How Do You Maintain Roofing In Historical Buildings
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- Roof, Roofing, Restoration, Repair, Maintenance
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How Do You Maintain Roofing In Historical Buildings? Find out more about roof maintenance and restoration in listed buildings.
Maintaining Heritage roofing
There are thousands of historic buildings in the UK, from stunning cathedrals to manor houses and stately homes, each of which requires regular maintenance to preserve its historic interest. Each of these iconic structures stands as an example of the architectural brilliance of our past. Therefore, maintaining them in good condition allows future generations to enjoy and appreciate their significance in the long term.
Throughout the UK, teams of architects, structural engineers, vendors and heritage organisations gather to ensure these properties are looked after. One of the main areas of focus for these professionals is the roofs of historic buildings. Over the centuries, the original materials holding up these roofing structures decay and start to break down. Therefore, maintaining heritage roofing is an essential and ongoing duty for preservationists.
'Heritage roofing' is a term used to refer to any operations performed on the roof of a building with historic value. These buildings may belong to the National Trust, have a place in the Historic England group of listed buildings, be on the National Heritage list or merely have a significant meaning for the local community surrounding them. Suppose we did not perform these restoration and maintenance works. In that case, the buildings and historic structures on top of them could be compromised, ruining the interiors and aesthetic qualities that make the building historically important.
Periodic renewal for listed buildings
Periodic renewal on a listed building is a more serious level of restoration work compared to maintenance. It can include projects such as re-covering roofs, carried out by restorers on a longer cycle than ongoing maintenance. Its seriousness comes from the fact that periodic renewal can dramatically alter the visual appearance of a property and its roof. In contrast, normal repairs aim to preserve the appearance as it is.
During a period renewal project, a building's roof can lose some historically significant aspects, such as a particular look like an aged patina on the roof covering. However, listed and historic buildings require the use of like-for-like materials. This ensures that any replacement materials are physically or visually similar to what the original builders used to create the building.
While periodic renewal is a drastic approach to historic building preservation, it is usually necessary. Without periodic renewal, there is a risk that the building could lose even more material if preventative measures aren't implemented. The main justification for this process is that the traditional materials of the historic building aren't in a condition to fulfil their original purpose, despite attempted maintenance.
Historic building Roofing Materials
Restoring the roof of a historic building can present great challenges for restorers, not least because of the extensive range of materials used to build them. Some examples of historic roof materials include the following:
- Slate tiles
- Terracotta tiles
- Lead and other sheet metals
- Wood shingles
- Sheet iron
- Corrugated Iron
- Terne plate
- Galvanised zinc
Naturally, the age of the building and the period in which it was originally built has the greatest effect on what materials were used to construct the roof. The location also plays a large factor since you are most likely to find natural slate roofing in areas close to slate mines, such as in the Lake District or parts of Wales, for example. Therefore, every historic roof repair or maintenance project has to be approached in a unique way, depending on the building and its various aspects.
Cause of Failure
The first step in any historic roof restoration is an inspection. Whether the roof has suffered a leak, water penetration or is damaged in any other way, determining how it was damaged is the best way to repair the roof with minimal change to the original roofing materials. For example, you may find that the original metal covering has rusted, requiring a simple patch. Alternatively, the roof tiles or shingles may have come loose, which is an even easier repair and can be performed without drastically altering the roofing material.
Of course, not every repair job will be this simple. In some cases, it's the support systems of the roof that require looking into. For example, the flashing, gutters, downspouts, roof fasteners and clips can all wear throughout the years. If this is the issue at hand, a professional restoration roofer can implement preventative measures once the damage is repaired to prevent it from reoccurring.
The main way a restoration roofer can improve the roofing system of a historic property is to swap the existing materials that clearly aren't working as intended for compatible materials or components. In this way, they can remedy the roofing issue and prevent further damage without taking anything away from the historic aesthetic or charm of the old roof.
Replace or Repair
In some instances, the historic roof the restorer is working on will be beyond repair. When this happens, the best thing to do is start sourcing appropriate and historically accurate materials to replace the existing roof with and fix the problem. Professional restoration roofers have all the necessary experience in this field to select the most appropriate materials for the building's roof, taking both its age and style into consideration.
For example, it may transpire that a wooden shingle is too damaged to simply be slotted back into place. In this case, the roofer will source historically appropriate timber for the building and craft an entirely new shingle to replace the broken one. Ensuring that the roof and materials used to repair it are historically accurate is vital to maintaining the historical integrity and importance of any building.
A maintenance plan
Maintenance plans are one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep an eye on your property. They will remind you when your building requires an inspection to ensure it remains in good condition. While it may sound like a confusing process to begin, it's fairly straightforward. If you own a Grade I Listed Building or Grade II Listed Building, you will already have a Maintenance Checklist to follow. Combining this with your own maintenance records is the best way to formulate a maintenance plan.
You'll want to consider how your home is constructed, whether any alterations have been made to it in the past, and its overall condition. Also, it is often best to think of the property as a whole for your maintenance plan, including your plumbing system, electrical system, interior structure and any surrounding buildings. This way, you can highlight any potential risks from any part of your property, such as nearby trees or water drainage issues.
Once you've taken the entirety of your property, its positioning and how exposed it is to the elements, you can begin looking for a skilled professional to carry out any maintenance work. You should ensure that whoever you choose is fully qualified to carry out maintenance and restoration work on historical buildings, whether through professional accreditations or experience.
It may sound daunting trying to hunt down a qualified restoration company to carry out these highly specialised processes, but plenty of resources are available. Historic England themselves, as well as the Listed Property Owner's Club, can point you in the right direction. Using tradespeople and companies recommended to you personally is often the best and most reliable way to find the right professionals. These experts usually conduct their work to suitably high standards, using traditional and contemporary craft practices.
If any of the work you propose will alter your property's special historical or architectural interest, you'll need to apply for consent from the relevant authorities. Using like-for-like material replacements or repairs may not need Listed Building Consent so long as it does not affect the building's special interest. Conversely, if you are carrying out any additional repair works alongside your regular maintenance, you will need to apply for Listed Building Consent with your local authority or local council. You will need consent and planning permission from the relevant authorities for major alterations.