Roofing Materials

What You Need To Know About Roof Replacements on Historic Homes

Stephen Vernon
April 3, 2023
New Chateau Green shingles on a brick home in Roanoke, VA 24179

There’s nothing like the feeling of walking into a historical home or marveling at a historical landmark and letting it transport you back to an earlier time. Whether it is the obvious wear on the flooring that reveals years of people happily gathering together, or the classic and captivating architecture, these historical places are cherished. But even more importantly, they require an abundance of upkeep and care in order to remain in good shape so that everyone can continue to enjoy them in the future. This is especially true when it comes to the roofing system on historic homes.

No matter how well the roof is cared for, time will always do its work, causing it to become worn out and in need of replacement. However, when it comes to replacing the roof of a historical home, there are a few more factors that need to be considered beforehand.

Why The Roof Matters

In addition to protecting the rest of the home from rain, snow, and sun damage, the roof is an important visual component of a historic home. The roof can comprise up to 60% of the external surface of a home, which means that the style and material of the roof on a historic home have a huge impact on its visual authenticity. During some periods of architectural history, the style of the roof defined the style of the entire home.

From four paneled mansard roofs popular in the second empire style, to the gambrel roof that graced so many farmhouses and barns, the examples of a roof defining the style of a home are endless. It’s a common desire for owners of historical homes to desire visual authenticity of the house. If this is the case, make sure you know what your goals are before beginning the roof replacement process.

Historical Roofing Research

The roof replacement process for a historical home is similar to the roof replacement process of a more modern home with one exception: a historical research phase. This research is typically done by the homeowner in order to find out what significant needs the home has, but can also be done throughout the assessment process with a professional. This ensures that most if not all unique issues, current damages, and potential trouble spots are made known to both roofing crew and homeowner before working on the historic structure.

The research process should include two parts: historic roofing materials used and the historic roofing process at the time of the home’s construction.

Historic Roofing Materials Used in Virginia

Finding out which time period your historic home was built during will help you figure out what materials the roof was constructed with. Knowing this will help determine which materials you should be looking to use for the roof replacement. Since metal, slate, and clay and wooden tiles are all still available in various forms today, homeowners find that they are actually able to replicate the original roof relatively easily! Some of the common roofing materials throughout the centuries are as follows:

  • The 1800s: The most common roofing materials for Virginia homes beginning in the 1800’s was wood and clay tiles. Clay tiles were typically flat or curved - very similar to Spanish clay tiles still popular in the Southwestern region of the United States today.
  • Mid 19th Century: Slate was considered a more durable and attractive material option, but until the development of the railroad and canal system in the mid-19th century, slate was difficult to import, since the native source was on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and the material was heavy and hard to transport.
  • 19th Century: Metal began gaining popularity throughout the 19th century, and many of the most luxurious mansions in Virginia have metal roofs. Metal never went out of style, and continues to be used today.

Historic Roof Replication

It’s understandable that a homeowner would want to maintain the home’s historic integrity by replicating the roof rather than replacing it with an entire new look. In some cases, this is not an issue! But it depends on the home and the current state of the roof, itself. For instance, there may be outdated installation techniques that will not protect your roof as well as modern techniques. In this event, consider what work is visible and what work is not.

If there is work that is not visible from the ground, it may be worth considering modern roofing materials and installation techniques, since the end result won't affect the visible exterior of the roof. Whatever the situation may be, you can weigh out your options with a roofing professional.

Permission & Repairs

Once a homeowner has a roofing assessment done and completes historical research, they must take one more step before scheduling the repairs: receive permission from the historical board or association that their home falls under. Renovations on historical homes require permission from these boards, and starting this permission process early will be important since each board may have a different timeline of approval.

Then, once the repair process begins, it will function just like a roof replacement on a modern home. The old roof will be torn off and the new materials will be installed according to the plan the homeowner has made and been approved upon by the historical board.

Cenvar Roofing Can Help

The best way to ensure this process will go smoothly is to use a reputable and qualified roofing contractor. Professional roofing contractors have years of experience and can make even the most unique roof look incredible.

If you are looking for a professional roofing contractor to handle the roof replacement process for your historic Virginia home, Cenvar Roofing can help! We’d love to assist in reviving your historic home’s roof to its former glory. Let us know how we can help by requesting a free estimate on our website to get started.

Share this post