In many of Europe's major cities, it's quite common to find zinc roofs that have been in service for more than 100. Famed German architect Karl-Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) used zinc extensively for roofing and building ornamentation on several historical buildings and palaces that still stand today.
A prime example of the longevity of zinc involves the renovation of St. Catherine’s Church in Reutlingen, Germany. The church was built in 1890 in the Gothic Revival style and utilized large portions of zinc tile roofing. After approximately 120 years, it was determined that a restoration was needed. Craftsman Wolfgang Huber was commissioned to conduct an assessment of the roof and a study to determine the feasibility of reusing the historic zinc tiles. Huber, along with an industrial climber, ascended the roof and spires for a personal, up-close inspection of the effects of weathering and previous repair attempts. “This climbing technique is a cost-effective method of accurately determining damage and planning the remediation,” Huber said.
The restoration plan called for dismantling and removing all zinc tiles for inspection and cleaning and salvaging as many tiles as possible. Tiles determined to be too damaged for reuse were recycled. The original tiles on the eastern portion of the roof which was not exposed to the main west wind and weather were nearly all reusable. Remaining portions of the roof were reclad with RHEINZINK 0.7mm square tiles. Approximately 1,500 PrePATINA blue-grey 330mm x 330mm tiles were utilized.
Located at the old cemetery in Reutlingen, the church building has now been preserved to nearly its original state in 1890.
Two distinct but related attributes of zinc in buildings are major factors in its environmental performance: durability and recyclability. The widespread application of zinc in roofing and wall cladding began in the 19th century. These were often civic buildings and cathedrals – built to last for generations. Today, zinc products used in architectural construction have an extremely long service life: an estimated 80 to 100 years for roofs and 200 to 300 years for walls.