A beautiful old sandstone home in Hobart’s main street gets the care and attention it deserves.
Working on a historic home is more than a labour of love, says Hugh Griffiths – it can be a “labour of money”. Everything takes that little bit longer, is that little bit more complicated and costs a little bit more. Luckily, the end result is (nearly) always worth it.
Hugh and his family are in the process of renovating their character-filled 1850s sandstone home in Hobart – a building they have owned for 15 years, although they have only been living in it for the last four.
And, like many renovations, this is one that will take time and a lot of planning to get things just right. The first priority, says Hugh, was to sort out the roof. With the house now more than 150 years old, time – and the Hobart winds – had taken their toll.
Topped with ageing Welsh slate, Hugh says that they knew it was time to update the roof, fix underlying problems and protect it from the island elements.
“The roof was leaking in several spots, so the water coming in was weakening the ceiling,” explains Hugh. “The other major thing while we did the roof is what the engineer calls ‘roof stiffening’. The roof structure itself, of the 1850s, wasn’t strong enough to withstand the wind events that we now get. We now get wind events up to 140 or 50 kilometres an hour.”
Hugh did his research and chose Monier’s Elemental™ Slate roofing, which have just been accepted by the Tasmanian authorities as a suitable substitute for traditional slate in heritage homes.
“The roof needed strengthening,” says Hugh. “That’s one thing about the modern tiles – because they’re anchored at lots of points, it’s a much stronger product or structure, then when it was tiled with slate tiles, which is what we were replacing.”
The Monier products are screwed down at two point in a row and they are interlocking, so that provides a degree of insurance against the wind events
Slate tiles also tend to need a lot more maintenance, and they’re not known for their resilience, which is what Hugh discovered during the re-roofing process.
“I didn’t realise how bad the slate tiles were until I went into the roof cavity with the engineer and he highlighted a lot of salt building up on the inside on the slates, from the wind side,” he says. “The salt was drawing moisture in under the slates, causing them to deteriorate, as well as just adding to general moisture levels in the roof cavity.”
Cost was another important consideration when they looked at roofing products, says Hugh. The original tiles were Welsh slate, which has become more and more expensive in recent years.
“It was all a balance of cost, it’s simply what we could afford,” he added. “Welsh slate is very, very expensive, and now we’ve been advised that the slate mines in Wales are closing down. It’s certainly not a viable product.”
“And the authorities identified that they actually couldn’t tell the difference between Welsh slate and Monier Elemental™ from the street level.”
As part of the re-roofing project, Hugh also chose Elemental™ Ultra Panels on a separate section of the roof, where rusting metal in the central valley had previously caused problems, including leaking water.
“The good thing about the Ultra Panels, is they blend in with the Elemental Slate on the side. From a street level you can’t tell the difference. And, with the Ultra Panel you can get down to about 10 degrees slope. So, we’ve got areas with this pitch where we’ve got Ultra Panels, and then on the higher pitch areas we’ve got the Slate.”
Hugh also took great comfort from the Monier name, and the fact that they are part of CSR.
“When you’re investing so much in a new roof structure, you want to be comforted that you’re dealing with a reputable and substantial company,” he says. “CSR has done a lot of the testing and they’ve made sure it conforms with.
HOW TO UPDATE A HERITAGE HOME
- Look to technology to withstand the elements. Hugh chose Elemental™ roofing products because he was impressed with their ability to withstand Hobart’s high winds.
- Talk to your local authorities. Facing heritage restrictions with regards to his roofing choices, Hugh worked with his local Monier rep to get accreditation for Elemental as an accepted replacement for Welsh slate.
- Don’t be afraid to modernise. The Griffiths’ home was updated in the 1960s by an architect, which provided for comfortable modern living, particularly in the rear of the house.
- Sunken garden. The modernisation of the house during the 1960s included a sunken garden, which beautifully complements the sandstone walls.
- Respect the look of the original materials. From the street, the new Elemental™ roofing is almost indistinguishable from the original slate.