Protection from the elements has been essential to human survival for many thousands of years. The first roofs, once man moved out of caves, were probably formed by covering a sloping framework of branches with a covering of animal skin or vegetation - direct descendants of these forms of construction can still occasionally be found in this country, eg thatched roofs of reed, wheat or heather. Sloping, or pitched roofs, were found to be the most efficient form of weatherproof construction in all but the driest climatic conditions and are the traditional form in the British Isles.
A traditional pitched roof is expensive to construct. It involves the use of skilled craftsmen and a considerable quantity of materials. Earlier roofs involved cutting the individual timbers to size on site (a country-cut roof), whilst a modern roof is commonly constructed with factory-formed trusses. Coverings were of thatch, slates, stone or clay tiles - naturally based materials - which required steeper pitches to ensure efficiency. It is only in the twentieth century that man-made materials, such as concrete slates and tiles, with interlocking details that allow much lower pitches have been introduced.
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