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Autumn Leaves Causing Havoc? How to Care For Your Gutter…

Autumn Leaves Causing Havoc? How to Care For Your Gutter…

Fallen leaves may create an idyllic scene, but…

Autumn has fully set in, and with that comes the inevitable leaf fall. The streets and fields look pretty and are well worthy of a photo opportunity. However, despite their attractive appearance, leaves can be quite problematic for your roofing system. This is especially a concern if you live in a house close to tall trees. As the wind blows the leaves off the trees, they will settle wherever they land.

Your roof is sloped such that the water landing on it is diverted to the guttering system. Unfortunately, this means the draining water can also carry objects such as leaves into the drainage system. In the autumn, it is inevitable that your gutter will start to fill with leaves!

Why is it important to avoid a blocked gutter?

First and foremost, a gutter filled with leaves doesn’t look attractive. It can give the exterior of your property a messy appearance- especially if you have guttering on a lower roofline. However, the most concerning implications are the physical damages to your home that can occur as a consequence of the block.

You may have thought that leaves will just drain away with the water. Unfortunately not. Leaves have a natural tendency to absorb water, which causes them to swell up and make the blockage increasingly worse. As the blockage grows, rainwater will start to overflow. Rather than draining away through the downpipe as it is meant to, it will pour down the side of your home. This may not sound like a problem, but it certainly can be.

As the water flows down the outer walls of your property, rot and fungi can start to grow. Rot can work into the brickwork, and gradually allow water to get to the inside structures of your home. This leads to a build-up of damp. Damp can not only damage your walls and internal possessions, but mould is also likely to grow. This has harmful health consequences and has been known to induce Asthma.

Clearly, something to avoid then… but how can this be done?

Working on guttering is not a simple task and can be dangerous. Using tools at such a height is not something we’d recommend, so we strongly advise that this is best left to us, the roofing professionals. Our highly skilled team are experts in gutter maintenance. No matter the issue, we can be relied upon. If you suspect a blockage in your gutter, then give us a call.

The best way of avoiding gutter blockages and the unfortunate consequences is regular maintenance. We advise this should be done at least once a year. The ideal time for such maintenance is the beginning of winter. At this time, the autumn leaves have already fallen, so can be cleared before the really harsh winter weather kicks in.

Gutter guard can prevent gutter blockages

Depending on the situation, we may recommend a gutter guard. This is a particularly good idea if you live in a neighbourhood with a lot of trees. The gutter guard has a mesh structure which allows leaves to be caught, while water still has access to the guttering.

As previously mentioned, working at heights is dangerous, so we strongly recommend leave your gutter maintenance to us. However, if you have a suspected blockage there is one thing you might like to try yourself. If you have a hosepipe, give it a blast at the end of the downpipe. If by any chance there’s a small blockage near the end of the drainpipe, then this could be enough to clear it.

Act now- prevent any more serious issues later in the winter!

As mentioned, the ideal time for gutter maintenance is the beginning of the winter. Contact us today to have your guttering cleared, to avoid any more substantial problems later on. You wouldn’t want an overflowing guttering to get in the way of your family Christmas plans!

christmas tree

What are the Advantages of a Flat Roof?

What are the Advantages of a Flat Roof?

 

As an expert roofing firm, we’re experienced in the installation, repairs and maintenance of a range of roofing types. One of the main types of the roof we work on is the flat roof. These are most commonly found on large commercial buildings, such as offices and schools. Small outbuildings such as garages, garden houses and single-story extensions often have flat roofs.

Flat Roofs around the world…

skyline with flat roofs in israel

Flat roofs are most commonly found across the world in hotter climates. Picture a typically dry, sunny country such as Egypt, or Cyprus- here you’ll find a large proportion of flat-roofed buildings. In these places, they’re simply formed from the same masonry or concrete that forms the rest of the structure. In such climates, where rainfall is less common and freezing temperatures highly unlikely, such a roof is sufficient. It is chosen for its cost-effectiveness and good sun protection.

Not quite the same as the British weather…

Thunderstorm above london red buses

In the UK, as I’m sure you’re more than aware, we have to endure more extreme cold temperatures in the winter and a regular rainfall. For this reason, our flat roofs are structured differently. At Empire, our preferred flat roofing type is the felt roof. We use a three-layered felt roofing structure, on top of the base material (usually timber) to ensure maximal protection against the elements.

But won’t the water collect on a flat roof?

