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Heritage roofing is critical to conservation success

2 mins

This is why homeowners, architects, surveyors should always select a heritage roofing contractor for the best results.

swithy slating

Britain has some of the oldest housing stock in Europe. The English Housing Survey, for example, estimated in 2014 that one in five (20%) of the total 23.4 million dwellings in England were constructed before 1919, a cut-off date that defines them as being historic.

The proportion is the same in Scotland, rising to 28% in Wales. Traditional buildings, including the 577,291 listed properties located throughout Britain’s villages, towns and cities, therefore form a significant part of the nation’s heritage.

Not only do they help to document our past, but they are attractive features in the landscape, their charm very much due to the regional variation in the way they were constructed. That regional variation is a consequence of the raw materials that were locally available, which before the arrival of trains in the 18th and 19th centuries were particularly hard to transport from elsewhere.

Regional variation is no more obvious than in a traditional building’s roof, which is often its most striking feature. In Surrey, for example, a traditional form of covering is the hand-made clay plain tile made from Wealden Clay, but head west to Devon and Cornwall and you are firmly in slate country. Some coverings are even distinctive to a specific locality, such as Collyweston slate mined in Northamptonshire.

This is why having a contractor with intimate knowledge of a particular roof covering is essential to ensure the correct constructional detailing is carried out. Such roofers will be able to advise on all technical aspects of the roofing project, where best to source the right roofing material and of course repair or re-roof correctly, ensuring quality and avoiding defects. Their advice will help to ensure the roofing project meets planning conditions, listed building consents, and customer expectations.

The best heritage roofing specialists can be found on the National Heritage Roofing Contractors’ Register, a resource that is run by NFRC. The Register lists contractors from across the country who have the highest levels of knowledge, skill and experience in the historic and vernacular systems of clay tile, slate, stone and shingle roofing in the UK. All contractors have been carefully vetted by the NFRC Heritage Committee who carry out on-site assessments of all Register applicants.

Contractors can apply to become an accredited Heritage Roof Master, Heritage Craft Roofer or Heritage Craft Roof Operative, which is reflective of their skills and experience.

The scheme was officially launched in 2008 and is fully endorsed by English Heritage, Cadw Welsh Historic Monuments, the Environment and Heritage Service for Northern Ireland and Historic Scotland. By encouraging architects and owners to use the Register, we hope that the nation’s heritage buildings continue to be preserved for future generations.

For more information, please go to, email the NFRC Help Desk ( or call 020 7638 7663. 

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