roofing materials in kenya

The Complete Guide to Roofing Materials in Kenya

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Going by the wide range of roofing materials available in Kenya, the selection process can be extremely overwhelming.

Every single salesperson in this space seems to guarantee the best possible results with their products. But sadly, we’ve seen many cases where it all turns out to be disastrous.

That said, you cannot afford to compromise your building by making a poor selection when it comes to roofing materials. What you ultimately install should not only satisfy your construction project’s economic requirements, but also the technical specifications.

The economic bit depends on the cumulative cost of the roof material, its corresponding support structure, plus the installation process itself. Typically, you’re bound to spend less on simple roofing designs compared to the complex ones.

The technical requirements, on the other hand, entail aspects like combustibility, weather resistance, and permeability. In other words, the roofing materials for your construction should withstand all the expected natural and artificial force elements over a prolonged period of time.

So, to help you make an informed choice, we’ve compiled a detailed guide with all the construction roofing materials in Kenya for both flat and pitched roofs.

FLAT ROOFING MATERIALSPITCHED ROOFING MATERIALS
Traditional Flat Roofing Membranes
– Modified Bitumen Roofing
– Tar and Gravel Roofing
Concrete and Clay Tile Roofing
Synthetic Flat Roofing Materials
– EPDM Rubber Roofing
– ThermoplastiC PVC and TPO Roofing
Asphalt Shingles Roofing
Metal Sheet Roofing
– Aluminum Roofing Sheets
– Steel Roofing Sheets
Metal Shingle Roofing
Natural and Synthetic Slate

But, before we dive deep into the nitty-gritty, what factors should you consider when choosing your roofing materials?

Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Roofing Materials

  • Roof Slope – The pitch or slope ratio determines not only the amount of roofing material required, but also the overall weight, structure, and drainage of the roof.
  • Weight – The weight of the roofing materials you select should not exceed the maximum structural load your building can support.
  • Durability – Roofing materials react differently to various environmental factors. So, ensure what you choose is designed to hold out against your area’s solar and precipitation levels over a prolonged period of time.
  • Reflectivity and Color – Roofing materials with reflective colors are suitable for buildings in hot climate zones. Then dull-colored materials, on the other hand, are perfectly suited for cold climates because of their solar absorption capabilities.
  • Health and Safety – Research has linked some roofing materials to a wide range of health conditions. Asbestos, for instance, is known to increase the risk of developing lung cancer, ovarian cancer, cancer of the voice box, and many more life-threatening conditions.
  • If you intend to collect rainwater, avoid zinc, lead, and copper coatings since they can corrode and contaminate your water. Other dangerously toxic materials include fiberglass, silica, cadmium, halogenated flame retardants, and PVC.
  • Installation and Maintenance – Pick roofing materials that are easy to install and maintain over the long haul.
  • ROI – Consider not only the purchasing price of your roofing materials, but also the subsequent cost of installation plus their projected future maintenance costs.
  • Warranty – Although they might cost you more, it’s always a good idea to settle for roofing materials that come with the longest possible warranties.
  • Aesthetics – Roofing materials should seamlessly integrate with the corresponding roofing designs and the overall architecture of their buildings.
  • Functionality – While most roofs only serve as protection against weather elements, some double up as liveable spaces like parking areas and terraces. Other common functions include rainwater plus solar energy collection. And all these affect the type of materials you ultimately choose for your roofing.

Flat Roofing Materials in Kenya

For the sake of clarity, a flat roof is simply the opposite of a sloped roof. In other words, it’s a roof with a pitch of not more 10°.

Traditional Flat Roofing Membranes

Modified Bitumen Roofing

The first thing that comes to mind when you think about flat roofing materials in Kenya is probably concrete.

Fair enough. But, here’s the thing. Concrete alone is extremely poor at waterproofing. So, to mitigate that, flat roofing designs with standard concrete or timber board decking often feature supplementary protective membranes. And one of the options here is modified bitumen.

