Heritage roof tiles on the Vyne National Trust property
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What does 'Heritage' mean in roofing?

The UK is lucky to have a wealth of well preserved, historic buildings that attract visitors from around the world. To maintain these properties, a considerable amount of work and money has to be invested to ensure that they are still around for generations to come.

In terms of roofing, this means that old, failing roof tiles need to be replaced with new ones to protect the structure and interiors of these valuable properties. However, these heritage projects are often far more complex than installing a standard roof on a volume housing project. Manufacturers, clients, architects and bodies such as Historic England will work closely together to achieve the desired finished result.

Using the correct material is vital to a heritage project, as strict regulations often require roof replacements or repairs to be carried out with like for like products. New roofing tiles with the correct profile, colour and texture are needed to match existing tiles, the age and style of a building and the surrounding environment.

The heritage roofing sector is dominated by clay products, and it is common for bespoke tiles to be specially made for projects where the original roof design needs to be strictly adhered to and mass-manufactured products aren’t suitable. After clay, it is also typical for natural stone, natural slate and thatch to be used on heritage projects.

The challenge doesn’t end with sourcing the right roofing tile. An immense amount of planning and preparation goes on behind the scenes on a heritage project as attention to detail is paramount. Correct installation is as important as choosing the correct product to work with.

Roofing contractors who have experience of historic buildings work with a high level of craftsmanship due to the demands of heritage roofing. Heritage roofing is very methodical and has to be completed to strict standards, which means extensive planning is necessary. Conservation boundaries also have to be considered, with appropriate analysis and documentation completed. It isn’t simply a question of building or restoring a house, then putting a roof on top.

Modern roofing tiles have been developed with a host of design features that make installation as quick and simple for the contractor as possible. No such luck with traditional roof tiles! They are often more difficult to fit and require traditional installation methods (such as using lime and mortar). This means that the pace of work is much slower, but an exceptional finish that is faithful to the original build is considered more important than a quick installation.

Heritage projects often have to meet Listed Building Regulations and may need approval from Historic England or the National Trust, in conjunction with the local Conservation Officer; making concise planning and skilled workmanship vital to the whole process. These regulations act as a guide to heritage and restoration projects, to ensure that the work is undertaken and finished to an exceptional standard. For example, plastic clips should not be used, as this is the incorrect style and method for these types of projects. The methods used should be in keeping with how the building was built originally.

When seeking roofers for these jobs, historical bodies will often look for someone who is classified as a heritage roofer on the NFRC (National Federation of Roofing Contractors) list. These are some of the best roofers in the country, and crucially learnt their skills on historic buildings.

Taking inspiration from the UK’s historic buildings, we’re seeing a trend for new build constructions adopting the look of heritage projects by using products such as traditional handmade roof tiles. Customers often prefer the look of a roof that appears to be aged and weathered rather than a roof that is very obviously brand new. The Caring Wood RIBA House of the Year project is the perfect example of a new home being made in a historic style and incorporating traditional Keymer handmade tiles for an oast house influenced design.

Visit Heritage Service to find out more about the products and guidance available for heritage roofing projects.


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The Vyne heritage stately home

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