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Essential Tips for Period Home Buyers: What to Look Out for on the Roof When Viewing

Buying an older property can be an exciting undertaking, but it’s essential to thoroughly inspect the building when viewing. One critical area to focus on is the roof. Here’s what you need to know about investigating the roof of an older property before making your purchase. Remember, if you notice significant issues with the roof, you may have leverage to negotiate the price down to account for potential repair costs. Additionally, consider notifying your surveyor to take a closer look at any roof concerns identified during the viewing.

Damaged or Missing Tiles:

Older roofs are more susceptible to wear and tear due to exposure to the elements over time. If the roof is tiled, look for signs such as cracks, granule loss, uneven surfaces, and visible moss or algae growth. Damaged or missing tiles can compromise the integrity of the roof and lead to water infiltration. Look for loose, lifted, or missing tiles.

Ridge Beam Issues:

Start by observing the roofline from a distance to identify any noticeable sagging or dipping along the ridge line or edges, which could signal underlying structural problems. As you walk around the property, examine the roof from different angles to detect any uneven surfaces, where sections may appear higher or lower than others, suggesting potential structural issues. Additionally, keep an eye out for visible cracks or gaps along the ridge beam or where the roof meets the walls, as these can indicate structural movement. Difficulty opening or closing doors and windows can also be a red flag for structural issues. By paying attention to these signs, you can identify potential roof problems and address them proactively.

Look for Signs of Water Damage:

When inspecting the interior of a property, check the walls and ceilings for any signs of water damage, which could indicate potential issues with the roof or guttering. Look for water staining or discolouration, as well as any areas where paint or wallpaper may be peeling or bubbling. These could be signs of past or ongoing leaks. Additionally, pay attention to any areas where the ceiling appears to be sagging or bowing, as this could indicate water damage or structural issues. Dampness or musty odours in the air can also suggest moisture problems within the walls. By thoroughly inspecting the interior for these warning signs, you can identify potential issues.

Is the Roof Lined?:

In the attic, check whether there is any roof lining. Modern linings are breathable, but older black sarking felt (made from hessian soaked in bitumen) was used. The bitumen itself is not UV stable, and the hessian rots when wet, making it brittle over time. This material was commonly used for nearly sixty years and is still present in many of the roofs we inspect nowadays. If in good condition, slotted vents can be added where the lining overlaps on each eve to help with breathability. Very old roofs have no lining at all; check if you can see daylight. If you can, then it is likely that the roof leaks. These types of roofs are better stripped, new lining added, and then re-tiled.

Gutters and Downspouts:

If you have noticed some damp walls, check the guttering. Clogged gutters and downspouts can lead to water backups, water damage, and gutter weight issues. Look for signs such as overflowing gutters, sagging gutters, plant growth, water stains, and pooling water. Persistent leaks from the guttering can significantly impact the property’s foundations. Watch out for telltale signs such as dipped brick or stone lines, large cracks, and misaligned windows, skirting, or floors. If these structural elements have been compromised, it may necessitate underpinning, a potentially costly undertaking.

Check the Flashing:

Flashing is essential for preventing water infiltration around roof penetrations, chimneys, skylights and vents. Inspect flashing for cracking, deterioration, inadequate installation, separation from roofing materials, and expansion/contraction issues.

Check the Chimney:

Inspect the chimney for signs of deterioration, such as loose or missing bricks, or leaning angles, as these could indicate potential structural issues and the need for chimney repair or rebuild. It’s common for aged chimneys to experience deterioration in the lime mortar, often reaching the end of its lifespan due to exposure to heat, rain, and time. This fragile mortar can wash away, leaving bricks vulnerable. While many old chimneys simply require repointing, in severe cases, the mortar may have deteriorated to the point where the chimney can be easily toppled, lacking proper bonding with the bricks.

Importance of Hiring Professionals:

Don’t underestimate the importance of hiring qualified professionals to inspect the roof thoroughly. They have the expertise to identify potential issues that may not be immediately apparent and can provide valuable insights into the roof’s condition.

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