Maintenance & Preservation: Choosing the Right Roof System for a Historic Building

Kathleen Maxwell | August 4, 2023

Tennessee State Library and Archive Building.

Commercial roofing is a delicate process that requires specialists on the job, and this is especially true for work on historic buildings. Historic buildings present particular challenges when they need repairs.

Due to age, roofing for historic buildings may have structural issues or damage. Proper historic roof restoration also requires that the roofers do everything they can to maintain the original architectural style of the building. There is no one-size-fits-all roof system for a historic building. Repairing, re-roofing, or reconstructing a historic building will require the advice of a qualified roofing professional who has extensive experience in buildings from a variety of different architectural eras.

When you’re ready to invest in roofing repairs for your historic building, take the following steps to ensure the strength and integrity of your building’s roof.

1. Get an initial inspection.

The goal of any historic roof restoration is to preserve as much of the original roof as possible while repairing issues and reinforcing the roof. An inspection from a qualified roofer will help determine whether you need a repair or a replacement. A thorough inspection will also identify the material of the existing roof and the level of damage or deterioration the roof has seen over the years.

2. Identify your preservation goals.

When preserving a historic roof, it may not be possible to fully adhere to the design or materials used in the original construction. Building owners should identify the most essential visual elements of the building to preserve during a re-roofing. We’ll be able to guide you through. For one of our clients, a historic bank on Jefferson St. in Huntsville, AL, Maxwell Roofing & Sheet Metal was able to install a fully adhered roofing system onto the roof deck. This preserved the building’s interior while minimizing changes to the outdoor appearance of the building. Similarly, our work with The Woman’s Club of Nashville helped the philanthropic organization repair the Haley Hall building that is used for events and fundraising.

3. Re-use materials when possible.

Some historic buildings may be constructed of original materials such as clay tiles, slate shingles, and artisan woodwork. Depending on the roofing issue, your roofer may be able to use some of these original materials to echo the historical era of the building. A fabrication shop may also be able to recreate the architectural features of a historic roof.

4. Update where possible.

Preserving a historic building means that you can take advantage of some of the newest roofing technology. It’s a great opportunity to replace elements of the roof with more updated material that aesthetically mimics the original construction.

If you’re ready to learn more about how to protect your historic building’s roof, contact Maxwell Roofing & Sheet Metal today. Our experienced team of roofers has preservation specialists on hand to guide you through the process of repairing your unique roof.

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