Roofing Into The 21St Century And Beyond: 3 Tips To Make Old Historic Homes More Efficient With New Roofing

17 July 2017
 Categories: , Blog


Historic homes have value for the historical events that they witnessed, but the building materials lack the efficiency of 21st-century technology. Today, when it is time to replace the roof of a home with historical value, the choices of materials are numerous. The products available today can preserve the historical look with modern energy efficiency. Roofing such as EPDM membranes, synthetic shakes, and composite shingles can also be used to preserve the look of a history without compromising energy efficiency. Here are a few tips to help preserve your home when it needs a new roof:

1. Cover Old Plank Roof Decking with Modern Energy Efficient Underlayments

The old roof of your historic home may have planks for the decking, which can be a source of air leaks and energy loss. The planks are a significant component of the roof structure that you may want to leave on your home. Instead of replacing the planks with plywood decking, modern underlayments can be installed on top of the old decking. Thin, foil backed plywood is a good solution for improving the roof decking and hiding imperfections. Other materials to consider for the underlayments include:

  • Rigid foam decking
  • Rubber membranes
  • Plastic-like moisture barriers  

For some roofing materials like metal, a rubber, or plastic moisture barrier will help protect your historic home from leaks. Rigid decking sheathing is a good solution if you have weight concerns when covering old plank boards.

2. Add the Appropriate Roof Ventilation and Insulation Without Affecting Historic Appearance

Roof ventilation and insulation are important to any home, but you may want to avoid using the turtle-back style vents in a historic home. There are inconspicuous solutions for roof ventilation, such as ridge vents or louvered vents in gable ends. The ventilation helps heat escape, but you do not want to lose energy or have problems with ice dams, which is why having the appropriate attic insulation is equally important. If there is finished space in your attic, these areas need to have insulation in the rafters with air gaps to prevent energy loss, ice dams, and allow air to flow through the roof structure.

3. The Roofing Materials for Historic Homes That Are Modern and Energy Efficient

The choices of materials for historic homes is important, roofing materials should match the materials made of the era. Since asphalt shingles are a more recent invention, historic homes should have metal shingles, shakes, slate, or other materials. Look at old photos or paintings of your home to get an idea of what the original roofing materials looked like if they have been replaced with modern shingles. Today, you have a choice of historically correct roofing materials that include:

  • Composite shakes
  • Synthetic Slate Tiles
  • Metal Roofing Panels or Stamped Shingles

These are just a few of the choices of roofing materials that are designed to match original materials on old homes.

There may be requirements for roofs and renovations to homes in your area, and some of these tips will help you keep things historically correct while making 21st-century improvements. If you need a new roof on your historic home, contact a roofing contractor to help with some of these solutions.