Chinks & Mortars

The windows are open, indeed, but only the infinitesimally small chink that church-windows ever do open. For though the place had been cleared and weeded, the tiny green things still grew in the chinks of the pavement. The logs were new and the chinks between them filled with clay, still white, showing that the house was of recent build.

Me good an' great frind fr'm Rhode Island has made me th' akel iv anny Chink that iver rolled a pill. Suddenly he was startled by seeing a light shining through the chinks of a building. This cottage rattles and creaks, and when the wind blows, it comes in through every chink. The wall's now gotten many a chink Where whoso leans may hear The feet of them who pass to drink All at a well clear.

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I can only call! Let me up, that's all! I see a chink! I've been thirsting all night For the glorious light!

No heart can share the terror That haunts his monstrous dark. The light that filters through the chinks No other eye can mark. She kissed it on lip and forehead, She kissed it on cheek and chink And she bared her snow-white bosom To the lips so pale and thin. And the incense stealing out Through the chinks, and through the seams, Floats among the dusty beams, And wreathes all the bird about. Yet blow, and roll the world about— Blow, Time, blow, winter's Wind!

Through chinks of time heaven peepeth out, And Spring the frost behind. Look for damaged or missing ridge and hip tiles, missing or cracked mortar flaunchings and fillets, as well as corroded or split metal flashings.

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When these fail, they are likely to let in water, especially around chimneys and at parapet walls. If there is safe access to the loft examine the underside of the roof for damage, especially when it is raining.

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Check the floor for water stains or broken pieces of slate or tile. Look out for wet, rotten or worm-eaten roof timbers and try to trace the source of any water penetration.

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Other vulnerable areas are junctions between the walls and where chimney stacks penetrate the roof, so note any water staining but do ensure it is current rather than historic — try to do inspections during or after heavy rain. Remember that water tends to travel, so it may not be obvious where the problem is. While in the roof space, turn off any internal lights and look for places where daylight is coming through the roof covering. If roof timbers appear to be damaged or under strain a structural engineer or surveyor should be consulted.

The undulating quality of a roof does not necessarily indicate a defect but might be the result of gentle distortion and settlement over many years.


Repairing a clay tiled roof is a job that should be carried out by an experienced roofer. Roof repairs are generally best left to a professional roofer who understands old buildings and has the appropriate access equipment. Replacing a few tiles or slates is a relatively simple job but it is also important to work out why a problem has occurred and whether it is indicative of a larger failure.

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A roofer should be able to undertake minor repairs but it may be necessary to employ a surveyor or structural engineer and a carpenter, all of whom should be experienced in working on buildings of the age and type involved. Remember, that it is very difficult to carry out structural repairs once the covering is replaced. Avoid quick-fix methods such as spray-on foams and other coatings as they increase the risk of timber decay, prevent proper future inspection of the roof and invariably mean that roof coverings cannot be salvaged for reuse.

Roof tiles and slates can break or come loose due to high winds or impact damage, the failure of fixings, and the action of frost or structural decay of timber roofing members. A build-up of moss is a cause for concern, as it can become very heavy and cause damage to the roof. Changes in roof direction and junctions with chimneys and parapet walls are weak points. Careful investigation may be needed as defects can be hard to spot, and moisture often follows unexpected routes.

The sagging ridge of this clay pantile roof adds character and is not necessarily a cause for concern.

Beetle infestation, timber decay , poorly executed alterations and undersized rafters are common problems. These are compounded when a roof covering is replaced with a heavier material, such as concrete tiles. Flat roofs, which may be covered in a variety of materials including lead, copper, zinc, asphalt or bitumen, require regular monitoring. Thatch should be relatively maintenance-free but should still be regularly checked and, where problems are suspected, a thatcher should be called promptly.

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Due to the danger of fire, monitoring and maintaining the chimney stack is a priority; the flue should be swept twice a year. All roofing repairs are best made using the appropriate traditional methods and using like-for-like materials. Where mortar fillets need to be replaced, lime mortar rather than cement should be used.

Both hand- and machine-made clay tiles are available. While modern tiles have nibs that hook onto the roofing laths, traditional peg tiles have holes to accommodate a wooden peg. Tiles can eventually become porous, making them vulnerable to frost. Welsh slates, held in place with nails, have been widely used on buildings across Britain, and are longlasting, lightweight and hardwearing. In stone-bearing regions, sandstone and limestone tiles are laid in graduated courses: An attractive and long-lasting roofing material, repairs to lead roofs should be undertaken by a specialist leadworker.

Widely used for centuries, thatching today is generally in either long straw, combed wheat reed or water reed, and there are distinct regional variations in thatching styles. Celebrate all with our selection of gorgeous Thanksgiving table decorating ideas.

Breaking a pane of glass in a window or door is a hazard of restoration projects — if it happens, Helaine Clare shows how to replace a small pane safely and without too much trouble.