Copper roofs, roof problems and how they work

copper roofOur Building Surveyors can offer you advice and help with regard to roofs, insulation, flat roofs, pitched roofs and any other type of roof. We carry out residential building surveys, commecial building reports, schedules of condition, Scott Schedules, boundary surveys, specific defects reports on a range of property problems, such as woodworm, dry rot, wet rot, condensation, movement, heave, cracked walls, or any other property problem.

All our surveys contain easy to understand sketches and photographs of any problems we find. We recommend you meet us at the property during the survey to fully understand what you require from your survey. All our surveys are tailor made for each and every client. For free survey examples Click Here

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Probably the most famous copper roof

Probably the most famous famous copper roof is the one at Madame Tussauds in London as the green roofed building has crowds of people next to it queuing most days to gain entry to look at the waxwork collection.

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Madame Tussauds copper roof

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Dome copper roof

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Close up of dome copper roof

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Madame Tussauds domed copper roof

The green domed roof covered what used to be the London Planetarium and we have been reliably informed by a London cabbie that the building has not been the London Planetarium for many years but nevertheless the green dome stands out amongst the other buildings on Marylebone Road, London. NW1.

When you next visit Madame Tussauds have a look up and see the great green domed copper roof.

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Copper roofs; first things first

copper roof

The very first thing when examining a copper roof is if you have any plans of the building to use these to mark up any problem areas that you can see within the internal view of the building. You can also use a second identical plan to mark up any problem areas that you can view on the roof itself.

copper roofYes, you do have to visit the roof.

Many people do not like heights but the only way to inspect a roof is actually to view it from on the roof itself. The term fiddler on the roof is so true and if you get the wrong roofing contractor you can be charged a large amount of money for not particularly good work.

Quotes and estimates for roofing work that simply does not need to be carried out.

copper roofWe cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to actually get onto the roof to view the area as we have come across numerous cases where quotes have been given for roofing work which simply does not need doing. We have had access to roofs to view them where the new roofing work is far worse than the old roofing work and is causing the main problems.

Also look out for problems with gutters and downpipes where these have not been installed very skilfully or thoughtfully. The most important point is that you need to visit and view the roof, ensuring you have tower scaffolding or a good set of ladders or a cherry picker to gain access to the roof.

Copper roofs are not as simple as they look

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Close up of copper roof

There are so many issues to consider when surveying a copper roof and we certainly do not think we will cover them all during the course of this article however for those that have never carried out a survey on a roof and are interested in the subject we hope that this is a useful guide.

copper roofCopper comes in many different sizes

We are aware of copper coming in 2mm thickness and 4m thickness with one of the real benefits of a copper roof being is its weight.

Joining copper sheets together

The joints in any metal roof are always the weak areas (assuming that there is no flaw in the metal). With a copper roof you have standing vertical seams which, as the name suggests, run vertically up the roof and stand approximately 30-50mm above the level of the roof. The copper is then lapped horizontally, it is important that these laps are of sufficient width to stop capillary action, more about this later. We have come across laps that are sealed and it is these joints that seem to be the main problem.

How steep a copper roof is also determines the problems that occur

copper roofCopper roofs come in many forms. The angle or the steepness of a copper roof is very important as the steeper the angle the less time any rainwater sits on the roof and the less time the rainwater has to get into the joints.

In our experience, we have found that often the copper roofs are relatively shallow going up to about thirty degrees in which case capillary action can take place between joints and laps. It should be remembered that the smaller the gap the further capillary action can occur.

There is the famous test between two sheets of glass where water can go higher the thinner the gap between the two sheets of glass. This action is due to the tension in the water particles.

From copper to a green roof

Many people like the green colour that copper goes as it oxidises over the years this is known as patina formation. This acts as a protective layer and any rainwater running off it will then not be affected by the chemicals in the copper as it is passed through the gutters and downpipes and into the surface water or foul water combined drainage system dependent upon the age of the property.

Interestingly the steeper the pitch of the roof the less green it is likely to become and you will usually see copper roofs that are at a very shallow angle.

copper roofDoes it matter what is underneath a copper roof

It certainly does matter what is underneath a copper roof as the roof has to be able to bear a level of load.

Metal roofs are only as good as the decking they are on

In other articles on metal roofs the metal roof is not only as good as the metal product but also as good as the workmanship and the decking that it sits on.

Please see our surveying articles on

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Independent Surveyors

If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from a Surveyor with regard to building surveys, structural surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects report, dilapidations or any other property matters please contact 0800 298 5424 for a Surveyor to give you a call back.

Commercial Property Surveyors

If you have a commercial property, be it leasehold or freehold, then you may wish to look at our Dilapidations Website at and for Disputes go to our Disputes Help site .

We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).

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