Fundamentally, modified bitumen roofing is a type of asphalt membrane that can be installed through a variety of methods- in both cold and hot temperatures. Although it’s considered to be a traditional form of membrane roofing, modified bitumen is still exceedingly prevalent today.

Now, one of the prime reasons why is its impressive versatility. You have the freedom of choosing either cold-applied adhesives, hot-mapped asphalt, or self-adhesive sheets without worrying about possible leakages.

All these modified bitumen roofing options are effectively impermeable. Their potential weak-points along the seams are melted together to prevent even the slightest form of seepage.

modified bitumen roofing
Modified bitumen roofing

To top it off, modified bitumen membranes come with high tensile strength. This allows them to expand and contract accordingly over a prolonged period of time without cracking.

And that’s not all. They are also pretty effectual against storms, hail, and fire. That’s the reason why, as a matter of fact, most modified bitumen roofing suppliers in Kenya offer generous warranties. As long as it’s well installed, you can expect this type of roofing to go for even two decades without any defects.

Benefits

  • Fairly durable.
  • Economical.
  • Versatile.
  • High tensile strength.
  • Easy to install and maintain.
  • Resistant to all weather conditions.
  • Can be used with different types of structural roof decking, including concrete and timber. 

Drawbacks

  • High heat absorption due to its black color.
  • Requires specialized granules to protect it against the sun.
  • Might get damaged prematurely if your roof is not well-drained.

Tar and Gravel Roofing

Tar and Gravel roofing, otherwise known as built-up roofing, is another popular option for flat roofs in Kenya.

Generally, it’s installed in multiple layers of waterproofing material alternating with hot tar, and then the whole thing is finished with a top coating of gravel aggregate. While the underlying layers serve as the roof core, the gravel layer ultimately acts as the solar shield.

That said, it’s worth noting that there’s an array of materials you could use for your layers. Asphalt, for instance, features prominently in many flat roofing designs because of its waterproofing properties, plus the fact that it works well with tar layers.

tar and gravel roofing materials
Tar and gravel roofing materials

Now, the best thing about tar and gravel roofing is its durability. You can count in it to serve you for decades without any issues. Its multiple layers provide adequate thermal insulation as well as waterproofing. Then the gravel surface layer, on the other hand, is a great fire retardant.

Benefits

  • Excellent waterproofing.
  • Very durable.
  • Resistant to fire.

Drawbacks

  • Complex installation process.
  • Comparatively high structural load.
  • In case of any water leakage, the multiple percolation layers make it difficult to identify the principal source point.

Synthetic Flat Roofing Materials

EPDM Rubber Roofing

EPDM, or Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer in full, is a great option for anyone seeking cheap roofing materials for their flat roof. It’s a synthetic membrane built from a mixture of recycled materials like sawdust, slate dust, and tire rubber.

EPDM Rubber Roofing
EPDM rubber roofing

With such a composition, you can bet EPDM features predominantly among the lightest roofing materials in Kenya. That means you don’t need to heavily reinforce your roof deck. A medium-density fibreboard on standard timber purlins provides all the support you might need for your EPDM rubber roofing.

The installation procedure itself is very simple and straightforward. Just apply adhesive on your roof deck and then proceed to roll out the EPDM rubber. Alternatively, you could use ballast or fasteners to anchor the rubber. The choice is yours.

Thankfully, whichever method you select, the whole installation process shouldn’t take long since EPDM roofing comes with few seams. And speaking of which, the best thing about a low seam count is increased waterproofing capabilities. As long as the EPDM roof is installed perfectly, you won’t have to deal with leakages for decades.

But, in the unlikely event one occurs, there are numerous repair methods. You could simply use either adhesive, latex tape, or liquid roofing materials to seal cracks and exposed seams.

Don’t worry about frequent mechanical damages though. Although we are essentially talking about rubber here, a good EPDM roofing membrane is built to withstand basic scratches and scuffs.

Now, it’s worth noting that EPDM roofing materials in Kenya usually come in black color. That translates to increased solar absorption, which principally makes such roofing designs unsuitable for hot areas like the Coast and Northern Kenya.

