Monday, October 15, 2018


Heaven knows when our slate roof was last laid. Anyhow, over the years there have been leaks, broken and disintegrating slates, wood rot and deteriorating lead work. It was a mess. It was time for renovation.
Difficult to access myself, I had, in the past, employed various people to execute spot repairs. And using a long pole with a paintbrush tied to the end, I had manoeuvred roofing mastic into holes and craters to keep the rainwater out. But all this was only patching up an old roof.
Then a big leak appeared, soaking a ceiling, and needing buckets on the carpets to catch the minor cascade, eased a bit by the hole I drilled to duct most of the water into a single bucket below it.
We decided that it was time to bring the entire roof up to date.
The insurance company was reluctant to pay for repairs as the roof was old and in a poor state, but would make a small contribution toward the cost of a new one.
I contacted a well-established local, family-run roofing firm that I had known for some 30 years. They looked aghast at the condition of nearly everything that should have been keeping the elements at bay.
As Health and Safety now insist on expensive scaffolding being used for such work, a “patching up” of the roof seemed out of the question. So a brand new roof was commissioned.
The roofing firm’s own scaffolders constructed some platforms and a hoist, giving their entire construction unbelievable rigidity and strength. Then off came the old roof and its slates (that had been second hand already when installed), leaving only sound rafters remaining.
Dry weather was much on our wish list – and it came, only raining for about an hour during the entire three weeks of roof replacement.
Insulation, in the form of thick foam sheets silver foiled on either side, was installed between the rafters throughout.
Old slates and decaying lead work were cast off from on high into the back of a flat-back vehicle below. Reconstruction could begin.
New slates, from Spain, arrived with rolls of lead sheet, treated wooden battens, guttering, thick ply board, copper nails and all the bits and pieces needed for the new structure. They were delivered and stored on the several scaffolder’s platforms.
Battens in place and roofing felt laid, the slates were positioned so close together that gaps between hem barely showed. This work was combined with lead flashing, with insulation and new lead work fitted around each of the dormers.
Our gang of Charlie, Garry and Allan worked from 08.30 to 3 o’clock, each knowing what the others were doing and co-ordinating their jobs so that progression could be continued without disruption.
With the roof lining installed, the house was watertight during construction should showers fall.
The tea-boy (me), supplied endless cups to keep the roofers happy (perhaps delaying their work a little). And when our electric kettle broke (in two pieces at the same time – that’s planned obsolescence for you) I was most surprised to discover how long it took to boil water in a saucepan.
The dormers seemed to take a lot of time to renovate, but insulation and beautiful lead work cannot be rushed by such craftsmen.
It now remained for only the flashing and guttering to be completed.
So, with a gift of a letter of thanks, wine and a selection of my books as a topping out present to each man, the job was complete.
Neighbours, who might have been inconvenienced by vans or noise, were invited for evening drinks as our own topping-out ceremony.
Roll on rain, frost, snow and wind. We will be snug inside from now on.
But that was not the end of it. Hardly had the roof’s ridge tiles been laid than a watchful and helpful neighbour telephoned to say that red tiles had been laid and, being in a conservation area, there would be complaints for sure. Fortunately the scaffolding was still in place so that the roofers could return to change the red tiles for black – like the rest of the neighbouring ridge tiles. Job done.