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How to Check Whether My Roof Needs to Be Repaired or Replaced

How to Check Whether My Roof Needs to Be Repaired or Replaced

How to Check Whether My Roof Needs to Be Repaired or Replaced


If your roof is doing its job properly, it protects you from wind, rain and other extreme weather, as well as helping to keep your home at the right temperature with as little waste of energy as possible.

The problem is that, though a well-made roof lasts, it doesn’t last forever, and when it starts getting worn or damaged, it may not be doing that job. So how will you know when it needs to be repaired or replaced?


When Should I Check My Roof?

It’s important to keep an eye on your roof. In particular, if there’s been a storm or any other type of rough weather, it’s advisable to check it for damage as soon as possible afterwards.

Apart from this, you need to check your roof a minimum of twice a year, ideally once in autumn and once in spring. This will ensure it’s in a fit state to withstand the winter and that it’s come through unscathed.


Checking from the Outside

If you have a good ladder and you’re confident using it, you can examine your roof up close, but this isn’t essential. It should be perfectly adequate to use binoculars from street level. Make sure, though, that you look from all possible angles.

If you have a pitched roof, what you’re looking for is primarily cracked or missing tiles, or for signs of moss or mould growing on them. You also need to look out for warping in the roof and check that the flashing hasn’t come away from structures that pierce through the roof.

If you have a flat roof, look out for tears in the fabric. Any of these may well be a sign that your roof needs urgent work.


Checking from the Inside

Very small holes in your roof might not be visible even from close up, but they can still cause trouble if water gets through and rots the timbers. The best way to detect these is to go into your loft area during daylight and switch off all lighting. If you see pinpricks of light coming through, you have a problem.

You can also look out for any patches of damp or mildew on ceilings. Various issues could cause this (any of which would need addressing) but it could well be water getting in through the roof.

Depending on the extent of the damage, you may simply need tiles or flashing replaced, or you may need to have the roof replaced. This is a major job, of course, but it will save you money in the long run, compared with ongoing internal and external problems the damage is likely to cause.


Get in touch with us if you want to know more about checking your roof for damage and what to do about it.


Time for Home Improvement During the Covid-19 Lockdown

Time for Home Improvement During the Covid-19 Lockdown

Time for Home Improvement During the Covid-19 Lockdown

If you’re off work during the Covid-19 lockdown, you’re probably looking for things to do by now. You’ve watched all the boxsets you’ve been meaning to, worn out Zoom and WhatsApp talking to everyone you know and taken the dog for more walks than it can handle.

So is there anything more productive to do? Well, perhaps you might look at all those jobs that need doing around the house, from the little ones to the major improvements.

Why Is Home Improvement a Great Idea Right Now?

Improving your home is never just a matter of having a project, and that’s even more true than ever now. The bottom’s fallen out of the property market during the lockdown and, while it will recover eventually, it may take a while before house prices get back to the level they were just a few months ago.

This makes home improvement especially valuable right now. Not only might improvements add to your home’s value, but they might also mean that it’s likely to sell more quickly if you do decide to move.

What Might Improve Your Home?

Home improvements can range from putting up shelves to adding an extension, covering internal fixtures and fittings and structural work on the building. What’s relevant to you, of course, will depend on your needs, your budget and the condition of your home, but a few typical examples might include:

  • Redecorating some or all of the rooms.
  • Converting or boarding your loft.
  • Landscaping your garden.
  • Repairing or replacing your guttering.
  • Adding a conservatory to the rear of your home.
  • Repairing wear and tear to your roof.

DIY or Professional?

It’s very tempting to do home improvement yourself, especially if your budget isn’t extensive, and sometimes this may be an option. However, it’s important to remember that most DIY isn’t something a beginner should dive straight into. Since the lockdown began, most A&E departments have reported a sharp increase in DIY-related injuries — some serious, including eye injuries.

While some of the jobs listed above are well within the range of an experienced and well-equipped DIYer, others (and definitely those involving structural work) should be left to professional specialists. The good news is that many construction companies, including Empire, are still open for business. Working on your roof, for example, makes it easy to do a thorough job while still maintaining full social distancing.

