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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
crowds.

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
call.

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.

Slates

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.

How to manage the cost of a roof replacement project

How to manage the cost of a roof replacement project

Is it time for re-roofing?

A well-built roof should last at least 25 years, even longer if it is well maintained. Normally people start thinking of replacing the roof after a leak in the ceiling or something else as dramatic. Often a roof repair is enough to save you from any bigger catastrophes. Unfortunately sometimes replacing the roof is the most reasonable and only thing to do. A roof replacement is a huge project and investment though, so you want to make sure you are doing it properly.

Planning is the key to managing the cost

How do you do it then, replacing a roof within the budget and in the schedule? Well, the first and utmost important things are planning and research. The price of the re-roofing depends on several factors. One of them is the professional roofer contractor. The second factor is the size of your roof –  how big is your house? Furthermore, what materials you want to use? Is the roof made of slate, felt or maybe tile? And finally, is the roof two-sided or does it have hips or valleys? If you want to alter the current roof style or shape, the budget is likely to go up a lot.

As an extra tip, you may want to plan your non-urgent re-roofing project for the spring or summer. This is as you may get better quotes from contractors due to a quieter season. The autumn tends to be busier whilst home-owners want to get the roofs ready for winter. On the other hand, during the winter months, roofers are busy with all the emergency repairs going on.

Once you have got the quotes from all the roofer companies in your area, you will have an idea of the estimated cost. Keep in mind though, any roofer company can only give a rough estimate after investigating the roof and the budget may change if there are any underlying problems. Make sure that the company you are going to choose is an expert in the material and house type you have, so they can quote accordingly and also know what they are doing. If you need a roofer expert for felt, slate or tile roofing, we at Empire UPVC Roofing are happy to discuss your roof replacement needs in detail.

Now – stick to your roof replacement plan

Okay, so you have done your research on roofing companies and the type of the roof you would want to have. After deciding which option to go with, stick to the plan. If you decide to change the roofing material in the middle of the process, the whole budget may spring up drastically. That’s why the planning stage is so important – you need a plan you can rely on.

Obviously, making the decision of the roofing company is the most important one as the roofers are responsible for the end result. Good roofers do their job quickly and effectively, but not hurried. The roofing itself takes approximately four days; however, you may want to reserve some extra days for any possible surprises.

Be prepared for underlying surprises

Talking about extras, when calculating the final cost and budgeting for the re-roofing project, we highly recommend to include some emergency funds in it. If there are any above mentioned surprised underlying, you do not want things to stop or left untreated because you do not have that extra funding. Hopefully that extra will remain in your pocket after the whole roofing project, but it will give you some peace of mind during – some might say quite a stressful – project.

Does the re-roofing project still sound daunting? Just to recap – take time to plan your re-roofing project and decide on the right roofer contractor. Then stick with the plan made and allocate some emergency fund just in case, your roof replacement budget can be a lot more manageable. If you need any further information, contact us and we will have a chat!

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.