Benefits

  • Inexpensive roofing material.
  • Made from recycled materials.
  • Easy to install.
  • Flexible installation process.
  • Fairly durable.
  • Doesn’t require heavy reinforcement.
  • Leakages are easy to repair.

Drawbacks

  • Its black color translates to increased solar absorption.
  • It can develop punctures from fallen tree branches.

Thermoplastic Roofing Materials – PVC and TPO

Technically, EPDM is widely considered to be a thermoset roofing material, whose installation doesn’t involve heating and melting.

Well, the opposite is thermoplastic roofing membranes, which contrastingly require heating for melting, followed by a cooling process.

Two popular thermoplastic roofing materials in Kenya are PVC and TPO. During installation, they are both heated adequately to transform from a solid to a semi-solid state. Their overlapping sections subsequently fuse to form a continuous, monolithic roofing design upon cooling.

Now that, for one, means thermoplastic roofing materials are exceptionally effective at achieving smooth, neat roofing designs. Plus, of course, it’s a known fact that well-fused seams are impermeable to water and sufficiently resistant to wind uplift forces.

Now, interestingly, we’ve noticed that people usually find it difficult to distinguish between PVC and TPO roofing materials. While both are fundamentally thermoplastic membranes that commonly come in the same range of colors, their distinctive chemical properties are very different.

TPO, for starters, stands for Thermoplastic Polyolefin. It’s a combination of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene polymers, with additional polyester for reinforcement. The resultant membrane provides superior solar reflectivity, considerably high puncture resistance, dynamic versatility, high tensile strength, and excellent fire resistance.

TPO Roofing
TPO roofing

PVC, on the other hand, are Poly Vinyl Chloride membranes. While they are stronger than TPO membranes, PVC roofing materials are slightly costlier and often more challenging to install. However, you can rely on them as well when it comes to waterproofing, fire resistance, solar reflectivity, and all-round flexibility.

PVC Roofing
PVC roofing

But, here’s the thing. PVC and TPO roofing materials require varying installation primers as well as coating. So, you might want to accurately identify your specific thermoplastic membrane before proceeding.

In the end, perfectly-installed PVC or TPO roofing should serve you for two to three decades without any issues.

Benefits

  • Outstanding fire resistance.
  • High tensile strength.
  • Adequately versatile.
  • Fairly high puncture resistance.
  • Superior solar reflectivity.
  • Achieves smooth, continuous roofing designs.
  • Inherently impermeable.
  • Available in a wide range of colors.
  • Easy to repair.

Drawbacks

  • Require special coating and primer.
  • May shrink after prolonged exposure to solar rays.
  • Come with short warranties.
  • Considerably complex installation processes.
  • Susceptible to punctures from fallen tree branches.

Metal Sheet Roofing

Aluminum Roofing Sheets

By now, you’re probably aware that aluminum is the material predominantly used to build airplanes, vehicles, and selected heavy-duty military equipment. Going by this reputation alone, it’s evident that aluminum is a durable material that can comfortably withstand all the weather elements. It doesn’t burn, crack, warp or rust. 

Then to top it off, aluminum is incredibly compact and lightweight.

Combined, all these properties make aluminum roofing sheets exceptionally reliable for both flat and pitched roofing designs.

Aluminium roofing sheets
Aluminum roofing sheets

There’s one caveat though. Aluminum doesn’t come cheap. So, it’s mostly reserved for high-end commercial roofing.

The popular alternative for buildings in Kenya is iron roofing sheets. But, it’s been proven over and over again that iron is susceptible to rust and corrosion. Unless you’re using them temporarily, avoid iron roofing sheets at all costs.

Iron Roofing Sheets
Iron roofing sheets

Benefits

  • Durable.
  • It doesn’t rust or corrode.
  • Compact and lightweight.
  • Considerably versatile.
  • Fire-resistant.

Drawbacks

  • Comparatively expensive.
  • It cannot be used on flat roofs meant to serve as liveable spaces.
  • Noisy when it’s raining.

