You can’t have a rainbow without rain

Some people feel the rain, others just get wet. 

I’ve been stumped how to write about repairing a roof in a sexy, glamorous fashion – yet all the while being informative.  So I’m leaving the bottle of bubbly with the vibrant pink label to brighten up any rainy day, to the end… here begins the formal stuff:

Step 1 to transforming to a palace is to ensure that your property is protected from the elements and watertight.  Otherwise there is simply no point making the inside glorious only for the next thunderstorm to revert you back to square one.


‘Indoors rain’ I know from experience is when it rains from the ceiling and windows on the inside and it can be very damaging – not only do you need copious bowls at hand to keep replacing torrents from the numerous waterfalls (not even drips) above head but prolonged exposure to rain and moisture can have very damaging long-lasting effects in the form of rising damp, rot and mould. Yep I know!

So you need:

  1. A watertight roof – Step 1, described below. To protect from the elements – and also look good!
  2. A watertight external structure with no cracks or gaps in brickwork – Damaged bricks require replacing or repointing; completed much later after new windows, to prevent further cracking
  3. Good drainage and guttering – To ensure long-lasting protection, completed much later also.

Whilst many beautiful houses have a thatched roof, most roofs are made of one of these types of tiles:

  1. Plain Tiles – Small rectangular sections of clay with a smooth or sanded surface finish
  2. Pantiles – Clay tiles with a distinctive ‘S’ shaped profile
  3. Roman Tiles – Similar to Pantiles but with a cross section that is flat with a small roll
  4. Slate – Thin, rectangular sections of quarried metamorphic rock in varying sizes and thicknesses

Plain Tiles

  • In 1477 their size was set by King Edward IV as being a small rectangular, flat tile measuring 265mm x 165mm (or 10½” x 6½” x ½”); after 1666 the Great Fire of London first formal product standards were created; tiles remain similar size today
  • 60 tiles per square metre so labour-intensive to install
  • Laid with a broken bond and keeps the water out by over lapping each other 3 tiles deep, so only the bottom third of each tile is visible
  • Creates very attractive, traditional roofscapes with detail and texture
  • Different types – Handmade, Clay, Concrete, Interlocking


  • Legacy of several centuries of trading whereby pantiles were brought back from Holland and Belgium as ballast in trading ships
  • Distinctive ridges and furrows creates elegant roofscapes; reputation for being one of UK’s great vernacular roofing materials
  • Originally made from clay until 1950s when more cost-effective concrete; however the latter with a thicker front is not always permitted by planners
  • As fired in a kiln, clay pantiles more natural appearance and will not fade over time
  • Different types – Handmade, Concrete, Interlocking, Clay Double, Concrete Double

Roman Tiles

  • In 1950s originated in SW England; today Double Roman is generic roof tile shape for the region
  • Historically Concrete, large format Double Roman is the most popular tile design in UK
  • Different types – Clay Single, Traditional Clay, Interlocking Clay, Concrete Double

Slates and Slate Alternatives

  • Slate can mean the actual material or a type of roof material with a thin, flat appearance and (usually) a blueish/grey colour
  • Used since Roman times, available in many sizes, thicknesses and qualities
  • UK slate industry peaked in the 1980s; with limited UK slate quarries, most slate now imported. Welsh Slates are known to be the finest roofing slates in the world, adorning Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street
  • Slate Alternatives – Developed to look similar and cost less. Most made from fibre-cement and concrete but cannot compete with aesthetics of natural quarried slate.


History lesson over, now which roofing material – and roofer – is best for you?

I suggest you arrange for at least three different roofers to assess your property (I’ll cover how to do this later) and ask the following, to whittle out the duds leaving you with some capables:

Current roof structure – Ask them to explain it

  • Materials – Those used, good and bad points, what works and what doesn’t
  • Insight – I found it very helpful to know about some heavy tiles causing my roof to bow, cracked brickwork that allowed water seepage, water stains on woodwork, rotten roof felt, leaking gutters and unstable flashing.
  • Flashing – For those of you novices like me, I didn’t know what flashing was! It’s the thin strip of material that attaches the top of the roof to the brickwork, usually with V-shaped edges

Roofer’s proposal

  1. Tiles – What type, why appropriate, tile colour e.g. blue/black
  2. Attachments – How to attach the tiles to underlay, flashing, adjacent windows
  3. Repair – How they will repoint areas of cracked brickwork adjacent to the roof
  4. Guttering – Will they replace any attached to the roof (they should do)
  5. Step Process – What is the process
  6. 20 Year Guarantee Certificates – After completion they should issue you with two certificates: one from their company for workmanship and one from Cure It for materials
  7. Availability – When might they be available to complete the work
  8. Contractors – Importantly, is the work in-house (I would use) or sub-contracted (I would never touch!)
  9. Rainy day – What happens if it rains on repair day
  10. Price and deposit – Does this include all materials?
Bubbles brighten a rainy day!
Phew, fuscia nail glamour for DIY chips


Hmmmm it’s tough out there, a risk.  So I suggest you wait a few days, absorb their suggestion and complete further research about their proposal and about them online (more on that later).

Ultimately I used gut feel to decide my roofer.

Fortunately on this occasion I came up trumps.  My roofer was knowledgeable, efficient, completed the work himself (with his in-house team) – they made every effort to try and complete the work before it rained, returning the next day to complete the job, remove debris and tidy up.

I was like a girl in a candy shop – Overnight my ‘indoors rain’ stopped so finally my flat can dry, that I hope will last a decade.  Surely now I can relax without getting wet, time to celebrate with a glass of pink-labelled bubbles!

Fingers crossed that your roofer turns out to be a good one.


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