Historic Homes: Your Guide to Choosing the Right Roof

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Historic homes have an elegant and aesthetic vibe, but when they start to deteriorate they don’t look so great.


The main thing that keeps everything together… is the roof. Maintaining this part of the house or any other historic building is a must for maximum conservancy. Materials that were used back then weren’t as weather-proof as today’s materials. As time goes by, there have been new materials and new methods on getting better roofs on homes.


And, for historic homes, there are ways to maintain the house’s history, while protecting it with modern-day roofing materials. We’ve gathered this info for all of you who would like to know more about historic homes’ roofs.


Historic Roofing Materials

The materials used “back then” included: 

  • Wood Shingles: One of the oldest methods of roofing and comes in a wide variety of styles, shapes and sizes.
  • Clay Tile: Also on of the first materials used with measurements of 10”x6” and are around ½”- ¾” thick, but vary from region to region.
  • Slate: This was a popular material and hard as a rock! It is very known for being fireproof, waterproof and very durable.
  • Metal: Lead and copper were the first metals used.
  • Copper: Flat-seamed copper was used on many domes and cupolas.
  • Sheet Iron: Corrugating iron was included and designed to allow greater span over a lighter framework.
  • Galvanizing with zinc: This was to protect the base metal from rust.
  • Shingles: Made out of wood and classified as stylish and domestic in the 20th century.
  • Tin-plate Iron: This material was known for being light weight and low-cost.
  • Others: Asbestos, aluminum, asphalt shingles and roll roofing are a few other materials.

(And some, we still use today!)


Significance Of The Roof

The roof is the main part of a home. It shelters the home from rain, snow and hail. It shades from the sun. The roof also gives the home style, depending on how it is designed and what it’s made of. The most important thing is using a strong durable material. Not only that, but it is very important to maintain it in perfect or near-perfect condition. As soon as homeowners notice some damage, they often think using temporary fix is a good idea to save money. But this may cause you to spend more than you should in the long run. If you have roofing knowledge and the right tools, getting it done by yourself is okay. But contracting professional roofers is the best option, especially for sensitive projects, like maintaining a historical home.


Repair Or Replace Your Historical Home’s Roof?

Depending on the material and how well kept the roof has been over the years, a roof repair may be possible. However, if the roof is in very poor condition, or has been patched many times over the years, it really should be replaced. It takes a roofing professional to observe and determine what can be done with the roof.

Most historical materials are still available in case you don’t want to change the design of the historical roof. Some materials can be tricky, so getting in touch with an architect or a preservation group is important, so that the material you need can be manufactured. It takes creative thinking and research for these types of projects.

Plus, historical buildings and homes need extra care because of the same reasons we have discussed before. Material back then was not as durable as it is now. Considering how many times a roof has to be repaired and realizing you’re spending as much as you would for a new roof is a crucial thought. Replacement can be a decent size investment, but it may last longer and save you from too many repair payments (plus, oftentimes, insurance will pay for it).


Craft Practices

It is very important to determine the craft practices used for the historical roof in order to work with it. Modern procedures when installing roofs have evolved quite a bit. If a different procedure is used, it may not look the same. Decades ago, roofers used their hands and knives to build custom roofs. Nowadays, we use power tools and manufactured designs.

Modern craftsman may not be able to follow the ways of early craftsman and it can turn out pointless and/or expensive. This is why it is crucial to do research and make observations as long as the process is visible in the roof that is getting repaired or replaced. This is why we recommend that you supervise and review the details of the design/procedure with the contractor. (Note: we have experience with historical roofs! Read our interview with Property Pros, Inc. owner, Jake Merelli and his experience roofing the Lumber Baron Inn right here.)


About Property Pros, Inc. | Colorado Roofing Company

As a Denver roofing company, many of our customers live in historical homes. Denver’s rich history and historical neighborhoods mean that specialized roofing to preserve their historical status is crucial. We are more than happy to answer any questions you may have on historical roofing. We are also ready to help with any roofs (no matter the era!). Most importantly we make sure our customers get what they want when it comes to their historic homes! Contact us for more information.