Steel Roofing Sheets

If aluminum turns out to be a bit expensive, you can always go for steel roofing sheets instead of iron. It’s considerably cheaper than aluminum, but with similar performance properties. In short, therefore, steel roofing sheets won’t rust, puncture, or burn. Plus, they can serve you for even half a century with minimal maintenance.

Steel Roofing
Steel sheet roofing

Don’t get me wrong though. While steel is not as costly as aluminum, it’s still a fairly expensive roofing material. So, you might want to do a comprehensive cost assessment of all your options before ultimately settling for steel roofing sheets.

Benefits

  • Inexpensive compared to other metal roofing options.
  • Durable.
  • It doesn’t rust, burn, or crack.
  • Compact.
  • Widely available.

Drawbacks

  • Expensive roofing option.
  • Noisy when it’s raining.
  • Cannot support extra loads.

Pitched Roofing Materials in Kenya

Pitched roofs are generally sloped at an angle of more than 10° from the horizontal. While they are great at draining rainwater, pitched roofs cannot double up as terraces. However, you can easily fit in an attic or a loft on pitched roof designs with a steep gradient.

Another notable disadvantage of sloped roofs is the challenge they present during construction. You need a well-experienced roofing expert to achieve neat finishing on every single valley, hip, eave, truss, and ridge. Otherwise, an error or omission on any of these elements could substantially jeopardize the entire roof.

Make no mistake though. The complex installation process here doesn’t necessarily make pitched roofs pricier than flat roofs. Rather, the cost difference between the two depends on multiple parameters- including your choice of roofing materials.

That said, here’s are the options you’ll find on the Kenyan market:

Concrete and Clay Tile Roofing

The bulk of residential buildings in Kenya’s urban centers use concrete or clay tiles for roofing. Both materials have been around for many years now, and people love them because they’ve been proven to be extremely durable. In fact, the standard life span of concrete or clay tile roofing is about 50-100 years.

Concrete roofing tiles
Concrete roofing tiles

But here’s the kicker. Concrete and clay are heavy materials. And as a result, they exert fairly huge amounts of load on the underlying structures. That, in other words, means your trusses need to be exceptionally strong and stable.

After your project management team adequately assesses the structural strength of your trusses, you can proceed to install roof sheathing as well as its accompanying waterproof membrane. Then ultimately, finish up with clay or concrete tile fitting.

clay tile roofing
Clay tile roofing

How the whole thing turns out depends on the specific color and shape of your tiles. More specifically, you get to choose between flat, interlocking, S-shape, and half-barrel profiles.

Well, in case you’re worried about their weight limitations, clay and concrete tiles can even be installed on steep roofs. You just need to hold them with metal brackets, or use pre-drilled holes to nail them in place.

Benefits

  • Extremely durable.
  • Widely available.
  • Resistant to fire.
  • Great insulation properties.

Drawbacks

  • Comparatively pricy.
  • Fragile and difficult to transport.
  • Exert heavy load on the trusses.

Asphalt Shingles Roofing

Asphalt shingles, otherwise known as composition shingles, are increasingly growing in prominence countrywide. They are normally adopted in high-end residential projects, plus selected institutional buildings.

Asphalt roofing shingles
Asphalt roofing shingles Kenya

If you’ve spotted this type of roofing before, you might have noticed that it comes in two different types- fiberglass and organic.

Fiberglass asphalt shingles, for starters, have a core that’s made from fiberglass. And organic asphalt roofing, on the other hand, has wood fiber plus recycled paper cores. Both types are then supplemented with asphalt, and then followed by mineral coating to protect them against weather elements.

Well, you can settle for any of the two. But, it’s worth noting that fiberglass asphalt shingles outshine the latter in flexibility and strength.

Although most of the asphalt shingles on Kenyan roofs are dark grey in color, there’s a range of options to choose from. And thankfully, they are all considerably inexpensive.

Now, the installation process here is not that difficult. Asphalt shingles are lightweight and they are essentially laid in overlapping rows.

Sadly, you might not want to use this type of roofing in hot climate areas like the Coast or Northern Kenya. Asphalt shingles deteriorate pretty quickly under extreme heat, and ultimately start cracking. It gets even worse in arid areas because drastically fluctuating temperatures cause irregular expansion and contraction.

