One of the key decisions a home owner of an older property will have to face is whether to repair or renew an own old pitched roof. A well constructed roof can last half a century and more but at some stage a roof is likely to need some work done on it. At this stage most householders break into a cold sweat as they recall the horror stories about builders and roofers that have been shown on TV or highlighted in the press.
Part of the problem is that the odds seem stacked against the homeowner. It’s not like buying a mobile phone, even though this can be considered a “higher tech” purchase than a roof. With a phone even if we don’t fully understand what it can do, there are many others around with which to share mobile phone experiences both good and bad. Even if a poor decision is made, we can learn from the experience and most of will make a better decision next time round. With a roof repair, all this changes. We hope it is going to be a once in a lifetime (or less) experience. A roofing company has many years of selling roof repairs whilst the poor householder has probably zero experience of buying roof repairs; such an imbalance in knowledge is bound to make a person nervous and fear for their bank balance!
However, assuming you are going to go about this sensibly and in an organised manner, then a homeowner can give themselves greater control of both the quality and cost of a roof repair. How can this be done? Well lets start at the beginning.
Most homeowners think about their roof when water or damp starts appearing on ceilings
Even if the roof looks in a poor state we tell ourselves that it’s been fine for decades and it still seems to be keeping the home dry. All this changes with the appearance of a leak. So the first step is to look at the outside of the roof, using binoculars if that makes it easier, We are looking for:
- Slipped and missing roof tiles
- Missing or skipped ridge tiles (the tiles at the top of the roof)
- Blocked drainage valleys on the roof (these are often made of lead or other metals but can be fibreglass in newer properties).
- Pointing missing around chimneys
- Mortar missing from tiles on the edge of a gabled roof (this is called a roof verge).
For fuller details and a visual guide on what to look for see Pitched Roof Problems.
It may help to know some of the terminology about a roof so see A Guide To Roof Construction
So you have an idea what may be wrong so how much is it going to cost to put right? Well the answer as always is it depends. Can the roof be patched or does it need replacing? If replacing can the tiles or slates (the most expensive material on the roof) can they be re-used? Many repairs to roof elements will cost under £1,000 whereas the cost of a new roof can range from as little as £3,000 to over £10, 000, The things that make up the cost of a new roof are:
- Cost of access – scaffolding is essential for most roof work
- Cost of the roof covering – tiles/slate/shingles
- Cost of other materials – breathable membrane, pressure treated timber battens, mortar, lead flashing and nails
- Cost of labour – Roofing is a hard physical job and needs people with the right skills
Very few homes are identical. There are a few features which will determine the likely cost:
- The roof area is square meters – the roof of a small terrace house may be 50 square meters whilst a 3 bed detached will be nearer 100 square meters
- The choice of roof covering – Welsh slate is more expensive than Spanish slate which is about the same price as clay tiles which is more expensive than concrete tiles
- The complexity of the roof – a detached house tends to have more features such as an additional gable end roof than a simple terrace house
- The ease of access to the roof – can scaffolding be easily built all around the home
- Whether the roof covering can be partially or fully reused
Lets take the example of a 2 bed semi with a roof area of 70 square meters. Many of the costs will be similar, it will be the roof covering that is the biggest difference. We would expect to pay:
- £1,600 for scaffolding – this includes delivery, assembly and removal from site
- £840 for general materials – mainly breathable membrane, timber and lead
- £2,080 for labour – this assumes 8 days for a roofer @£160 and an assistant at £100
- Total cost excluding roof covering £4,520
The guide cost for each roof covering to re-roofing a 70 square metre semi detached house will be around:
- £860 for new concrete tiles – total cost £5,380
- £1,810 for new clay tiles – total cost £6,330
- £360 for reclaimed clay tiles with rest reused – total cost £4,880
- £1,720 for new Spanish slate – total cost £6,240
- £3,440 for new Welsh slate – total cost £7,960
Different roof construction methods will vary the labour and other materials costs but these costs can serve as a initial guide.
For a fuller breakdown and the cost for other types of houses see Roof Repairs: Refurbishing A Pitched Roof