How to winter-proof your roof: protect your home from the damage caused by fallen leaves and rainwater before it's too late

Check out the roof before winter sets in — fallen leaves are not the only problem....

Anyone who owns a house needs to look after the roof over their head or face costly problems in the long run.

And if you live in a flat, regardless of whether it’s on the top floor you should press your landlord or managing agent to check the roof regularly, so you won’t have the shared expense of putting right a poorly maintained roof.

Here’s what you need to look out for:

GUTTERS

Autumn leaves can clog gutters, causing rainwater to run down walls and ruin exterior paintwork, or allowing it to get under roofs and damage joists, trusses, ceilings and internal walls.

Check annually when the leaves have fallen and clear them away. Check gutters aren’t loose.

Remove any seedlings and cut back climbers, such as wisteria, that grow up through gutters. Clear leaves or debris from the bottom of the drainpipe as well as the top.

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Plaudits: good-looking Godson Street in Islington, a new-build mixed-use development, won a RIBA London Award this year. The terrace, clad in zinc, includes commercial units below, with homes above

LOOSE TILES

Most water damage starts at roof level. An amazing amount of water comes in via a loose tile or cracked flashing — a type of edging — around chimneys. Ridge and hip tiles can loosen or fall. Check for damp patches in the loft.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings advises checking for loose roof tiles twice a year and offers excellent advice on all traditionally built homes, not just old ones.

Armed with binoculars, stand across the street and look for missing tiles, ripped flashing or cracked mortar edges.

If you catch damage early it may require a fresh tile or two. If you leave it, rain will penetrate and rot woodwork. Damaged flashing, spotted early, can be patched, or sections replaced.

STEEL, GLASS AND SEDUM

Most London roofs are still tiled but we’re also using steel now, and a lot of glass is used for skylights, lanterns or conservatories. There are also sedum roofs which use alpine plants. Flat or even pitched roofs can have sedum on them, and many suppliers can fit it.

The structure of a sedum roof is designed, says architect Heinz Richardson at Jestico + Whiles, “to need no maintenance, as long as the roof is properly laid”.

He says the cool thing now is a “brown” roof, which allows any passing seed to germinate, or can be scattered with wild flower seed. Firms such as Green Roofs Naturally will either fit your sedum roof, or supply you with a kit. They also offer a programme for weeding and clearing twice a year.

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Hassle-free good looks: Tin House, by award-winning architect Henning Stummel in a former breakers yard in Shepherd’s Bush, is made with colour-coated raised-seam steel roofs and façades. It should be maintenance free for 30 years

COLOUR-COATED STEEL

Award-winning architect Henning Stummel covered his home with coloured, raised-seam steel. The galvanised steel is factory-coated in a special bio paint containing flax oil, which protects it. Stummel says steel has a low expansion coefficient, so it is durable and doesn’t lose its shape. Specialist steel supplier SSAB says you just clean any external gutters, and it should be maintenance free for 30 years. Small scrapes or blemishes can be retouched in situ.

ZINC

Zinc comes in its natural pearly colour, or can be tinted in six shades. This light, durable metal should be maintenance free and ought to last 60 years. Architect Jake Edgley used it for Godson Street, N1, a development of seven homes. The prepatinated zinc comes from VM Zinc and works on any pitch above three degrees — a standard flat roof pitch.

GLASS

Skylights can be bespoke, sometimes using timber, maybe flashed with lead, or factory made. If timber-framed, repaint regularly like any exposed timber window, and check the flashing. Low-maintenance aluminium frames can be a good choice, from companies such as The Roof Light Company.

Or a product from a trusted company such as Velux should last well with minimal maintenance.

Some modern glasses are self-cleaning, such as Activ from Pilkington. Consider an advanced glass, which can also control UV and heat loss.


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