A Burning Question

A Burning Question

What options do you have for waterproofing heritage (or any old wooden) structures?

Several years back, fire services were called to a fire at a historic homestead in Hawkes Bay. What they found when they got there was a bonfire as the tinder-dry dwelling burned out of control. And a roofing contractor sitting on the front lawn in tears.

It turns out the recently vacated house was getting an upgrade, including a new layer of waterproofing on the roof. And the inexperienced contractor using a naked flame had managed to ignite the woodwork under the tin, and before he could get his sorry ass off the roof the building was doomed. The exact cause of the fire was undetermined, but we suspect it was a birds nest amongst the dry beams.

Refurbishment of Heritage Buildings creates a whole host of issues for contractors. Not only are the buildings priceless and irreplaceable, they’re often poorly maintained, and packed with dangerous wiring and flammable materials.

Practices such as applying waterproofing membranes using naked flames, which are commonplace on other projects, are simply not an option. Even the use of volatile solvents and chemicals can cause unacceptable risk .

In such cases, your waterproofing choices are either to use cold applied membranes like IKO Prevent, or else to use conventional processes such as hot mastic asphalt. In the latter case, there’s still inherent danger with the asphalt boiler, so precautions need to be taken to make sure this is well away from the structure. But this is true of most jobs, and the product can easily be transported to the worksite in wheelbarrows.

Neuchatel is a specialist in heritage building refurbishments, and has carried out repairs on some of NZ’s most iconic Heritage buildings, including William Gummer’s family home, Stoneways, Epsom and Highwick House. But arguably the most delicate restoration was on Governor Grey’s Mansion House on Kawau Island.

The almost 200-year-old wooden structure was built for the mine superintendent, and extensively redeveloped when Governor Grey purchased the island in 1862. 100 years further on the house was acquired by DOC, and in the late 70’s underwent major restoration to restore it to it’s former appearance.

Natural Neuchatel Mastic Asphalt was chosen to sure up the roof, deck, gutter and verandah, because it’s strong, malleable, and impervious to water. But more important, it could be applied safely and without weakening the integrity of the structure.

Few products can match Mastic Asphalt for it’s strength and lifespan. It’s likely our product will be still doing it’s job in 100 years when the building is ready for it’s next refurbishment.

For the last 100+ years Neuchatel has been protecting tens of thousands of surfaces from deterioration caused by heavy machinery and the elements. Over time we’ve refined our products and our service to be more durable, environmentally friendly and affordable – especially for large scale projects.