This selection of roofing materials, with ideas for both traditional and modern homes, offers good looks and great performance

The style of your home will influence the roofing material you select as will the local planning authority requirements, so check with them as to the constraints in place. Obviously, your choice must be watertight, but also needs to be durable and look good for decades to come. The pitch, structure and design of the roof will also influence your options, as will features such as dormers.

1 Traditional look

Double camber clay tiles bring texture and accentuate the light and shade an undulating roof. They need a minimum pitch of 35 degrees and are a good option for blending in with a traditional local setting

1 small 

Acme double camber plain clay roof tile, Marley Eternit.

2 Handmade appeal

When authenticity is paramount, using a combination of handmade clay tiles in mellow colours brings a distinctive look. ‘The variation in shape and camber of hand-formed designs has huge aesthetic appeal but laying them can be more complicated and requires skill,’ says Paul John Lythgoe, managing director at Tudor Roof Tiles.


Handmade clay roof tiles, Tudor Roof Tiles.

3 Natural stone effect

Man-made fibre-cement tiles mimic the look of real slate and are uniform in size, shape and thickness.  A cost-effective choice and ideal where a lightweight covering is required, the textured surface is coated with a semi-matt acrylic pigmented finish to give a natural appearance.

 3 Cembrit Fibre Cement Slate effct DWH 6

Moorland fibre cement slate, Cembrit.

4 Bespoke mix

These tiles complement the oak cladding used on this project by Spratley & Partners. Every single one is sandfaced, shaped, trimmed and has nail holes inserted so no two are the same. ‘There’s always a balance to be struck between cost and the overall aesthetic of a new-build, but as roof tiles represent a small proportion of the total cost go for the best you can afford,’ says Paul John Lythgoe, managing director at Tudor Roof Tiles.

 4 Tudor Roof Tiles Handmade Winter Hill Barn high res copy

Handmade clay roof tiles in Sussex Brown and Sussex Red, Tudor Roof Tiles.

5 Classic curves

Combining natural clay with modern production methods, this interlocking pantile is easy to lay. The classic S-shape profile is suitable for traditional builds with roof pitches as low as 12.5 degrees.

 5 Clay Interlocking Pantile MAR14 03 008 copy

Clay single interlocking pantile, Marley Eternit.

6 Sleek finish

Designed to be a slick interpretation of a barn roof, blue clay tiles give a metallic feel to this project by Adrian James Architects. Shade variations are produced in the kiln where the iron content converts to the blue hue, and texture is also important. ‘Smoothfaced tiles have clean, sharp lines making them popular for modern builds, whereas a sandfaced option has a softer look and takes on an aged and weathered appearance,’ says Alex Patrick-Smith, managing director at Dreadnought Tiles.

 6 Dreadnought A traditional machine made clay in Staffs Blue Broadmere Adrian James Architects

Staffordshire Blue smoothfaced clay tiles, Dreadnought Tiles.

7 Seamless protection

The span of this low-profile, winged roof is covered with a high-performance, single-ply waterproof membrane that won’t expand or contract. Flat roofs formed from bituminous materials have a lifespan of between 8-12 years, whereas with single-ply PVC membranes it’s closer to 40 years.


Sarnafil self-adhered single ply membrane in Lead Grey, Roof Assured.

8 Metal effect

A variegated roof covered in a fleece-backed, synthetic waterproof single membrane has an eye-catching traditional lead effect when combined with standing seam effect profiles. The covering has impressive thermal properties and long-term reliability so it can protect a home for many years.

 8 SPRA Flat Roof

Alwitra Evalon V single-ply membrane in Slate Grey, ICB Waterproofing.

9 Living layer

Boost your home’s eco credentials with a green roof. This bespoke 600sqm design is sedum with a shallow expanse of low growing plants retained by curved and powder-coated aluminium trims.


Bespoke sedum roof, Sky Garden.

10 Natural patina

A metal barrel shape makes a statement on this contemporary self-build by Porteous Architecture. Formed on-site from standing seam copper panels in a mill finish, it has developed a patina that will mellow
to a characteristic blue/green finish.

 10 Porteous Architects Copper DSC 0103

Copper roof, ADM Roofing.

Maintaining a green roof

Tips on choosing plants and keeping them healthy from Russell Hartwell, business development manager at Sky Garden

    • Sedum vegetation provides an evergreen covering that helps blend a home into green belt land or picturesque surroundings. The most common green roof system is an extensive system, which uses a mix of sedum species laid as a pre-grown blanket onto a shallow substrate and is designed to be sustainable with little upkeep.
    • Irrigation of a sedum roof is only necessary after installation until the plants are established. Subsequent watering may only be required in exceptionally dry periods.
    • Waterproofing is protected by drainage and filtration base layers and can extend the life of waterproofing by up to three times, as the membrane is shielded from harmful UV rays and extremes in temperature. Green roofs are also increasingly used to mitigate drainage problems at ground level. With more extreme rainfall events, a green roof can re-transpirate approximately 50 per cent of average rainfall back into the atmosphere, while slowing the rate of storm-water run-off compared to a bare roof.
    • Wildlife and biodiversity will benefit from a barren space being turned into a living habitat.

For more Grand Designs homes and self build inspiration, Read the magazine digital edition for free.

read a free issue of grand designs magazine


How to build a flood-proof home

How to choose a roof light for your extension

10 stunning period home renovations

Kevins Column

Grand Designs Live Online: Self Build & Renovation Weekend 31 July – 1 August 2021

Discover free home project advice and product recommendations from the comfort of your own home. Register now to express your interest.
Home Improvements

Why resin floors are perfect for modern living

Resin flooring is growing in popularity in modern homes – it’s ideal for open plan living, sustainable and hard-wearing. We take a closer look…
Home Improvements

Elevate your kitchen with a designer cooker hood

Ensure the air in your kitchen is fresh and well-ventilated with a stylish cooker hood to match your space and cooking needs
Home Improvements

Where to shop for luxury household appliances and white goods

Why settle for average appliances when you can have ones that make life easier and look great too? We delve into an award-winning range of...
Home Improvements

Why triple glazing is the best option for your home

Is triple glazing really better than double? We look at the potential energy savings, security and acoustic performance of that extra pane…
Home Improvements

How to successfully landscape a garden

Whether reworking an uninspiring corner in your garden or designing a spacious plot from scratch, you’ll need a strategy, a budget and some expert help...
Home Improvements

How to get the perfect gravel driveway

Gravel driveways are a classic way to finish your home’s exterior, but can drift, shift and sink, leaving a messy finish. We look at a...