In race for glamour, builders labour to turn heads with the best roofs in town

Posted In Business, Real Estate - By admin on Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 With No Comments »
It is the roof, among other not-so-obvious things, that today defines a modern house.

It is the roof, among other not-so-obvious things, that today defines a modern house.

They come in all manner of colours, textures and designs.

While some have waterproofing qualities, others boast versatility and awe-inspiring variations of layout possibilities, all meant to top up the aesthetic appeal of your home.

Today, a house not only provides shelter, but also defines one’s taste while projecting one’s place in society. It has become a source of motivation for people to save up for that “roof over their heads”, which is why these colourful canopies have become quite the rage of late.

It is the roof, among other not-so-obvious things, that today defines a modern house. And it is the one thing, as we found out from a developer, that many will guard from photographers “as someone else might copy the design”.

Roofing, really, has become a big deal, and also a big headache for both architects and manufacturers. For those who have been in the business for a long time, like Mabati Rolling Mills, the landscape has changed, and so to serve the needs of their clients well they have had to keep innovating.

Roofing, you see, is no longer just about corrugated iron sheets or clay tiles, but nice-sounding things like decra and shingles.


Technological innovations in the construction industry have seen the roofing industry produce better, lighter, more colourful and easier-to-use products.

It is all for a good reason, though, because, as those in the industry say, a roof, being the most visible part of a house, depicts the home owner’s individualism, class and style.

“Gone are the days when people just put whatever they could over their heads,” says Ms Irene Wanjiku, whose Nairobi-based Rexe Roofing stocks a wide range of local and imported roofing material.

“Everyone wants a personalised design, and the right material to take that personalisation a notch higher.”

Today, roofs are the epitome of class, taste and sophistication, both for the house and its owner.

“People have grown away from the traditional mindset of roofing, and this is not just happening in urban centres, but in rural areas as well,” says Ms Wanjiku.

“Home owners have ventured into the finer details that roofs offer since these are what captures the eye before one is drawn to the other aesthetic appeals of an architect’s work.

“Also, property developers are today competing to have the best roof in town. Before you hear about who has the best design for a house, you’ll hear about whose roof exudes glamour, and these new market trends are seeing companies produce different, colourful and generally attractive types of roofing material.”

When building a house, a roof takes up to six per cent of the total construction cost. This means that if you plan to spend about Sh3 million on your home, you need to set aside about Sh180,000 for the roof.

Architects say it is the most demanding part of construction as it is not only time consuming, but also costly and intricate. For this reason, it is paramount that a developer be careful when selecting materials and artisans.

Nairobi-based architect John Miswa acknowledges that although a roof is designed to offer protection from the elements, it is also meant give the house an attractive look. This function of conspicuousness is what makes the difference between one house and the other, he says.

According to Mr Miswa, the construction industry has tremendously changed in every aspect, and a roof, being a vital component, is no exception.


“Developers are keen on the beauty the roof offers. This has significantly contributed to the move from conventional materials like thatch and corrugated iron sheets to tiles, shingles, stone-coated sheets, and even glass,” he explains.

But with style and class come higher costs.

Though they are appealing to the eye, these high-end products are almost always above the budgetary expectations of the consumer. So before you set your eyes on a product, Miswa says, be ready to spend more than you would if you did not want to stand out from the crowd.

“Most of these new roofing products are light in weight and volume, and therefore need a lot of timber to make the trusses (supporting structures of roofs) to cater for live loads, normally wind, people and rain,” explains Miswa.

“The roof will depend on the size of the house and its design. Approximately, a modern roof for a standard house could cost between Sh1,800 and Sh3,500 per square metre.”

Ms Wanjiku does not just stock locally produced roofing materials, but imported ones as well. Her company, which also installs the roofs, charges between Sh550,000 and Sh650,000 for a three-bedroom bungalow, while that ideal picturesque rooftop view on a maisonette — which might not have a wide roofing area compared to a bungalow — will cost upwards of Sh500,000.

“These roofs are not only beautiful, but also durable, and that is why clients come for them. It is better to spend once on a roof than to keep renovating,” says Wanjiku.

But as the new products are welcome to the market, experts say that developers should tread with caution because, like every other market, counterfeits are beginning to burn holes in the pockets of developers.

A good roofing material should last up to 40 years, but home owners have been known to overhaul their roofs after less than five years because a contractor did not get the right product.

“A good roof is attained through due diligence, and that will give the buyer lifespan and warranty certificates,” advises Ms Wanjiku.


A lot of home owners are not impressed by the products they put on their roofs, and the biggest grouse is that most are forced to either repaint their roofs because the products faded within a few years, or to completely overhaul the structure because it developed leaks within months.

Mr Miswa says most roofs are designed to last between 12 and 20 years, and that metal roofs should last at least twice as long.

With so much to choose from, consumers tend to be confused. Still, the market is demanding more, especially with the proliferation of online catalogues and colourful, dreamy images of villas photographed by the best talent in the market.

“Some clients even ask for roofs that come complete with a fitted solar panel,” says Ms Wanjiku. “While, as players in the industry, we know that these products are available in other markets, they may not find a huge following locally, and therefore it does not make a lot of business sense for us to stock them.”

While the choice of roof is the client’s discretion, one should accept to be advised appropriately where necessary, especially if that advice is coming from a professional.

One should also have a clear understanding of the waterproofing properties of the roofing material, as well as whether that material is safe for water harvesting.


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