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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.

The roof of a property can account for up to 40% 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 as a result of using this locally sourced clay; rich reds typically seen in the Midlands and the north of England, such as the archetypal Rosemary Red, to the more vibrant orange colour seen in the south-east. However, the colour of clay tiles is also affected by the firing process. Each factory would have had a different style of kiln producing a wide variety of colours and effects. Tiles produced in Staffordshire, for example, have a distinctive blue hue achieved through careful control of atmospheric conditions in the kiln, a finish we have replicated on our Rosemary Clay Classic Blue Brindle tiles.

In Wales and in the north and west regions of the country, slate has always been the material of choice. The nineteenth century saw slate roofs spread across the land as a result of the growing railway network that could transport the product from the manufacturing sites to locations far and wide. Nowadays Welsh slate commands a high-end price tag with the majority of new builds wishing to use slate now relying on a concrete or resin-based alternative such as Redland's Cambrian Slates.

Today concrete is the material of choice for the majority of house builders. Concrete roof tiles were warmly welcomed into British architecture in the early twentieth century due to the flexibility of the core material in terms of colour and design.

Redland’s concrete tiles are available in a range of styles and colours to suit each region. The most recent addition to Redland’s growing portfolio is our Charcoal Grey colour developed for the northern regions of the England and Scotland, where demand for dark grey tiles is greatest.

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 wanting a quintessential English-looking property, they need to look no further than the plain tile – the only tile to have its exact size, 10½ 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, there are tiles available that are the perfect hybrid of the traditional looks desired by the home owner and the ease-of-use design desired by the roofer. For example, Redland’s DuoPlain tile looks like a plain tile but is in fact an interlocking tile making it easy to work with. Alternatively, the Heathland range provides all the visual features of handmade clay tiles but is in fact a concrete product, making it a practical and economic alternative to clay.

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 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 interlocking 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, builders need to be pay close attention to local architecture.


Bolton takes aim at top prize

Full classrooms, new ways of working and the return of a motivating competition. Luke O’Gorman, roofing tutor at Bolton College, is looking forward to a year free from Covid-related restrictions and the chance for his students to win a top industry award.

Training in the time of Covid

As building colleges take in the latest crop of apprentices Total Contractor catches up with David Mallory, Roofing Lecturer at Leeds College of Building. Now that Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, he welcomes students back to the classroom and the return of the BMI Apprentice of the Year Competition.

A Knight on the tiles

Since featuring on our very first front cover, Tom Knight – Highly Commended in the BMI Apprentice of the Year 2017 – has continued to have great success in his roofing career. . Total Contractor met up with him on site near Truro for a chat.

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