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What to Know Before Replacing a Historic Roof

Are you planning a roof replacement for your historic New Jersey home or business? Before your project gets underway, you’ll need to figure out some key details. 

What type of roofing material is already present?

Did you know that not all roofing companies are trained to work with all roofing materials?

Before committing to a roofing contractor, it’s important to know what type of material the roof on your historic home is made of. This is because historic buildings feature a wide variety of roofing materials, including clay tiles, metal, slate, and wooden shingles. 

To work with each type of roofing, the roofing companies you consider will need some specialized knowledge and experience.

Clay tiles

Clay tiles were historically popular in many east coast cities for their fire resistance. When comparing roofing companies to repair or replace a clay roof, be sure that the roofing contractor sources clay tiles carefully. 

If clay tiles are not of good quality, they may craze (crack on the surface) or spall (flake) more easily over time, which will cost you extra money on additional repairs. The roofing team managing your historic roof replacement in NJ should also know that walking across a clay tile roof can cause the tiles to break. 


Over the centuries, architects used a wide variety of metals in their designs, including zinc, copper, tin plate, teme plate, galvanized iron, and even lead. Though metal roofing is beautiful and durable, it can be damaged over the years by acid rain, lichens and mosses, sheet metal fatigue, and airborne particles. Once again, choosing a roofing company that sources only high-quality roofing materials is crucial to protect the quality of your historic roof in NJ. 

The right roofing contractor should be aware that repairing or replacing this type of roofing requires special care to ensure that stress points like seams are well supported. In addition, certain metals shouldn’t be placed together because they’re too dissimilar. If the contractor you choose places the wrong metals together, your roof is at risk of a chemical reaction called galvanic action. Galvanic action leads to corrosion—and eventually leaks—that will require additional repairs.


Slate roofing in NJ can fall prey to erosion due to chemicals in rainwater, especially around weak spots like nail holes. This is particularly common when the building’s original roof is made from soft slate. Another threat to consider? Ice breakage during and after winter storms. 

The roofing contractor you choose to replace or repair this type of roof should understand which colors of slate were commonly used in the year the building was constructed, as well as proper installation techniques to avoid unnecessary breakage or chipping of the stone. 

Wooden shingles

Years ago, wooden shingles were a popular, inexpensive roofing choice. Today, building codes in most areas no longer allow them because they’re a fire hazard. If the building codes for your local residential and commercial zones outlaw wooden shingles, your roofing contractor will need to find an adequate replacement. 

Another great reason to choose an alternative roofing material is cost. Roofing costs for wooden shingles could be more expensive over time because wood is vulnerable to organic decay and damage from light and rain.

Fortunately, asphalt shingles and ceramic tiles can mimic the texture and color of wood. When selecting the roofing material that best imitates the original roof, your roofing contractor should consider which types of wood were typically used in your area.

Are these common safety concerns present on your historic roof?

Some of the roofing materials and methods used on historic roofs in NJ can present potential safety hazards for your home. Before you get started with roof replacement or repairs, you’ll want to know whether any of these potential hazards are present.


It’s essential to know whether your historic roof poses any kind of health threat to workers. For example, many buildings constructed before 1978 feature lead flashing because lead is bendable and durable. But when the flashing is disturbed by renovations, lead particles can get into the air or be absorbed through the skin, leading to potential health problems.

For these reasons, you should warn roofing professionals if you believe lead may be present in your roof. Personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves may be needed. In addition, building materials that contain lead will need to be specially disposed of to protect the environment.  


Asbestos was most often included in insulation during the 1940s-1970s. Historic homes that were renovated during that time period can also pose a risk. If you have access to the building plans, specifications, or any other type of record related to your historical roof, these papers can help to protect roofing company workers from being inadvertently exposed to asbestos and other harmful chemicals. 

Structural Defects

Some of the beams that support historical roofing in NJ weaken with age or are spaced unsafely. This often causes visible damage to the roof over the years, but not always. 

If you’re already aware of any structural defects lurking under the surface of your historical roof, tell your roofing team. However, sharing any available blueprints, building plans, or other records with the team is another great way to help your roofing company determine risks and stay safe.

Note: If necessary, your roofing contractor can use modern materials and tools to add additional support to the roof with an aesthetic that is as historically accurate as possible.

Who provides the best historic roof replacement service in NJ?

As a family owned and operated business, Blue Nail Roofing and Siding takes pride in repairing and restoring local historic roofs. It’s a special honor to assist our customers in preserving historical buildings in our community for future generations to enjoy.

At your complimentary consultation, our certified team of roofing professionals will assess your roof in person to determine whether spot repairs or a full roof replacement is the best course of action. From there, we’ll consider local building codes and consult with architects and historians as necessary. 

Our goal is to develop a roofing strategy that honors the original building plan as much as possible and incorporates the most historically accurate roofing materials possible. We’ll consult with you, the most valuable member of our team, at every step of the process to ensure that you’re satisfied with the final result. We’ll also document the entire process so that any future maintenance or repairs can be conducted with ease.

Replacing a historic roof can feel daunting, but working with the right roofing contractor makes it easy and fulfilling. When you need historic roofing services in NJ, call on the roofing and siding experts you can trust

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