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Custom House


The old Auckland Customhouse on the corner of Customs St West and Albert St, one of Auckland’s finest remaining late Victorian buildings, has undergone a major refurbishment that stuck carefully to original design concepts.
The building is registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as Category One and is scheduled in the highest category in the Auckland City District Plan.
Designed by one of early Auckland’s most successful architectural practices, Edward Mahoney and Sons, the old Customhouse was built as a government office building and opened in 1889 on a site that had been reserved for that purpose since the city of Auckland was established in 1840.
The Customs Department occupied the largest offices on the ground floor with a variety of other government departments on the first and second floors.
It was one of a group of substantial buildings constructed during the 1880s and 1890s in the waterfront area.
These included offices or warehouses for organisations associated with the wharf and port including the Auckland Harbour Board, shipping and ferry companies, exporters and importers.
With the railway station then on the site of the former Central Post Office (now Britomart), the area was the hub of commercial and transport activity around the turn of the century.
In the intervening years, the building has had many reincarnations and, thanks to a public “Save the Customhouse” campaign, survived a threat of demolition in the 1970s when it stood vacant. Today, it is home to speciality duty-free retailer DFS Galleria.
Owned by an overseas investor, the building is managed on a day-to-day basis by Bayleys Property Services (BPS), which takes care of tenancy and maintenance matters through its asset and facilities management services.

Working closely with Antony Matthews, of Matthews and Matthews Architects to ensure the integrity of the building was conserved.
“This is a noteworthy Auckland landmark with important historic and architectural significance,” says Matthews, whose conservation architectural firm has been associated with the protection, restoration and renovation of numerous historic buildings around Auckland. “Because of its heritage status, any change or significant maintenance work undertaken to the building had to be first discussed with the Historic Places Trust and the council’s heritage advisers to ensure that it related appropriately to the original materials, detail and design. Trades people who undertook work used traditional techniques.”
In conjunction with the council’s heritage advisers and Matthews and Matthews Architects, BPS determined the initial scope of work which included renewing all existing roof tiles and replacing ridge-capping and gutters with copper in line with the original specifications; refurbishing all wrought iron railings, installing new lead flashings to architectural mouldings and scrolls, repairing all damaged timber roof structures and exterior plasterwork; and repainting the entire exterior of the building including all timber windows and doors.
Substantial remedial work to the roof was required as its structural integrity had been compromised by the installation of ducting for air-conditioning units which formed part of the building when it was developed to become retail premises 12 years ago. There was also some fire damage sustained by the eastern wing of the roof some years ago.
A conservation plan was prepared as a guide for work on the building and in documenting the work, reference was made to Edward Mahoney’s original specification for the roof, says Matthews.
“The design and detail of the slate roof added to our understanding of the original Victorian design concept for the building. Reinstating original colours was another way of reinforcing original architectural design concepts. Originally, the Customhouse had an unpainted plaster finish and repainting the building in warm, neutral colours relates to this.”
Matthews says the specialist skills and knowledge of traditional building techniques of companies such as roofers MacMillan Slaters and Tilers, painters J.R. Webb and Son (1932) Ltd, copper specialists Copper Roofing Ltd and carpenters Form Concepts were integral to the success of the project.
Project manager for Bayleys Property Services, Eugene Reyneke, says the restoration of the old Customhouse building was a taxing project – because at all times the requirements of tenant DFS Galleria had to be kept in mind.
“Minimising disruption to DFS Galleria and providing safe access to the building for the public was always our priority regardless of which stage of the project we were at. The occupants were incredibly supportive and understanding throughout the work. I think this is because we all had the wellbeing of the old building at heart, so all parties were prepared to look towards the end outcome rather than focus too much on inconveniences at a daily level,” says Reyneke.
“Stepping up and taking on the role of main contractor as well as project managers was a challenge, given the scope of the work and the compliance required due to the historic rating of the building. However, it enabled us to work in the best interests of our client, who could not be here to oversee any of the work.
“We were our client’s single point of contact throughout the process and also had tight control of the financial reins – managing to trim the budget where possible without compromising the standard of work and the timeframes we were operating within.
“By undertaking this project we were able to add value to our client’s asset which complies with Bayleys’ mission statement.”
Reyneke says it was a personal privilege to be involved with the restoration of “an architectural gem” and with the insights he has gained into the structural and design components of the old Customhouse, he has developed a new appreciation for early New Zealand buildings.
“The amount of detail in the original construction was remarkable and, considering the environmental conditions over the past 120 years, including exposure to sea spray, the building was in excellent condition overall.”
However, the Customhouse revealed some hidden secrets once exploratory work began.
“It was a case of not knowing what we were up against until we were actually faced with it. We discovered work that had been poorly done in past years – quick fixes that were neither true to the character of the building nor empathetic to the original plans,” says Reyneke.
Probably the best illustration of this was a miscellany of roofing materials that the building sported before this latest restoration project.
“The entire lower roof slates had been replaced with concrete tiles which, in addition to not being visually compatible with the original slate, had also deteriorated relatively rapidly in comparison to the originals. The tops of the turrets had been covered in a waterproofing membrane while the turret ridges had been re-clad in colour steel some 12 to 15 years ago which clearly was not in keeping with heritage guidelines of today.
“We also found significant deterioration to the kauri roof battens and sarking and these were retained where possible,” says Reyneke.
“It was gratifying to be able to right some wrongs and restore some integrity to the building.
“But we also looked to the future and installed a loft-styled hatch to provide easy access to the roof, replaced the skylight safety netting and fitted access ladders and abseiling safety equipment for tradesmen,” Reyneke said.
“In doing this, it will smooth the way for maintenance work in the years to come.”

