From Atlas Etnográfico de Vasconia
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The roof is an essential part of the building, and the one that is post affect by climate factors and the most difficult to build. It was originally the first structure of the house, earlier than the walls, the foundations and other construction features, to the point that the roof, along with the fire, defines the house and, to a certain extent, sums it up in everyday speech; thus, the expression "to be under a roof" is used or people without anywhere to shelter are known as "roofless".

Connecting the frontage and the roof

The roof, teilatua; etxegaina (Aria, Aurizberri-N); hegatza (Liginaga-Z), is usually a single apex. Two versions - the one where the roof ridge is perpendicular to the frontage and the other where it is parallel - can be seen with this widespread model. The roof with a perpendicular ridge is a clear response to the demands of the climate. This type of dwelling, nearly always oriented for optimal sun exposure, has the advantage of ensuring that the largest area of the frontage receives sun. However, in the rainy regions, where there is such a great need for sun, the frontage is kept in one of the gables to use them to dry the materials contained in the loft.

Types of roof

Roof pitch

The pitch of a roof is directly related to the climate conditions of the area where the housing is located, particularly regarding rain and snow. Another important conditioning factor is the nature of the material used for the roof; depending on whether tiles, their type, slate, timber or other, a compromise needs to be reached between the need for a roof to be sloped and those materials being kept in place.

Shape and number of slopes. Urak, isuriak

The number of slopes or apexes or a roof and, therefore, their shape, has depended on different factors, such as the climate conditions, the degree of clustering of the house, whether or not there are adjoining buildings and the very shape of the floor plan of the building; it also reflects the status of the family who built it; in the same vein, the community buildings of each town usually had roofs that distinguished them from the most humble houses.

Roofing materials

Timber frame

Timber was the main, if not the only, material used to construct the frame of the roofs. It has been replaced by concrete as the use of the latter became widespread.

The tile

Tiles were the main material used to cover roofs, at least during the 20th century. They are called teila in Basque.

In the past, the tiles were manufactured locally and they were the same in appearance. They are now bought on the market and there is greater variety.

Wooden roof

Even though this section started with tiles, as they were the most frequent material, in the past and in at least part of the territory studied, timber and stones were used, along with other items that were easily available locally. It should be noted that shingles were used in the Pyrenean area where there are many beech trees, which provided the material for them.

Shingle, along with slate roofs, was possibly the earliest ones. Those materials were placed by tiles and the former were only then used for huts or livestock buildings.

Stone roof

In the past, stone was another important material to roof the houses. With the passing of time, stone began to only be used for outbuilding and smaller structures.

New materials

In recent decades, the use has become widespread of other materials that are manufactured and not from the place where the building takes place. The changing times are noted for greater availability of alternatives that are not tied to the own local resources, which has led to a greater variety of roofs that has often meant to a loss of the traditional harmony.

Some of those materials were introduced decades ago, as is the case of fibre cement, better known by its trade name of Uralita. After a boom period, its use has become relegated to minor buildings.

Roof structure

General points. Gailurra (peak), kapirioak (rafters), latak (plank)

The most traditional and widespread roof was the timber one. Its outer part consists of rafters, to which low quality and thin planks are attached and which support the tiles.

Post-supported structures

This is the most common way of building roofs. In general, the floor plans of the houses are too wide for the roof structure to be supported only by the load-bearing walls. Therefore, posts need to be used that stand on the ground floor and reach the gable to support the roof frame.

Shear beam structures

Resorting to shear beams to build the roofs allows the weight of the roof to be supported on the load-bearing walls and in turn to achieve a large floor plan surface without needing to use posts. It has not frequently been used.

Thatched and plaster vaults

The majority of the above descriptions are confined to the northernmost part of the Basque Country and are noted for the tiles being supported by planks on the rafters. Yet different procedures are used in the middle area and, particularly, in southern Navarra, where timber was replaced by other materials, mainly, thatch and plaster vaults.

Ways out onto the roof. The chimney

The garret is a known structure to be able access the roof. Another more recent way is through a skylight.

As regards the chimney, it was an essential element until a few years ago and in turn a means of identifying the different typological models of rural housing. The disappearance of some, along with the poor state of repair of others is greatly down to the removal of low flame stoves or energy-saving cookers from rural houses. Brick was used to build them in the majority of cases.