Discussing building techniques with Paul Bone isn’t so much a roofing fact-finding mission, it’s more of a history lesson.
While his firm, Kingsley Roofing Services, is well versed in modern roofing techniques in state-of-the-art new builds, commercial developments and contemporary houses, it’s in the heritage sector where the craftsmanship, built up since Paul left school and started labouring for his roofer father, really comes into its own.
Paul founded the firm six years ago, employing one labourer and using local business networking groups and, over time, word of mouth recommendations, to build the fledgling company. He now employs a team of 10 skilled roofers, while his wife, Robyn, runs the business from its Northampton head office.
Around half of the firm’s projects are roofs for commercial new builds and renovation work, but the rest of the time is focused on the traditional crafts and techniques that are required when replacing roofs or carrying out repairs on Grade I or II listed buildings and older, character buildings.
“I have always been fascinated by old houses and construction techniques and I guess we have found a bit of a niche as a company for repairing and restoring historic buildings.
“There’s so much to learn about them, making sure we are using the correct techniques, sourcing the right materials, and even using the correct tools. Each project is completely different from the last and we have to do some really in-depth work at times to find out about the origins of the building and the way it would have been built.
“In certain situations, on listed buildings, for instance, we can’t use power tools. All the work has to be done using the traditional cutting methods and the roof installed in keeping with the original. It’s absolutely fascinating, you’re always learning something new, and having to take the time to study the methods of a particular style or time.”
Kingsley Roofing Services often works with the likes of English Heritage on period properties where work is regularly checked and assessed to ensure the traditional methods are adhered to.
Things are rarely straightforward, but it is the constant variety and dealing with the unexpected that makes Paul passionate about what he does.
“Very often, we have to source what can be fairly rare, reclaimed materials because modern versions just wouldn’t be suitable,” he said. “It’s about knowing where to find them. There are companies out there that sell specialised roof tiles, but it’s not like ordering from a manufacturer, and just because they’re available when you’re quoting for a job doesn’t necessarily mean they will still be there by the time you start the work.
“Then there’s the regular issue with old roofs in that they often have nesting sites tucked away inside, which bring their own problems. I’ve had situations where we have had to wait until a colony of bats has come out of hibernation, or, worse still, get a job finished before a certain date when we have to be clear of the building to let them begin their hibernation.
“At other times of the year, it’s possible to get a special licence to remove an entire section of roof without disturbing a nest – being watched every step of the way by conservation experts to make sure we take the old roof away and build the new one round the nest without disturbing the wildlife.”
Meanwhile, modern roofing techniques remain an important aspect of Kingsley Roofing Services’ portfolio and Paul and his team carry out complete roof repairs, lead work, flat roofs and pitched, as well as fascia and guttering work.
The teams work on everything from large-scale new-build projects to refurbishing a single building, understanding every aspect of the project and advising on a variety of materials including roofing tiles, slate and metal. Attention detail means the firm has built a reputation for customer service and reliability, as well as the quality of its workmanship.
At the same time, having created a niche within the roofing sector, Paul is keen to ensure that the heritage skills run right through the team, not only to allow Kingsley Roofing Services to take on more projects, but also to keep the traditional techniques alive ready, in the hope that they can, eventually, be passed on to another generation.
“These are skills that are not so much in demand now, but they are incredibly important,” said Paul.
“A roof on a modern building is expected to last up to 50 years, whereas you can expect a heritage roof to last anything up to 200 years.
“It’s the difference in the materials and the level of craftsmanship. It obviously wouldn’t be viable to put a heritage roof on a modern building, but where you are working in the traditional ways, you can’t compromise on the quality or the attention to detail.
“It’s important to keep these old buildings in good shape for as long as possible, and it’s absolutely fascinating to be able to work on them.”
For more information about Kingsley Roofing Services, call 01604 242794 or visit www.kingsleyroofers.co.uk