So, if you have time on your hands, why not make some improvements to your home? Get in touch with us to discuss anything you might need connected with your roof or guttering.

Wind and Rain – How Can These Affect Your Roof?

Wind and Rain – How Can These Affect Your Roof?

Wind and Rain — How Can These Affect Your Roof?

The beginning of 2020 saw unprecedented storms all over the UK, causing extensive damage. Much of this was to do with flooding, but the wind and rain also damaged many roofs.

Have you checked your roof since the storms? If not, here are some of the likely ways that wind and rain might have damaged it.

The Effects of Wind on Your Roof

A structurally sound roof should be able to withstand high winds, but the reality is that most roofs have weak spots. Whether pitched or flat, the parts most likely to be vulnerable to wind are along the edges. If there’s any loose material, the wind can get under it, creating upward pressure and making the spot even more vulnerable.

On the other hand, the wind also exerts downward pressure on your roof. This too will find any weak spots and can lead to tiles cracking.

The effect of high winds on your roof isn’t restricted to direct pressure, however. Storms can result in debris being blown about, and anything from trees and phone lines to small rubble can crack tiles if they hit the roof.

The Effects of Rain on Your Roof

On the whole, rain doesn’t cause damage to the outer roofing material, but it does exploit any weakness to get inside the roof, where it can rot the roofing timbers. Even a tiny crack in a tile or your roofing felt can be enough.

Another area of potential weakness is the leadwork in any valley your roof may have. The lead bridges a gap between roof sections, so any degradation can result in rain getting through.

Wind and rain can combine to create problems with your guttering. This is because dirt and debris blown in the wind are likely to clog the gutters and downpipes, and heavy rain will then cause overflows and cracks, putting your home’s foundations under threat.

Prevention Is Better than Cure

It’s vital to check your roof after any storm and ensure that any damage is repaired before the next heavy weather hits. It’s even better, though, to make certain your roof is in good repair before the storm.

If the wind exposes the inside of the roof to heavy rain, you could be looking at major repair work to the roof structure, rather than simply replacing a few tiles or repairing felt. Your building insurance might pay for this, but some insurers refuse claims if the roof hasn’t been adequately maintained

Get in touch with us if you want to know more about either roof repairs or preventative maintenance.

The History of Roofing Construction

The History of Roofing Construction

When you come down to it, all a house really needs are walls, a roof and an opening to go in and out. Even the floor can be simply the bare earth. A roof fulfils many functions. It keeps out undesirable weather, from rain, wind and cold to excessive heat. But more than that, it makes us feel safe in our own homes.

Early Roofs

The earliest known roof was a mammoth skin stretched over a shelter built around 40,000 years ago. Various types of animal skin were used in prehistory, though sometimes leaves, turf or wood were preferred.

Clay tiles were first used in China at least 5,000 years ago, and in Europe by the Greeks and Romans. It was the Romans who introduced them to Britain, along with much of the rest of the continent.

The shape of roofs has always depended largely on the climate. Rounded or pitched roofs have always been necessary for drainage when rainfall is common, which is why flat roofs were rare in Britain until recent times. However, in drier countries, such as many Mediterranean lands, flat roofs are much more common.

The Development of Roofing

Although buildings in Roman Britain were commonly tiled, with either clay tiles or slates, the Anglo-Saxons tended to prefer thatch. It’s a beautiful material (who doesn’t love seeing a thatched cottage in a village?) but it tended to catch fire. Because of this, it began to be replaced by clay tiles during the medieval period.

Tiled roofs gradually became standard throughout much of Europe, with slate and even wooden tiles used as well as clay. Other materials, such as sheet metal, have been rare until recently. Copper and zinc were occasionally used throughout the world on special buildings, with even gold roofs occasionally rumoured, but they’ve only become common in the past century.

Roofing Today

With the development of asphalt roofing in the 20th century, flat roofs have become more common in Britain, especially as buildings began to stretch upwards. Various strategies to solve the drainage problem now make this a viable option, even in the British climate.

Nevertheless, pitched roofs of clay or slate tiles remain the overwhelming favourite in Britain, as well as throughout much of Europe and North America, with asphalt and metal as alternatives.

