Roofs

A poorly main­tained roof can re­sult in se­ri­ous dam­age to the rest of your house, so make it a top pri­or­ity to spot and fix prob­lems

Period Living - - Renovation - Fea­ture Roger Hunt, author of Old House Hand­book

En­sur­ing that your roof is wind­proof and wa­ter­tight is one of the most im­por­tant jobs you can do to pro­tect your home from dam­age. Although any work is best left to an ex­pe­ri­enced roofer, it’s im­por­tant to know the warn­ing signs and to spot leaks and weak spots early. Check­ing your roof reg­u­larly, and es­pe­cially af­ter storms, is vi­tal. If prob­lems are ev­i­dent, get re­pairs done promptly be­fore the roof struc­ture or in­ter­nal ceil­ings are dam­aged.

Scaf­fold­ing will gen­er­ally be re­quired for roof work but ini­tial in­spec­tions can usu­ally be car­ried out from ground level us­ing binoc­u­lars, or by care­fully look­ing out from rooflights or dormer win­dows. The roof’s con­di­tion may also be re­viewed by check­ing the un­der­side in loft or at­tic spa­ces, es­pe­cially when it’s rain­ing.

Re­pair­ing and over­haul­ing

Tra­di­tional roof­ing ma­te­ri­als, and the way they are laid, give char­ac­ter to a build­ing and are part of its ver­nac­u­lar his­tory, so re­tain them wher­ever pos­si­ble. Re­mem­ber that con­sent may be needed if changes to a roof cov­er­ing are to be made or bats or birds are present within the struc­ture. Avoid quick fixes such as bi­tu­men coat­ings, liq­uid waterproofing or spray-on foams, as they make it dif­fi­cult to spot prob­lems and may, in fact, trap mois­ture, hin­der re­pairs and pre­vent the re­use of roof­ing ma­te­ri­als in the fu­ture.

Clay tiles

Tiles break, crack, flake or be­come loose due to age, wind, frost dam­age, or even due to birds dis­turb­ing them. In some cases, the bat­tens onto which the tiles are hooked can be­come rot­ten or bee­tle in­fested. With peg tiles, the wooden pegs may also decay over time.

Slates

Many of the prob­lems with slates are sim­i­lar to those with tiles, ex­cept that slates are held in place with nails, so in­di­vid­ual slates or en­tire roofs may slip due to ‘nail sick­ness’ re­sult­ing from cor­ro­sion or rust­ing. Slates that have been re-fixed with lead clips or wire may in­di­cate prob­lems.

Ridges and hips

These pro­vide valu­able pro­tec­tion and are of­ten pointed with mor­tar, which may fail and need re­plac­ing be­fore wa­ter pen­e­trates the gaps.

Roof val­leys and para­pet gut­ters

Leaves and de­bris cou­pled with the growth of grass and plants may lead to dam­age and block­ages that cause wa­ter to back up and over­flow into the roof struc­ture. There­fore, reg­u­lar main­te­nance to clear ob­struc­tions is vi­tal.

Junc­tions

The weak­est points in a roof are where two sur­faces or ma­te­ri­als join, such as at para­pets and around ➤

chim­neys. Lead or zinc flash­ing is of­ten used to cre­ate a seal, but these ma­te­ri­als can fail or there may be in­suf­fi­cient over­lap to cope with the vol­ume of wa­ter. Mor­tar fil­lets are also of­ten used to pro­tect these junc­tions and may also need to be re­placed.

Flat roofs

Cov­ered in lead, cop­per, zinc, as­phalt or bi­tu­men, flat roofs are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to splits, cracks and holes. Ar­eas where wa­ter is pool­ing on the sur­face should be noted. Re­pairs must be made as soon as pos­si­ble and loose ma­te­rial re-fixed to avoid fur­ther dam­age. Patch­ing may be pos­si­ble but, in the longer term, re­place­ment will prob­a­bly be nec­es­sary.

Roof struc­ture

The struc­ture of a roof is as vul­ner­a­ble to dam­age as its cov­er­ing. Tim­bers might suf­fer bee­tle at­tack or rot, and there may be un­der­sized or dis­torted rafters, as well as past al­ter­ations or set­tle­ment of the build­ing. All of these things may cause the roof to sag or un­du­late and, although of­ten adding char­ac­ter, any roof that is out of true should be in­ves­ti­gated, where nec­es­sary by a struc­tural en­gi­neer. If the prob­lems are caused by damp, lo­cate the source of the mois­ture and deal with the prob­lem not the symp­toms.

Good ven­ti­la­tion to the roof space is es­sen­tial to avoid con­den­sa­tion, so check the gaps at the eaves are clear. Don’t rely on your roofer to make any­thing other than mi­nor tim­ber re­pairs. In­stead, em­ploy a good car­pen­ter who will cut out dam­aged tim­ber and care­fully joint in new sec­tions, keep­ing as much of the orig­i­nal as pos­si­ble.

Main­te­nance check­list

● Use binoc­u­lars to ex­am­ine the roof.

● Look for any slipped, bro­ken and miss­ing tiles or slates.

● Pay close at­ten­tion to junc­tions and ridges.

● Check the ground and gut­ters for de­bris.

● In­side the loft space, look for chinks of day­light.

● In­spect the floor of the loft for tile, slate or mor­tar de­bris from the roof’s un­der­side.

● Note con­den­sa­tion on roof tim­bers or roof­ing felt.

● Dur­ing heavy rain, look for ar­eas where wa­ter is en­ter­ing the roof space.

● Note sag­ging or spilt rafters.

● Us­ing a penknife, probe any ar­eas of tim­ber that ap­pear de­cayed.

Fit for the fu­ture

One of the eas­i­est ways to im­prove the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of your home is to in­su­late the roof space or top up the in­su­la­tion al­ready there. Usu­ally this is done by lay­ing in­su­la­tion ma­te­rial on the ceil­ing be­tween and over the joists. This may be min­eral wool or a nat­u­ral prod­uct such as sheep’s wool that comes in rolls or ‘batts’; an­other op­tion is a loose-fill cel­lu­lose fi­bre in­su­la­tion pro­duced from re­cy­cled pa­per.

Be­fore in­su­lat­ing, al­ways en­sure there are no damp or con­den­sa­tion prob­lems. If you are us­ing the roof space as a hab­it­able room you will need to in­su­late un­der the roof cov­er­ing it­self.

Left: Lead or zinc flash­ing at junc­tions can fail so check for leaks reg­u­larlyRight: Or­nate ridge tiles also pro­vide valu­able pro­tec­tion. The mor­tar point­ing may need re­plac­ing to avoid wa­ter pen­e­trat­ing

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