farmers needed stable homes to protect food storage

Thatching is the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation, usually straw or reeds. The vegetation is layered and tightly packed as to shed the water way from lower layers.  Due to being tightly packed Thatch also insulated the homes but allowed for smoke to leave without the use of a chimney. Thatching has been used for hundreds of years and is still in use today in places all over the world.

An example of thatching and how it was knotted.
Thatching knots used for roofing

Although most of us do not build our own homes, or bundle grass for thatch anymore, we still rely on our roof to provide shelter. Roofs have made it possible for us to work despite the weather, to store food so we didn’t have to spend all day farming and to protect our families from the extremes of nature. The roof over your head provides you with privacy as well as security and it is so good at it that we all take it for granted. So, next time your roof needs some maintenance don’t complain, instead remember your roof is great and take pride in your roof, as it provides you with the shelter you need to survive.