While named a ‘flat roof’, this type of roof isn’t generally completely flat. In order to allow for effective drainage, the roof usually has a slight pitch. This means that any surface water is drained off, along the slight slope into the drainage system.

So, why might I choose a flat roof?

Flat roofs have a number of advantages and are definitely a roofing option you should consider.

  • Cost: Flat roofs typically have a much lower cost per square foot. This makes it an affordable way to create a modern look for your home or building.
  • Labour: In addition to the reduced cost compared to a pitched roof, a flat roof will also take less time to install. Great news for us, the roofers, and you- the customer!
  • Style: Many consider a flat roof to be a more modern, stylish option to a traditional sloped roof.
  • Maximal Space: A flat roof enables the full roof space to be utilized. It could be used to store large objects such as air conditioning units or to house solar panels. Or why not make use of your flat roof by creating a roof garden, or terrace?
  • Space-Saving: Unlike a sloped, triangular roof which will create angled walls and ceilings in your home, a flat roof will not impose on your internal space.
  • Accessibility: Flat roofs have much easier access than sloped roofs. This is beneficial when repairs/ maintenance work needs to be carried out.

If you’re looking for a new roof, then a flat roof may be a great option for you. For the very best advice and guidance, get in touch with the Empire team, and we’ll help you choose the roof that’s best for you.

Roofing for Dummies

Roofing for Dummies

Roofing for Dummies — Common Roofing Terms Explained

 

Like any trade, roofing has a long list of technical terms that are everyday words for experts but can be like another language to the layperson. This not only means you may not understand what your roofing company is telling you, but also you might struggle to explain what you need.

 

While at Empire we do our best to communicate clearly, some technical terms are unavoidable. Here’s a rundown of the most common.

 

Types of Roof

 

  • Pitched roof — a rood with sloping sides, rising to a ridge, most often of tiles or slates. They can be gable roofs, with two sloping sides and triangular sides, or hip roofs, with all four sides pitched.
  • Flat roof — a horizontal covering (no more than a 15-degree pitch), usually covered with felt, which may be torched on.

 

Features of a Pitched Roof

 

  • Ridge — the horizontal line where the sloped sides meet at the top, with V-shaped tiles forming the ridge and offering waterproofing protection.
  • Truss — a triangular wooden frame providing support for the roof.
  • Battens — strips across the joists that secure the tiles or slates, usually made of metal, wood or plastic.
  • Fascia/Barge board — vertical boards below the bottom of a pitched roof, covering the gap.
  • Soffits — horizontal boards between the fascia and wall, sealing the gap.
  • Eaves — the bottom of a pitched roof, including the fascias and soffits outside and often used for storage inside.
  • Dormer — a vertical window protruding from a pitched roof.
  • Valley — the angle where two sloping roofs meet.
  • Vents — openings, often in the soffits, to allow the interior space to be ventilated and avoid condensation.

 

Features of a Flat Roof

 

  • Substrate/sheathing — the surface, often a timber deck, that the roof is laid on.
  • Insulation — a layer principally to prevent heat escaping through the roof, but sometimes also used for sound-proofing or fire resistance.
  • Vapour barrier — a layer to prevent moisture from escaping.
  • Waterproofing — the outer layer, made from metal, asphalt, slate, tile, wood etc.

 

Features Common to Both

 

  • Joists — the horizontal supports for the roof
  • Underlay — a thin waterproof layer over the rafters, usually of asphalt or PVC sheeting.
  • Void — the space between the underside of the roof and the ceiling, often the loft.
  • Flashings — sheets typically set into the cement of walls or chimneys to protect joints. They are most often made of lead, though roofers sometimes use other materials.

 

These are just the most common roofing terms. You’re very welcome to give us a call if you’re mystified by any other terminology.

Five Steps for a Well-Maintained Roof

Five Steps for a Well-Maintained Roof

Your roof keeps the rain, wind and cold out; it helps to maintain the building’s structural integrity; and, of course, it helps your home look attractive. But it can’t do any of this unless you make sure it stays in good shape.

Here are five things you can do to keep it that way.

1. Make Regular Visual Checks

Besides periodic close-up checks, you can keep your eyes open all the time. From outside, you may be able to see from below any broken tiles or flashing, or any sign of the roof is sagging.

You can also keep a look-out indoors, especially checking for any damp patches on ceilings after rain. It can also be useful to go up into the loft or attic and look for daylight through the roof, showing a hole.

