Traditional Korean roof construction

Traditional Korean roof construction

Traditional Korean roof construction has traditionally used many kinds of natural materials. They are made of neowa (shingle), giwa (tiles), byeotjib (rice Straw), stone giwa (tiles), eoksae (eulalia) and goolpy (oak bark)

Neowa (Shingle) Roof

Neowajib (a shingle-roofed house) can be seen in mountain villages (for example, in Gangwon-do). It is made with the thick bark of a tree or pieces of a board. The size of neowa is not fixed, but it is usually about 20~30cm wide, 40~59cm long and 4~5cm thickness. To protect neowa from the wind, heavy stone or logs were put on the roof. The air can be changed through the gaps between neowa and neowa. When it rains, the wood with moisture can have a waterproof effect. Neowajib has rooms, a kitchen and a cow shed under one square roof, to protect domestic animals from mountain beasts, and to keep warm in winter.

Giwa (Tile)

Giwa is a construction material for put roofing. It is also called gaewa. One of the basic forms of giwa is amkiwa (flat giwa) and sukiwa (round giwa); one giwa can be made by putting together two of these. Roofs are generally made by this way. Clay is kneaded and is spread thinly. Then amkiwa is extended upward and downward, and sukiwa cover joints at right and left side. By classifying giwa through materials, there are togiwa-made by kneading and baking clay-, cement giwa-made by mixing cement and sand- and metal giwa-made by cutting and making form with metal plate. There were stone giwa and bronze giwa at the ruins of Rome, and marble giwa was used at Greek temples. In addition, there are cheonggiwa, ozigiwa, etc. glazing by various kinds of glaze. As a matter of form, we call original giwa bongiwa and Japanese giwa geolchimgiwa. There are giwa in many countries.

Byeotjib (Rice Straw) Roof

Chogajiboong (a straw roof) is made with byeotjib (rice straw), eulalia or reed, but generally made with byeotjib. Byeotjib protects dwellers from the sun in summer and keeps them warm in winter, because it is empty inside. Moreover, rain fall down well and hardly soaks through a roof because it has a relatively smooth surface. So, a thick roof is not needed. Warm and soft feeling is given by chogajiboong, because of the original properties of byeotjib. It is put over another byeotjib every year, and it shows clean and new feature without any special effort. The gentle roof is used like a farm for drying crops like red pepper and planting pumpkins or gourds.

tone Giwa (Tile) Roof

Flat layered stone roofs are called argillite (germpanam), on the roof in the much coal produced area; it takes a role of giwa. Giwa is formed in this way. Bluestone (cheongseok) is so smooth to control raindrop gently. Its system is not different from giwa's. The bluestone is put at the bottom, and then largely different bluestone is put on it. By this way the process is continued. It can endure for a long time. These roofs can be seen commonly in the argillite zone. But it was possible to put this roof only for certain social classes because of the difficulty of purchasing and transporting the materials. Nowadays it can be seen at some areas of Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon-do.

Eoksae (Eulalia) Roof

Korea has ten kinds of eulalia. The eulalia leaf is good for waterproofing and durability. It is a strong material that can be used for ten years after covering the roof with eulalia once. The straw rope twisted with eulalia is not only strong and elastic but also good for waterproofing. It is used weaving rain-gear (rainwear) or straw sandals. The material should be dried with dew for a week. Then it is put in a shady pot for good airing.

Goolpy (Oak Bark) Roof

It is a kind of roof material used usually in mountain villages. The oak bark is over 20 years old. At first, the oak bark is peeled at the time of Chuseo (one of the 24 seasonal divisions, about August 23rd). Next it is put into water. After that, it is dried and a heavy stone is placed on it to flatten it. Bark made this way is commonly about 1.3 meters wide. If the air gets dry, the bark shrinks and obtains many holes. However if it rains or it's humidity is increased, holes get smaller and smaller. At last they disappear quickly. The stone between the joint is not to blow the bark. The life of the oak bark is so long that there is a saying, "Giwa exists for ten thousand years, and the Oak Bark for one thousand years."


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