Asphalt shingles, therefore, survive best in mild climate regions like Nairobi, the central highlands, and parts of Western Kenya. Not for long though. Because their standard lifespan is about 15-20 years at best.

Benefits

  • Inexpensive.
  • Easy installation process.
  • Widely available.
  • Come in an array of colors and styles.

Drawbacks

  • Crack under extreme heat.
  • Not very durable.

Metal Shingle Roofing

Metal shingles are commonly adopted as an alternative to standard metal sheet roofing. Their performance and subsequent durability depend on the specific type of metal you choose for your shingles.

metal shingles Kenya
Metal shingles

Two exceedingly outstanding types we’ve used for roofing in Kenya are aluminum shingles and copper shingles. While copper is heavier than aluminum, they both come in 12-36 inch wide panels or multiple shingle sections.

Weight should not be a problem though, because metal shingles are known to have a high strength to weight ratio. And this translates to significant cost savings on your building’s structural frame. A basic structural design can support metal shingle roofing without necessarily introducing extra reinforcement.

Then over time, you’ll notice that metal shingles are very dependable when it comes to withstanding elements of nature. They don’t get damaged by insects, mildew, or fire. And in case your area consistently experiences heavy rainfall, the roof’s interlocking fins will be able to seal out water effectively.

But get this. Poorly-installed metal shingles can easily give in to the water. Improperly-secured fasteners may start leaking when they loosen up due to continued expansion and contraction of the roof.

That means your fasteners should be designed to accommodate irregular roof movements on hot and cold days. Plus, avoid exposed screws on the shingles’ valleys since water can easily seep through their holes. If you intend to use screws, position them on the raised surfaces, and then seal the screw heads with specialized resilient washes.

Well, the end product should serve you for about 20 to 50 years. The only thing you’ll worry about here is repainting your metal shingle roofing after two decades or so. Otherwise, pick a counterfeit one and the paint will wear off in less than 12 months.

Benefits

  • Durable.
  • Energy-efficient.
  • Resistant to fire.
  • Huge variety of styles and colors.
  • Easy to install.

Drawbacks

  • Comparatively costly.
  • There are many counterfeits in the market.
  • Fairly noisy when it rains.

Natural and Synthetic Slate Roofing

I must admit, slate is a personal favorite when it comes to roofing materials. It’s naturally beautiful and can easily enhance your overall roofing design. Plus, slate is exceedingly acclaimed for its exceptional longevity. It outperforms all the other roof types.

More specifically, you can bet on your slate roofing to last for more than a century if you install and maintain it perfectly. That’s why it even comes with a long warranty.

Slate roofing materials kenya
Slate roofing

So far, there’s a variety of slate roofing options in Kenya. You can get natural plus synthetic materials in multiple shades of red, green, gray, and black colors. Their appealing aesthetics will not only compliment your contemporary roofing designs, but also increase the accompanying property value.

But, here’s the thing. None of that comes cheap. While synthetic slate is understandably less costly than natural slate, they are all considerably expensive compared to other roofing options in Kenya.

And that’s not all. Although slate is strong and resistant to weathering or corrosion, it’s still a fragile roofing material. So, don’t let its heavy weight fool you. Slate can crack easily if you step on it. And that makes it important to take extra precautions during installation as well as subsequent maintenance.

Benefits

  • Aesthetically appealing.
  • Remarkable durability.
  • Increases property value.
  • Environmentally-friendly.
  • Fire-resistant

Drawbacks

  • Heavy.
  • Fragile.
  • Expensive.

The Final Word

And there you have it. All the principal roofing materials in Kenya. Don’t be quick to choose though. Review your construction project and its corresponding roofing design accordingly before you embark on the procurement process.

Then while you’re at it, you might want to have a professional project manageranalyzing the samples of your selected roofing materials before placing an order. We’ve noticed counterfeit roofing products have been increasingly flooding the Kenyan market of late. And surprisingly, some of them even come with “warranties”.


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