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Roofing Challenges for Historic Homes

When it comes to replacing roofs, some of the most challenging projects are those that involve historic homes. Some of the concerns include: maintaining a safe working environment; assessing the need for special permits and approvals on historic buildings; and matching the new roofing materials and colors to the proper time period and style of the home. Rise to meet those challenges, though, and the final product will be worth it.

Before any work can begin on a historic home, it is vital to determine if special permits or certificates are needed. Often, depending on the location, a project that affects the exterior appearance of a historic building will require advanced proof that the new work will preserve the historic aspects of the home moving forward. A check with a local municipality and/or historic district, if applicable, is needed before moving forward.

If installing a time period-appropriate modern roof is allowed and determined to be the best course of action, then selecting the material and color for the new roof will be important. Materials–such as clay tile, sheet metal, slate, wood shingles, metal and asphalt shingles–that were used in roofing historic buildings are often no longer available or economical. Homeowners will want to find an appropriate style and color to match the time period of their property, but also to find a product that will stand the test of time and stay within their budget.

When possible, any historical documents, blueprints or photos of the property can be of great help when it comes to a restoration project. Rest assured, there are modern products and materials available that will help preserve the look of your home.

Detailed drawings, estimates and mockups should be created to ensure that homeowner and contractor are on the same page, and that historical details are documented and preserved.

All of that, and we’ve barely even physically climbed atop the roof at this point. Historically, roofs were home to some of a property’s greatest design features. From turrets and skylights to grand slopes or great peaks and valleys, roofs are part of what makes a historic home unique. But they also contribute to a project’s safety hazards and challenges.

Roofing a historic home will almost certainly require extra precautions and extra special care. Extra safety harnesses or other equipment will be used as roofers navigate their way around. In most cases, they will strip the current roof, which might include several layers, then repair or replace plywood and sheathing and apply an underlayment before installing the new roof.

It all sounds like a lot, and it is. There are many challenges in roofing historic homes, but making sure all of these concerns are addressed will lead to a property with a roof that helps it stand out, preserves the history and will be durable for years to come.