Roofing has come a long way since the days of mammoth skin, but its function is still the same — to keep us safe and comfortable in our homes. You’re very welcome to get in touch with us if you need more safety or comfort.

Can I Replace my Roof if There Are Birds Nesting There?

Can I Replace my Roof if There Are Birds Nesting There?

Since humans began building houses with roofs, birds have been taking advantage of them to nest. Most of the time, this doesn’t cause a nuisance or a health hazard (though there are exceptions) but there is still a problem. In general, the birds will have gained access through roof damage — so this is precisely when you’re likely to want to repair or replace your roof.

What Does the Law Say?

Most wild birds are protected by law, and in general, it’s illegal to destroy or disturb an active nest — that is, a nest containing either eggs or chicks. Disturbing includes preventing the adult birds from returning to the nest, which would result in the chicks dying.

There are some exceptions to this. In certain circumstances, removing a nest can be justified on the grounds of hygiene — this most often involves feral pigeons are nesting in a roof. In addition, there are situations where the nest may be moved to a specially constructed nesting box close to the original site.

However, you can’t normally do this on your own initiative. If you feel you may be justified in moving or destroying a nest, the best thing is to contact your local authority or the RSPB to clarify the situation and establish how this should be done.

The Implications for Repairing Your Roof

Unfortunately, this almost certainly makes it impossible to repair or replace your roof while there’s an active bird’s nest in the way. Small repairs to a different part of the roof may be permitted, but roof replacement isn’t going to be feasible.

An exception to this may be where the nest is discovered after work has already begun. If leaving the roof replacement half done will leave your home vulnerable, you may move the nest to a box fixed to the wall as close as possible to the originate location. If you’re unsure how to do this safely, the RSPB will be able to advise you.

What Are the Alternatives?

If you’re aware of roof-nesting birds (e.g. swifts, swallows, house martins or house sparrows) active near your home, it’s best to plan any roof repairs or replacement for autumn or winter, when the nests won’t be active. If at that time you want to discourage further nesting, you can block off any openings — but make sure no birds are trapped inside.

If you’re unsure whether you have birds nesting in your roof, you’re very welcome to give us a call, and we’ll advise you about your options.

Is It Safe to Walk on My Roof?

Is It Safe to Walk on My Roof?

In general, the roof of your property isn’t a safe place to walk. Any repairs that require access are best left to the professionals, but if you’re an expert DIYer (and have a good head for heights) you might want to try minor jobs yourself. If so, it’s essential to take precautions.

Reasons for Walking on a Roof

The most common reason for accessing your roof, and the only good reason on a pitched roof, is for repair work. While substantial repairs shouldn’t be undertaken by a DIYer, however skilled, you may want to try small jobs like replacing a single broken tile or cleaning off mould or moss.

A flat roof could also need minor repairs, but you may also want to use it to reach other parts of your building. For instance, the flat roof of a single-storey extension may be the best way to access a window for repairs or cleaning. A flat roof can also sometimes be used for leisure purposes — but only if it’s suitable.

Walking on a Pitched Roof

If you’re going up onto a pitched roof, it’s essential to take safety precautions. You should wear a hard hat and a safety harness attached to a firmly secured line. Also, make sure you have someone down below who could phone the emergency services if something goes wrong.

Besides the danger to you, you risk cracking tiles by walking on them. Wear soft shoes, or even better walk pads which will distribute your weight, and keep as much as possible to flat areas or valleys. If you have to step on the pitched sections, tread on the places where the tiles overlap and try to keep the weight distributed evenly between your feet.

Walking on a Flat Roof

A flat roof is less precarious than a pitched one, but you still run the risk of damaging the felt and potentially going through the membrane. You’re less likely to cause damage on a warm day, and it’s generally advisable to lay boards across it to walk on.

A flat roof can only be used for recreational purposes if it’s constructed to take the weight of continual walking and any equipment you bring up. If you’re not sure about this, you should have it surveyed by a structural engineer before attempting this use.

While your roof isn’t necessarily a no-go area, it’s generally better to leave it to the professionals. Feel free to get in touch with us if you want to know more.

Do You Know What’s Under Your Roof?

Do You Know What’s Under Your Roof?

