Saturday, July 21, 2012

Appropriate roofing for historic structures

A weather-tight roof is basic in the preservation of a structure, regardless of its age, size, or design. In the system that allows a building to work as a shelter, the roof sheds the rain, shades from the sun, and buffers the weather. During some periods in the history of architecture, the roof imparts much of the architectural character. It defines the style and contributes to the building's aesthetics. The hipped roofs of Georgian architecture, the turrets of Queen Anne, the Mansard roofs, and the graceful slopes of the Shingle Style and Bungalow designs are examples of the use of roofing as a major design feature.

But no matter how decorative the patterning or how compelling the form, the roof is a highly vulnerable element of a shelter that will inevitably fail. A poor roof will permit the accelerated deterioration of historic building materials-- masonry, wood, plaster, paint--and will cause general disintegration of the basic structure. Furthermore, there is an urgency involved in repairing a leaky roof since such re pair costs will quickly become prohibitive. Although such action is desirable as soon as a failure is discovered, temporary patching methods should be carefully chosen to prevent inadvertent damage to sound or historic roofing materials and related features. Before any repair work is performed, the historic value of the materials used on the roof should be understood. Then a complete internal and external inspection of the roof should be planned to determine all the causes of failure and to identify the alternatives for repair or replacement of the roofing.
The essential ingredients for replacing and maintaining a historic roof are:
  • Understanding the historic characterof the building and being sympathetic to it.
  • Careful examination and recordingof the existing roof and any evidence of earlier roofs.
  • Consideration of the historic craftsmanship and detailing and implementing them in the renewal wherever visible.
  • Supervision of the roofersor maintenance personnel to assure preservation of historic fabric and proper understanding of the scope and detailing of the project.
  • Consideration of alternative materialswhere the original cannot be used.
  • Cyclical maintenance program to assure that the staff understands how to take care of the roof and of the particular trouble spots to safeguard.
Although a new roof can be an object of beauty, it will not be protective for long without proper maintenance. At least twice a year, the roof should be inspected against a checklist. All changes should be recorded and reported. Guidelines should be established for any foot traffic that may be required for the maintenance of the roof. Many roofing materials should not be walked on at all. For some--slate, asbestos, and clay tile--a self-supporting ladder might be hung over the ridge of the roof, or planks might be spanned across the roof surface. Such items should be specifically designed and kept in a storage space accessible to the roof. If exterior work ever requires hanging scaffolding, use caution to insure that the anchors do not penetrate, break, or wear the roofing surface, gutters, or flashing.

Any roofing system should be recognized as a membrane that is designed to be self-sustaining, but that can be easily damaged by intrusions such as pedestrian traffic or fallen tree branches. Certain items should be checked at specific times. For example, gutters tend to accumulate leaves and debris during the spring and fall and after heavy rain. Hidden gutter screening both at downspouts and over the full length of the gutter could help keep them clean. The surface material would require checking after a storm as well. Periodic checking of the underside of the roof from the attic after a storm or winter freezing may give early warning of any leaks. Generally, damage from water or ice is less likely on a roof that has good flashing on the outside and is well ventilated and insulated on the inside. Specific instructions for themaintenance of the different roof materials is available--contact us today todiscuss.


  1. The roof of a home is essential to a home and if it is damaged then the home within could become damaged as roofing materials

  2. It’s become somewhat of a rarity to find original online article content anymore. I’m very surprised to find this well-written impressive article. You have many logical points here that compelled me to consider your side.
    Jones Roofing Brisbane

  3. Thanks for talking about slate Jones Rofing. I find that design particularly beautiful, especially with how long it lasts!

  4. “During some periods in the history of architecture, the roof imparts much of the architectural character.”—You got it right, Ward. Roof design is one of the things that shows the culture of one place. One of the best example for this are the Chinese's and Japanese's remarkable roof designs.

    -->Elizabeth @

  5. You got point there, Elizabeth. In fact, we can say that the roof has two main purpose: 1) it provides protection for the whole structure and 2) it adds character to your home.

    Hugh @

  6. Immediate repairs are always a must when it comes to roofs. Continuous delays would only cause the damage to become bigger and more expensive as time goes by. And as you’ve said, it can open the way for other property damage, as it’ll be exposed to various weather conditions like rains and excessive heat. Best to nip the problem in the bud before it blossoms into a colossal pain.

    Lino @ Arrys Roofing

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