2. Check Your Guttering

The guttering and downpipes can be prevented from draining the water off your roof if they’re clogged up with leaves and debris, so they should be cleared out at least twice a year. If you have the correct equipment and plenty of experience of working at height, you could do this yourself, but it’s generally better to have it done professionally.

3. Check Your Loft Space

Besides looking for holes, it’s also important to check your loft space for signs of rot, mould or mildew on the timbers or underside of the roof. This can be prevented by making sure space is well ventilated and also keeping your loft space fully insulated.

4. Keep Your Roof Clean

Whether you have a slate, tiled or felt roof, it’s easy for moss and mould to grow over it and, besides being unsightly, they can damage the materials. Look out for this in your visual checks, and get the growth cleaned off as soon as possible.

5. Close-Up Checks

While visual checks from a distance can be done frequently and casually, you also need to get up to the roof and check from close up at least once a year, and any time after a storm. What you’re looking for here, among other things, is broken tiles or torn membrane, damaged flashing, fascias and soffits, broken brickwork on the chimneys and sagging roof ridges.

An experienced DIYer can make these checks, but any repair work will need to be done by professional roofers. It may be worth your while to have the checks made professionally, too, so that any repairs can be undertaken straight away.

If you want to know more about maintaining your roof, feel free to give us a call.

How to Make the Most out of Your Roof Space

How to Make the Most out of Your Roof Space

On the whole, we use the roof of our home purely to protect us from the elements. That’s it’s primary purpose, of course, and if it’s doing the job properly that’s good enough.

On the other hand, the roof represents a large expanse we’re not making full use of. It’s easiest with a flat roof, but even a pitched roof can be used. Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most out of your roof space.

Roof Terrace

A flat stretch of the roof can be easily converted into a roof terrace. You’ll need to make sure, though, that the construction’s strong enough to take the extra weight and footfall.

This is especially useful in an urban setting where there isn’t enough room for a patio in the garden. Instead, you can relax, eat or entertain high above the hustle and bustle. All you need is some good weather.

Roof Garden

Alternatively, a flat roof can be converted into a roof garden. This can be anything from plants in pots or urns to laying a deep enough level of soil to grow shallow-rooted plants. You could also include turfed areas.

A roof garden makes an ideal bird oasis if you set up bird tables, baths and feeders. The best thing is that the birds will be safe from the neighbourhood cats.

Solar Panels

Whether you have a flat or pitched roof, you can make use of it to slash your energy bills and help protect the environment at the same time. Installing solar panels will reduce the amount of energy you have to take from the National Grid.

If you combine this with the right level of loft insulation, which is fairly inexpensive to install, you can reduce your costs and your carbon footprint in one step.

Roof Windows

If you’re making use of your loft, the cheapest and most effective way to provide lighting for it is to install roof windows. Fitting a couple of skylights will illuminate the loft far more efficiently than any artificial lighting without adding to your energy bill.

For a more ambitious loft conversion, you could go further and have dormer windows installed in your pitched roof. They’ll give your roofline an elegant, traditional look and can give you a great view from your loft or attic.

These are just a few of the many ways you can put your roof space to good use. If you want to discuss your options, feel free to give us a call.

What Is Roof Flashing and Why Do You Need It?

What Is Roof Flashing and Why Do You Need It?

Flashing can be vital for many places in the structure of your house, from the door to the foundations. Most of all, though, it’s the roof that needs this kind of protection from water damage.

So what is roof flashing? And why exactly is it so essential?

What Is Roof Flashing?

Flashing is a strip of waterproof material, often but not always metal, that covers a joint in a building’s structure where water could seep through the crack. The correct material is crucial. Mortar or concrete, for example, may cover the gap, but they can be eroded away over time and end up useless.

Many places on the roof will need flashing — anywhere there’s a joint or where masonry comes through the roof. Chimney stacks and dormer windows are among the most traditional places, but flashing can also be needed in roof valleys or around skylights, vents or solar panels.

What Is Roof Flashing Made Of?

Most often, roof flashing is made of strips of metal. Lead is traditional and has many advantages — it can last up to 500 years and it’s easy to recycle when it does reach the end of its life.

Doubts have been raised, though, about its toxic properties. Although this can be reduced by coating the lead in waterproof paint, other metals such as aluminium, copper or zinc are sometimes used instead.

Non-metallic flashing is also becoming increasingly popular. This can be made of rubber, uPVC or even roofing felt. The choice isn’t always just personal preference, though, since some materials are unsuitable for particular environments. For instance, if your home is near the coast, the salt in the air may corrode some metals, so copper, aluminium or non-metallic materials would be recommended.