Do you ever look up and admire the roof on your home? You should, as it’s vital in keeping you safe and comfortable from outside conditions, but the chances are you’ll only be thinking about the tiles, slates or roofing felt. There’s a lot more to a roof, though, and most of it goes on underneath.

By knowing how your roof is made, it’s a lot easier to identify when something’s going wrong, so here’s a quick rundown of what you might find under various types of roof.

Timber Rafter Roof

The traditional method of constructing roofs, this is still sometimes for pitched roofs. A timber beam called the wall plate is nailed to the top of the walls, and wooden rafters are fitted using joints to define the roof’s pitch.

Joists to support the ceiling and the loft floor are nailed at either end to the wall plates, allowing them both to support the whole frame and to resist the downward push of the rafters.

A ridge beam is then fitted along the top where the rafters meet. This doesn’t normally need to be very strong, but a roof featuring dormer windows might need a sturdier ridge beam, perhaps of steel. Finally, purlins are fitted to the inside of the rafters to support them — either one midway up or two at one third and two thirds.

Trussed Roofs

A quicker technique that’s grown steadily more popular since the 1960s is to use prefabricated trusses for the roof frame. In this case, made-to-measure trusses, consisting of sections formed by rafters and joists held together by struts and collar beams, are lifted into place and attached to the wall plate.

This is generally a more efficient method, often allowing a roof frame to be in place within a day. However, it’s important to be careful about choosing your trussed roof design, as some types make it difficult to use the roof-space for more than minimal storage.

Flat Roofs

The structure of flat roofs is relatively simple. Horizontal wooden joists are laid between wall plates, with a roof deck over them. This is typically a sheet of 18mm plywood or similar material, although in the past chipboard was sometimes used, before its shortcomings became clear.

Flat roofs are, in fact, normally constructed with a slight pitch, to enable water to drain off. A variant of the flat roof construction is a curved roof, which replaces the straight joists with curved timber glulam beams.

If you want to know more about what’s under your roof, you’re very welcome to get in touch with us.


What You Need to Know Before You Remove Your Chimney

What You Need to Know Before You Remove Your Chimney

Most houses built before the second half of the last century had a chimney. However, since central heating has largely replaced open fires, you may feel a chimney is unnecessary and wish to remove it.

This is certainly possible, but it’s not an easy job — and it has the capacity to go very wrong if you rush in without considering what you’re doing.

Why Do People Remove their Chimneys?

  • It may be as simple as that you have no plans to use the chimney in the future and wish to remove it completely.
  • Your chimney may have deteriorated or suffered from damp or weather damage and require substantial renovation. In this case, it could be cheaper to remove it than to repair it.
  • You may wish to reclaim the space the chimney is taking up inside your home.
  • You may live in an area where smoke emissions are banned, which would effectively rule out the possibility of future use.

Will It Affect the Property’s Value?

This will depend on the property. With many houses, the buyer may not miss the chimney, while the floor space gained inside could actually increase the value. On the other hand, if the house has a period feel, the lack of a chimney may be felt to diminish its charm.

However, it’s vital that every step is followed correctly. You probably won’t require planning permission, but it’s always worth enquiring, and you must certainly follow Building Regulations and have the work inspected by the local building control officer. If you can’t produce the necessary certificates when you put the property on the market, buyers may well pull out or request a price reduction.

What Are the Most Common Problems When Removing a Chimney?

As mentioned, you must ensure that you have all necessary permissions. Besides following the Building Regulations for structural strength, fire safety, sound insulation, maintenance of your neighbour’s chimney (if relevant), damp prevention and ventilation to rooms, don’t forget that if the property is a leasehold you’ll need the freehold owner’s permission. Also, if the chimney is in a party wall, you must comply with the Party Wall Act.

If you’re removing the chimney breast, you may need support beams for the masonry above it, while the roof timbers will need to be extended to compensate for removing the chimney stack.

The most important thing is to have the work done by an expert company who will be able to advise you of what’s necessary. Feel free to get in touch with us if you need to discuss removing your chimney.

Famous Roofs Worldwide — How Many Can You Name?

Famous Roofs Worldwide — How Many Can You Name?

