The profile of your roof is one of the most defining elements of your cottage. More than any other part of the structure, the roof is responsible for the shape of your cottage. The roof has importance both in its form and function.

Image: The covered porch in multiple dormers breaks up the large roof expanse

It is important to plan a roof which is practical and appropriate to the region and climate in which you live. Steep roofs are traditional in the north as they shed snow more easily and low roofs with wide overhangs are more common to the south, as they provide shade from the hot sun.

There are 12 different styles of roofs, however not all of them are commonly found in Muskoka.

The following pictures show a simplistic rendering of each of these styles.

Wings are a feature that make the roof more complex. Each of the above styles could have additional wings which would increase the size of the building.

Roof pitch is strongly associated with style. Not achieving the correct pitch on a roof makes the difference between creating a cottage with charm and style, or one that simply misses its mark. The quality and talent of your architect will ensure that you get the design features right.

Image: Exposed rafter tails are traditional in Muskoka

Vocabulary associated with your roof:

Pitch is measured in the run and the rise of the roof. For instance, an eight in twelve pitch, rises eight inches in every twelve inches of run. A shallow pitch like a 3:12 is a three inch rise over every foot of roof. The more steeply pitched a roof, the more easily waterproof and wind/snow resistant it is. Certain roofing materials are best suited to certain pitches, while other roofing materials are good on any pitch. Cedar shingles should only be used on a roof that is at least a 6:12 pitch, otherwise driving rain and snow can blow in underneath the edges, creating a leak.

The Victorian styles, which are favoured in Muskoka, generally have more steeply pitched roofs than modern styles and therefore are appropriate to cedar shingle or cedar shake roofing. In Muskoka, you could plan a lower pitched roof to have standing seam aluminum as a cladding and it would shed its snow well.

Roof cladding refers to the type of material that is installed as protection on the top side of your roof. There are a wide variety of choices, such as wood shingles, wood shakes, asphalt shingles, steel shingles, rolled steel, standing seam aluminum and so on.

The good news is that old Muskoka cottages usually had simple three tab asphalt shingles, which are one of the most inexpensive choices available to you.
Using low profile standing seam aluminum roofs is also traditional to buildings in Muskoka and is also a very inexpensive, long lasting, low maintenance choice.

When choosing the cladding for your roof, do not forget to consider the pitch of your dormers as well as the pitch of your main roof. For instance, if you want to have shed dormers on your cottage, remember that they have a more shallow pitch which would not be suited to cedar shingles, unlike the main roof which may have a steep pitch making it right for the use of cedar.

Image: This complex roof adds atmosphere

In Muskoka it is a good idea to use ice and water shield over the entire roof to ensure it is waterproof. Muskoka is a harsh environment for building materials, and ice and water shield gives you an extra measure of protection. It will increase the price of your structure by a small amount, but it is wise to invest in the long life and proper functioning of your roof.

Gables are the triangles formed by the sloping roof. A building can be oriented such that the gable end is at the front or at the side of the building. Your cottage could also be cross gabled if it has wings with gables that come out of the sides of the building. Porches and dormers also can have gables.

Dormers are little roofs that fit onto your main roof with the purpose of holding windows that bring in additional light. There are wall dormers and roof dormers. Wall dormers are an extension of the wall up into the roof, while roof dormers sit further up on the roof.

Both wall and roof dormers come in the same four basic styles, which are gabled, shed, hipped, and eyebrow.

Certain dormers are more strongly associated with certain styles of buildings. For instance, in Muskoka it is common to see many more shed dormers on cottages than you would see on the styles of homes built in the city. This is another feature your eye should have the chance to be come attuned to before you make your design choices.

Rafters are structural members in the roof which are a type of beam that supports the roof of a building. Rafters are not as common as they used to be, as it is much less expensive to build with a roof truss system.

Rafter tails are the ends of the rafter that extends beyond the wall to help form the eaves. In very simple buildings that do not require insulation, the rafter tails are left exposed. You will see this on old cottages or woodsheds. There are ways to leave the rafter tails exposed in insulated, truss construction; giving the building a traditional or old fashioned look. This is an expensive way to finish the roof, but it gives a beautiful appearance on a traditional design.

If your eye is not used to this style of roof, rafter tails may look unfinished to you. That is why it is important to look closely at a wide variety of designs, attuning your eye, before you make your design choices.

Collar Ties are horizontal connectors that run between rafters. Collar ties reduce sagging, which is when the rafters tend to want to collapse inward, or spreading, which is when the rafters tend to want to splay outward. Collar ties hold the rafters preventing them from collapsing or splaying.

Collar ties are functional structure, but they can also be used decoratively. The actual collar ties can be exposed for decorative purposes, or fake collar ties can be installed to give the impression of a particular type of construction.

Trusses are engineered forms that replace the use of rafters to extend the span, increase the load a roof can carry, or decrease the cost of construction. Trusses are usually less expensive to build with than rafters, as they are made in bulk, using a jig and gang nailers to speed the process. Trusses can be formed to create ceilings that are flat, or scissor trusses can be used to create ceilings that are pitched, rising to the height of your choice. You can even order trusses that provide you with attic space.

Soffit refers to the material that forms a ceiling from the exterior house wall to the outer edge of the roof, bridging the gap between the siding and the roof line. Cottages that have exposed rafter tails do not have soffit or fascia. In some developments that are based on traditional style, soffits and fascia are not permitted, in favour of exposed rafter tails.

Fascia is the vertical surface which caps the ends of the rafters and which can be used to hold an eaves trough. When your cottage has a style with exposed rafter tails there will be no fascia covering the ends of the rafters.

Ventilation in the roof is necessary for healthy and long lasting roof performance. In the cold weather, warm air created by showers, laundry, dish washers, and other sources stay in the house and moisture builds up, unless there is proper roof ventilation.
In the summer heat build up encourages premature aging and cracking of wood, and the unwanted heat can also transfer back down to the living area reducing energy efficiency, unless proper roof ventilation is in place.

Ice Damming is a problem that occurs in northern climates. It is what happens through poor roof ventilation or when snow builds up on the roof and then begins to melt as a result of heat lost through the attic. Melting happens frequently in areas where there are skylights. As this melting occurs, the water runs down the roof, under the protection of the snow cover, until it reaches the eaves, where there is no more protection. Since it is cold here, the water freezes. This frozen water forms a little ridge, referred to as a dam, which prevents the water behind it from getting away, so it also freezes. This dam backs up the roof, working its way under the shingles and letting water get into the building. Ice dams are very common, especially on roofs with skylights, and so extra protection is necessary in the form of ice and water shield.

Ice and Water Shield is a protective shield designed to solve the problem of water getting into the building through ice damming. Ice and water shield is a layered neoprene rubber that has no joins or seams, that tightly grips any screws or nails that go through it, creating a continuous waterproof layer preventing any water from getting into your building. Ice and water shield can be put on a section of your roof, or over the entire roof.

Roof Design

Your roof will be designed commensurate with the style of the cottage. A Georgian cottage will have a very plain roof, while Queen Anne style cottages will have a very complex roof.

The more complex a roof is, with many peaks, valleys, gables and dormers, the more money it costs to build. The more complex a roof is, the more experienced your builder has to be to complete the job well.

In Muskoka your roof needs to be able to hold 100 pounds of snow and ice per square foot in the winter, protect you from blazing sun in the summer, and endure high winds throughout all seasons. Make sure that you choose someone who knows what they are doing to build it.

Thelma Jarvis Sales Representative

Port Carling: (705) 765-6855
Bracebridge: (705) 645 5257
Cell: (705) 644-3554
Fax: (705) 645-1238

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