Why Do You Need Roof Flashing?

The purpose of roof flashing is to stop water getting through the weak points in the structure of your roof and doing damage inside. This was recognised long before metal sheeting was available, let alone materials like uPVC, and various strategies were used to protect the roof.  These included angling the shingles away from the joint or creating steps on the chimney to guide the water away.

Roof flashing not only protects the interior structure of your roof against problems like rot, mildew and mould, it can also enhance the appearance — as long as it’s fitted expertly by a professional who knows the right solution for your roof. Feel free to give us a call if you want to discuss your roof flashing needs.

Why Is My Roof Leaking? How to Find and Fix a Roof Leak

A roof leak can be difficult to detect, but it’s liable to do damage out of all proportion with its size. It’s vital to get it fixed before water starts to rot timbers or infect your plaster with damp and mould. But how do you find a leak?

What Causes Roof Leaks?

The two main causes of roof leaks are the wear and tear caused by time and extreme weather. In practice, though, the cause is usually a combination of the two — a storm or extreme cold finishing off already eroded tiles

Any part of the roof can be damaged, and in most cases, this can lead to leaks. The most common vulnerable areas are:

  • The tiles or slates
  • The ridge
  • The flashing
  • Any roof valleys

How to Find a Roof Leak

The most obvious sign that you may have a leak is if you notice stains on your ceiling. However, some damage will have done by then, so it’s as well to be proactive about looking for damage.

It’s advisable to check your roof at least a couple of times a year, as well as straight after incidents like a storm or heavy icing. You don’t necessarily have to climb up. Using binoculars can show worn, cracked or missing tiles, cracks in brickwork or loose flashing.

If you suspect you have a leak, you can go into your loft space in the daytime, turn off all lighting and look for pinpricks of light. A more extreme method is for one person to go up on the roof and spray a hosepipe around. Another person in the loft can pinpoint where the water’s coming through.

How to Fix a Roof Leak

If the damage is slight (e.g. a single cracked tile or missing mortar), an expert DIYer with a good head for heights should be able to manage it. The minimum you’ll need is a professional-standard roof ladder or a scaffold tower, but you should also invest in tethers for yourself and your tools.

A tile can be replaced by lifting the two tiles above it on wedges, then lifting the broken tile with a trowel and replacing it, hooking the nib over the batten. Brickwork or the ridge can be repointed, while lead flashing can be either refixed or replaced.

It’s crucial that the work is done properly, though, or you could make things worse. If you’re not confident about your skills, or if the job is at all complex, give us a call and let the professionals safeguard your roof.

Three Reasons Why Roof Ventilation Is Important

Three Reasons Why Roof Ventilation Is Important

Roof Ventialtion

 

At first sight, ventilating the roof space might seem counter-intuitive. After all, we put a lot of effort into keeping the heat in and making our homes more energy efficient. Why would we deliberately let outside air in?

In fact, it’s precisely because modern homes tend to be so energy efficient that good roof ventilation has become so crucial. There are various reasons for this.

 

Condensation

The biggest damager of a poorly ventilated roof space is condensation. The warm, damp air in the loft rises to the highest point it can reach, but if there’s no colder air coming in to replace it, it can’t escape. This means it stays around for long enough for moisture to condense over all the surfaces.

 

This produces rot in the woodwork, including the joists and fixtures, which can result in structural damage. It can also degrade your insulation, making it work less effectively, as well as creating mould on wallpaper, plaster and paintwork throughout the house.

 

If you have vents to allow cooler air into the lower part of the loft, this replaces the warm air, letting it escape. The moisture it carries isn’t around long enough to affect the woodwork or any other internal surfaces.

Air Quality

 

The importance of air quality in workplaces has been understood for a while, but the issue is just as important in your home. Stagnant air, especially if it’s damp, is perfect for a variety of harmful bacteria to breed.

 

It’s even worse if condensation has led to mould developing, since mould spores in a building’s atmosphere can be extremely hazardous to health. Typical symptoms of poor air quality include tiredness, lethargy, headaches, dry or itchy skin and eye irritation. This can be avoided by ensuring that the air is circulating efficiently.

Ice Damage to Your Roof

 

It may seem strange that warm air could contribute to ice damaging your roof, but this can happen when it snows. The reason is that the air warms up the roof, melting the snow. However, when the run-off reaches the eaves, the warmth has gone, and it refreezes into ice.

