A Little bit about me...

I'm a Structural Engineer, specialising in conservation, at Hurst Peirce + Malcolm in London. I don't wear tweeds, am not particularly "cultured" and I'm not that old, but I do care passionately about the conservation of old buildings. I am a Chartered Structural Engineer, a member of The SPAB (formerly on the founding committee of the reborn Berks, Bucks & Oxon Regional Group), a Friend of SAVE Britain's Heritage and have recently completed a PD Diploma in conservation at West Dean College, with a view to achieving CARE accreditation. I hope to give you regular updates on my trials and tribulations as well as some insight into projects I am involved with and things I believe in.

Be patient with me - I'm no writer and I'm normally up to my eyeballs at work........

All views expressed here are my own.

Hurst Peirce + Malcolm, Celtic House, 33 John's Mews, Holborn, London WC1N 2QL

07854 624692 - richardsalmon9@gmail.com

Thursday, 19 July 2012

'Wear & Tear' to Roofs: What I really said to The Sun

This is not a complaint, just a clarification.

So, only my second ever mention* in the national press. And in The Sun too! I appreciate Jane had a hard job on her hands editing a mass of information down to a few column inches. This is Wednesday's Cashflow feature story as it appeared (including my much condensed paragraph) revealing the impact that the current bizarre weather may be having on our buildings. The message got lost in the edit, so I thought  I'd post it here, in full.

The story goes something like this: Having seen this blog, Jane approached me for my thoughts on the new 'wear and tear' get out clause being adopted by some insurers, as highlighted in the case of the Stockwell (Will Self, et al) terraced houses parapet collapse, I replied as follows:-

"There is an onus on householders to maintain their roofs. Primarily to stop the rain getting in, but also from a structural adequacy perspective. There are three main things that can damage (or lead to damage of) the structure of a roof:

1. Adding weight that it wasn’t designed to carry (ie changing from slates to tiles, adding solar panels etc)

2. Not fixing roof leaks, which can cause rot/woodworm in the timbers.

3. Adding too much insulation and/or blocking ventilation to the roof space, which can also lead to timber rot/woodworm.

Ideally roofs should be regularly inspected for defects and those defects remedied asap. If you can avoid all three of the issues above, your roof structure will be fine.

But I do not believe that this should solely be in the hands of the owners and insurers should bear some responsibility when things go wrong.

Well maintained roofs can last for hundreds of years, if not a thousand or more (just look at our cathedrals).

“Diurnal drift” is something that occurs on a daily basis (to varying degrees) and well maintained roofs can quite easily cope with this movement as timber structures are inherently flexible. The main problem occurs when you introduce masonry (ie gable walls or parapets).

In my opinion, the primary issue with the Stockwell case was not roof collapse at all (you can clearly see the roofs still intact) but the collapse of the parapet wall which, I am guessing, was not securely tied back into the roof structure and therefore got pushed over when the roof ‘expanded’ in the warmer temperatures. (There are probably other structural issues at the base of the parapet, but I can’t comment on that). This lack of strapping masonry elements back into roofs is very common in old buildings."

I probably should have mentioned keeping gutters clear too, but was really keen to stress the point about masonry gables and parapets. Still, its a lesson for the future. Get even more precise and to the point! Well, it is The Sun, after all. Onward & upward....

(*- First ever mention:- Winning The Times Fantasy Cricket League - (stage 1) c.1995)


  1. Just like how bridges are adjusted in metal frames, roofs must also be built to adjust to the weather changes. Metals expand in hot weather, and they go back to original length during cold weather. I like your blog, Richard! I’m hoping we can exchange more information about roofs and construction in general.

    Missie Rice

    1. Hi Missie,

      Thank you for your kind comments. Happy to chat anytime :-)

  2. I agree that metal roofs are the best kind of roofing even if it’s a bit more pricey because it can withstand extreme weather conditions for a long period of time. I think that it is a good investment not only because you get your money’s worth but it also relieves you of worries during bad weather.

    Eugene Head

  3. “Well maintained roofs can last for hundreds of years, if not a thousand or more (just look at our cathedrals).” All roofs need proper maintenance to stay in good condition. Aside from this, with regular maintenance, leaks and other roof problems can be detected and the earlier it is resolved, the better.

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