As I was leaving an inspection the other day I drove by the house pictured here.
I have seen many attempts at putting roofs on these houses designed to look like old English Thatch roofs. While I can appreciate the desire to mimic the old look, I have to say that I have never seen one pull off the mimic with much degree of success.
What is it about human beings that we have to make “new” things look like “old” things? There is no end to the number of faux materials out there. We see it in non-wood flooring made to look like wood. Non-wood siding made to look like wood. Non-wood roofing made to look like wood. Painted wood made to look like wood.
Notice a theme here?
We love wood. Wood is life. Most of civilization revolves around the use of wood. Second only to wood is stone. Think of all the products made to look like stone. How about faux-stone siding? Stone imprinted concrete flatwork? Vinyl flooring made to look like stone.
Both consciously and unconsciously, we know that we can breathe life into synthetic materials by making them look like natural materials.
In the case of the roof above, the use of natural materials to mimic natural materials is not likely going to be successful in the long run and was likely VERY costly to install. I have seen this same type of roof covered with asphalt composition shingles done more successfully than the wood shingles.
No matter what is done, the roof will never look even remotely like thatch. For that reason we might as well choose materials totally suited to curved installations–like metal–or even asphalt. No matter how you look at it, this is an expensive roof to build, to cover, and to maintain, so choosing the appropriate approach should probably have started back on the drawing board.
When someone said, “I want a house that looks like an old English Thatch roof house,” the designer could have said, “That is not really possible.” They then could have shown some of these various attempts and likely (or perhaps obviously in this case) the buyer would have chosen one of those other possibilities. They could have been informed of the heavy cost of these possibilities, and how they would end up not looking like the real thing. They could have been informed of the considerable maintenance involved in the various possible choices.
If you look close at the curved areas of the roof, one can see the extent of the face nailing that was necessary to force these wood shingles to conform to the shape of the roof.
Every single one of those shiny spots is a nail head.
For wood shingles to perform properly there should be no face nailing like this. Every nail represents a possible leak point. Some of the risk of leaks can be mitigated by various types of roofing under-layment, but I still consider the risk a nightmare over time.
Sometimes getting what we want is difficult.
Sometimes we end up faced with wanting what we get–or at least dealing with what we get.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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