Should I Remove Ivy from my Roof?

Posted on by Protech Roofing Team

Ivy occupies a special place among climbing plants. It can lend instant aesthetic grace and personality to a building, and is even associated with historicity and prestige (hence the ‘Ivy League’ universities in the USA – named on account of their ivy-covered facades). At the same time, ivy can destroy the underlying brick and mortar, damage other native plants and break through windows.

Because these conflicting reputations, building owners often struggle to decide whether they should remove ivy from their roofs. This guide will answer some of your questions about ivy and where (and how) to remove it.

The Harmful Effects of Ivy

For all its aesthetic qualities, ivy on a building can cause a lot of damage and play havoc with the health of the native plants. Some of the chief harmful effects of ivy are:

  • Ivy can weaken brick walls. Ivy can penetrate through cracks, loose bricks and crumbling mortar, affecting a brick’s structural integrity.
  • Ivy can widen gaps and cracks in wooden walls. Since wooden walls and fences lack mortar, ivy can easily work its way between gaps and cracks between individual planks. Over time, this can widen the gaps enough for the whole building to come down.
  • Ivy promotes fungal growth and decay. Moisture can easily trap inside ivy, which helps facilitate fungal growth and decay.
  • Removing ivy leaves behind a residue. Ivy is notoriously difficult to remove completely once it has taken hold on a wall. Even if you do manage to remove it, you will have to contend with a thick, gooey residue left behind on the walls.

Benefits of Ivy

Ivy isn’t always bad, provided you control its growth and let it take root only in selected areas. Some of the benefits of ivy include:

  • Aesthetically pleasing. Ivy on brick walls is very pleasing aesthetically, bringing to mind old English countryside houses and romantic, rustic settings.
  • Ivy improves thermal insulation. Researchers at Oxford recently concluded that a thick canopy of ivy on a wall can act as a thermal shield, protecting the underlying structure from extreme temperatures. This not only helps to keep your house warm in winters (and cool in summers), but also makes the mortar more resistant to sudden temperature changes.
  • Ivy can improve structural integrity of solid brick walls. If your building has strongly built brick walls with quality masonry work, ivy can actually help make your building stronger. In such situations, the ivy roots can’t find their way through cracks in the mortar. Instead, the roots cover the walls, making them more cohesive.

Removing Ivy from Roofs

Despite all the aforementioned benefits, there is one place you should not allow ivy to grow: the roof.

Roofs have shingles and tiling with enough gaps for ivy to climb through. Over time, these small cracks can grow in size, affecting the structural integrity of the roof while also allowing water to seep in unchecked. Ivy also retains moisture, which promotes rotting and dampness in the roof.

Ivy can also climb on top of skylights, thus reducing the amount of natural light your home receives. In some cases, ivy has been known to break through the skylight as well. Finally, it isn’t uncommon for local councils to impose heavy fines on building owners with unkempt ivy growth, though if you own a commercial building, this shouldn’t be an issue for you.

When to Remove Ivy from Roofs

By now, it is clear that ivy has some benefits – namely; it looks good and it acts as a thermal shield – but it can also cause a lot of damage to the structural integrity of a building. As a commercial building owner, it is all the more important for you to take measures to keep your building in the best shape possible (whereas aesthetics take second place to function). Therefore, it is recommended that you get rid of ivy growth as early as possible. Leaving it for later can jeopardise the health of your building, not to mention causing water to seep through – a big no-no for a commercial building.

Thus, if you see ivy creeping up along your roofs, you need to call the nearest ivy removal expert as soon as possible.

Protech Roofing are one of the leading commercial roofing specialists in the Leeds, Sheffield and wider Yorkshire area, providing the highest quality installations and repairs for all flat and pitched roofs.

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