 

Although snow can damage your roof, ice is far worse. It warps the roofing materials, insinuates itself into the tiny cracks and widens them, leaving access for water. Good ventilation makes the roof a more even temperature, so you’ll only have the less-damaging snow-cover to deal with.

 

If you’re not sure whether your roof space is adequately ventilated, why not give us a call and we can have a look.

When Is the Best Time of Year to Replace my Roof?

When Is the Best Time of Year to Replace my Roof?

If your roof was installed well, it should last a long time — but not indefinitely. A roof’s lifespan will depend partly on the materials (longest for slate, shortest for felt) and partly on how much battering it takes from the weather, but eventually it’ll need to be replaced.

Sometimes, the timing is forced on you. If your roof has been seriously damaged, it’s no good waiting for the best time of year to replace it. You need it done right away to avoid being exposed to the cold, wind and rain.

If you’re able to plan your roof replacement, though, when is the ideal time?

Autumn

Autumn is the busy season for all roofers, and it’s easy to see why. The weather’s turning cold, wet and windy, making us think about being protected against it. We realise our roof needs replacing before winter sets in. Or maybe summer conditions have disguised the problem, and it’s only now clear the roof isn’t doing its job.

Unfortunately, this is when everyone wants their roof repaired or replaced. Roofers are at full stretch, and you could be facing a long wait before they can fit you in. Or even worse — the roofers who do have spare time could be unreliable, perhaps charging a high fee for an inadequate job.

Winter

Roofers who are in demand may still be finishing off their autumn workload in winter, or they’ll be out dealing with emergency calls to repair serious damage. Although winter isn’t quite as busy as autumn, there’ll be problems finding a roofer who can fit you in.

And that’s if the job can be done at all. A tiled roof can be replaced in cold weather, although the job may have to be put off if conditions are too hazardous, but shingles are difficult to work with. This is because frozen materials can become brittle and crack.

Spring and Summer

By far the best time of year to have planned work done on your roof, including roof replacement, is the spring or summer. Not only are conditions most likely to be good, but for most roofers, it will be a slack time. Though reputable roofers won’t overcharge in their busy times, you may well get a special offer during spring or summer.

To take advantage of this, you’ll have to be able to pre-plan the work, and that means having your roof inspected on a regular basis. Feel free to get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

 

Why Is It So Hard to Find a Good Roofing Contractor?

Why Is It So Hard to Find a Good Roofing Contractor?

As with any trade, not all roofing contractors are equal. Some are expert and conscientious, and will offer an excellent service. Some are well-meaning, but lack the experience to meet all the challenges fully. And some, of course, are out-and-out cowboys. But how can you sort the good from the bad?

Reputations Are Earned

The chances are a top-class, reliable roofing firm will have a substantial history of great work, or else an experienced roofer may have just started their own business. Whether as a firm or an individual, make sure you check the experience of the roofing contractor you hire.

The best recommendations come personally from someone you trust, but you can also judge a contractor’s reputation by membership of trade schemes like Trusted Traders or Checkatrade.com. These schemes only list companies whose standards they’re satisfied are high.

There are many different types of roof, from flat to pitched, and numerous materials. Roofing contractors often specialise, so it’s vital to make sure the contractor you choose has a solid record of the type of work you need doing.

Estimates and Guarantees

You can tell a good deal about a roofing contractor’s quality by the estimates they offer, and more by asking the right questions. Are they offering a quote or an estimate? It’s not always possible to give an exact quote for a roofing job, since extra damage may emerge once the work has begun. A reputable contractor will clarify where you stand with any figure they give you.

Make sure you get any quote or estimate in writing, and that payment will be fully receipted. If a contractor deals “cash in hand, nothing written down”, you’re highly unlikely to get even adequate results. You also won’t have any come-back if there are problems with the work later.

Speaking of which, any contractor that doesn’t offer a written guarantee of at least ten years, and preferably fifteen as we do, should be avoided. Also, establish in advance exactly what the payment schedule will be. You may need to pay a deposit, for instance, but you should on no account settle the full amount before the work is finished to your satisfaction.

Don’t be afraid to ask the contractor for detailed plans, including what materials they’re proposing to use. Remember that the cheapest quote isn’t always the best — make sure they’re not cutting corners.

Feel free to get in touch with us to discuss your roofing needs. And other companies, too — like any quality contractor, we’ve no reason to worry about that.