You might think a roof is just a roof. Some roofs are certainly more attractive
than others, but essentially they’re functional.

That’s mostly true, but there are very special roofs around the world. Some
are famous; some could even be described as iconic. Here are five of them —
but how many more can you think of?

1. Sydney Opera House

Perhaps the most recognisable modern building in the world, this Australian
icon was constructed between 1957 and 1973, and the roof is its crowning
glory. Made up of “shells” of precast concrete covered in tiles and held
together by steel cables, its curvaceous grace belies the staggering weight of
the structure. Definitely a roof to make a song and dance about.

2. Taj Mahal

Never mind the most famous modern roof in the world, this Indian icon is
arguably the most famous from any era. Built by the 17th century Mughal
Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his beloved queen, its blend of
Indian, Persian and Turkish styles has captivated visitors through the
centuries. And the eyes are drawn upwards to one of the most perfect marble
domes ever constructed.

3. Kensington Roof Garden

Far above a busy London shopping street lies an ornate garden, complete
with Art Deco pavilion. Laid out in the 1930s, the roof garden was open to the
public until 2018, and hopefully will be again. Divided between a Moorish-
influenced Spanish garden, a Tudor-style garden and an English water
garden, this very special roof provides elegant greenery above the London

4. Thean Hou Temple

Although it may seem to belong to an ancient world, this temple to the
Chinese sea goddess Mazu was only completed in 1987. Situated in Kuala
Lumpur, it combines modern and traditional architectural techniques to create
a sumptuous structure. Its many multi-coloured roofs, adorned with intricate
carvings, dominate the temple and draw the eye upwards to its wonders.

5. Chrysler Building

Although the world’s tallest building on completion in 1930, this was
surpassed just a year later by the Empire State Building. Nevertheless, this
Art Deco skyscraper, still the tallest steel-supported brick building, has remained iconic, largely because of the terraced crown and spire that surmount it. The crown’s seven radiating arches make it instantly recognisable, while the spire soars to 1,046 feet.

Not all roofs can be famous, but they’re all iconic to us. If you want to know
more about how your roof can be special in its own way, feel free to give us a

How Roof Slates and Tiles Are Made

How Roof Slates and Tiles Are Made

What is the roof made of

We’re used to taking the roof over our heads for granted, until something goes wrong. We don’t usually think about the remarkable materials that keep us safe from rain, wind and cold, but they’re worth a little attention.

Various materials can be used to roof a building, including metal and felt. When we think of a roof, though, most of us will automatically imagine one covered with tiles or slates.

Clay Tiles

Traditionally, roof tiles are made of clay. This has the great advantage of being fully recyclable and therefore a renewable resource.

Once the clay has been quarried, it’s milled and ground, before having sand and water added to it. The mixture is then shaped, usually in moulds, to form tiles of the shape required. This can be either flat or curved, or else specific shapes for hips, ridges or gable ends. Some manufacturers use moulds that produce a unique design or a logo.

The tiles may have colour or glaze applied and then go for drying, for anything between four and forty-eight hours. Once the moisture content is below 2%, the tiles are fired in a kiln at a minimum of 1000oC, giving them the required strength and durability.

Concrete Tiles

In some cases, roof tiles are made of concrete rather than clay. Concrete is, of course, an aggregate consisting principally of cement, sand, water and fly ash. Old concrete tiles can be ground down into the mix, making this too a recyclable product.

Concrete tiles are made in a similar way to clay ones. However, they generally don’t have the same range of shapes available — they’re normally only either flat or with smaller or larger curves.


Unlike clay or concrete tiles, roofing slate is only cut and shaped, not processed in any way. Slate can be quarried from many areas. Most European slate nowadays comes from Spain, though Wales, Cumbria and Cornwall are also important sources. Most slate is grey, but some locations (such as North Wales) produce a variety of colours.

Slate has the invaluable property of splitting into thin sheets, which are then cut into strips by a diamond cutter. These are placed in a gauging machine and shaved to the exact thickness, before being cut into uniform blocks. Holes are then drilled at the top for fastening.

Roof tiles and slates are not only among the most vital of all building materials, but also among the most sustainable. If you want to know how they can do more to protect your home, feel free to give us a call.