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Period features and tradition: As important today as always

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Up and down the UK home buyers are searching for their dream property. Some will have a long list of requirements; others will have a very short list and be driven by their feelings. However, what many of them have in common is the desire to live in a traditional property.

As well as wanting the latest kitchen gadget and a super stylish family bathroom, Britons still want the external appearance of their home to reflect the region in which they live. Kerb appeal is as important now as it has always been. Whilst many home owners enjoy the light, modern, open-plan nature of new builds they still look for a traditional house that is in keeping with the local vernacular. They want the best of both worlds.

The roof of a property can account for up to 40 per cent of its façade and plays a key role in creating the desired look of an individual house.
The overall design of the roofscapes in a development can alter the character of an entire area. This is why planning officers take such an interest in the colour, materials used and the style of roof tiles.

Traditional Colours from Traditional Materials

For centuries clay was the material of choice for roof tiles throughout the UK. There were numerous small manufacturing centres throughout the country utilising locally sourced materials. These tiles may have been manufactured in the same manner but their appearance varied greatly in terms of colour; rich dark red typically seen in the Midlands and the north of England to the more vibrant orange colour seen in the south-east. These colours were tantamount with the colour of the local clay. However, the colour of clay tiles is also affected by the firing process. Each factory would have had a different style of high temperature firings resulting in a wider variety of colour. Tiles produced in Staffordshire, for example, have a distinctive blue hue to the finished product.

In the post war period when the focus was on speed and cost, concrete was the go-to material for roof tiles. During this time inter-locking roof tiles were the products of choice for the London area as over one million roofs needed repairing. Nowadays the majority of new builds wishing to use slate rely on concrete alternatives, since concrete tiles can deliver a close resemblance to natural slate without the high-end price tag. This is of great benefit to developers in Wales and the north and west regions of the country, where slate has traditionally been the material of choice.

Shape and Size

As well as colour and material, tile shape varies greatly as you travel round the country.

For those home owners and buyers looking for a quintessential English looking property, they need to look no further than the plain tile – the only tile to have its exact size, 10½ inches x 6½ inches, decreed by an Act of Parliament. The plain tile has been used on British houses since the fourteenth century and to this day is still the most flexible in terms of roof design. It allows for the inclusion of features such as eyebrows, dormers, conical roofs and mitred hips.

For those builders more concerned with cost effectiveness rather than tradition, there are tiles available that are the perfect hybrid of the traditional looks much desired by the home owner and the ease-of-use design desired by the roofer. For example, thin leading edge tiles with a mock bond, creating the appearance of smaller format slate, or interlocking double plain tiles that provide a 10½ x 6½ appearance with all the performance of a large format interlocking tile. As much as Britons like to think of themselves as the pioneers of traditional architecture, outside influence needs to be recognised. The Romans were the first to introduce clay roof tiles to England, giving us the alternating roll and flat tile design that can still be seen today in Somerset and the south-west. A second rolling clay tile shape, the Pantile, came from Holland and is commonly found in East Anglia as a result of the thriving wool trade with Holland in the sixteenth century. Today’s people have the choice between concrete and clay if they desire to have a rolling tile shape and there is now also the added benefit of this shape being available as an inter-locking tile meaning it is much faster and simpler to lay.

Tradition has always had a massive influence on British architecture. Even now when the properties being built are vastly different from the Georgian mansions of the 17 and 18 hundreds, builders need to be mindful of local architecture, after all that’s what the customer wants.

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