John Macmillan


Dear Uncle John

Long before I came to the company you helped your little brother Ron and Family move to NZ after following your move here. The big adventure as Ron put it, you helped him set up a business called Macmillan Slaters and Tilers, the early years, driving the trucks and helping out in general. This act will never be forgotten it goes to show what a man you were. I got to meet you long after that. I found you to be the salt of the earth, one of the most knowledgeable sincere warm genuine friendly giving man I have ever meet. A true Scotsman. The stories you told from the first day you jumped ship and got on a train and ended up sleeping under the redwood trees in Te Kuiti, to your travels on boats to the Islands, which was like your second home we all loved hearing them. The first time I meet you I was the delivery boy of you prized tobacco stash from the south, I went down to the docks early one morning to drop off your stash. You kindly asked if I would like a cup of tea little did I know your version had two shots of whiskey in it, you just smiled and watched me sip it. I downed the lot felt slightly sic but had a pep in my step for the rest of the day, you were the first to help others and were adored by many, we enjoyed you popping down to the yard for a cuppa and chewing the fat with us and we will miss that. Your family and friends at your funeral are a credit to you, they are good real people and the day was a true send off to you, with a couple of drinks to send you off. Rest in peace my friend

Roof Maintenance Auckland


Roof Maintenance is some thing that is rarely thought about by the home owner. It only becomes a priority when it is leaking and is in need of repair. Most slate roofs a long with clay & Concrete roof tiles require very little maintenance, although this does increase with tile age. You should expect a minimum of 30-50 years before any work should be required.
Most roof maintenance issues that arrive before this are most likely caused by poor installation when installed a faulty product or the most common issue is other trades tap dancing on the roof, be it painters plumbers, sky aerial installers to name a few. If you want to prevent roof maintenance as much as possible keep people off your roof is the best place to start.
This guide is to help maintain a trouble free roof for years to come.
1.1 Process Overview
Once installed the tiles themselves require no regular roof maintanance provided some simple rules are adhered to:
1.2 Do not allow any tradesmen or persons to gain access to the roof under any circumstances.
1.3 If a sky aerial is to be installed it can be installed on the fascia or the wall of the house.
1.4 If a plumber needed to gain access to a pipe outlet on the roof a mobile scaffold tower should be used then a 50mm foam sheet laid on to the tiles with a plywood board with steps fixed to the foam sheet. This helps minimize the chance of breaking tiles.
1.5 If access steps are followed as per 1.4 the foam board should never be placed near a hip or ridge as if this is disturbed then the ridges can come lose or break a tile which will need parts of the mortar work replaced which can be expensive to fix.
1.6 If access steps are followed as per 1.4 it should never be placed near an un-supported valley tile as they can break more easily.
2.1 Roof painting or sealing.
2.2 Under no circumstances is a clay roof tile to be painted or a sealer coat applied, as this will trap moisture permeating up from the inside and trap it in the tiles causing the tile to delaminate over time, it will take a good 5-20 years off the life of the tile.
3.1 Cleaning out spouting.
3.2 This is fine provided it is carried out from a ladder not from the roof for safety and to prevent tile damage.
4.1 If damage does occur.
4.2 Make sure a person competent with working at height and with clay tiles before they attempt to repair it.
Roof maintenance Auckland
Roof maintenance Auckland

Ladder Safety


hytile-gutter-pro-brochureLadder Safety in New Zealand is of the up most importance. Falls from height can cause serious harm and can even be fatal with life long consequences both physically and financially.Ladder Safety for short duration work is a positive first step when working at gutter height of for access to the roof in conjunction with a fall arrest system.
We are proud to offer a solution with a ladder Safety device, the Gutter Pro which is a very practical yet cost effective step to take in regards to ladder safety. It works with any type of Spouting.
It helps minimise the chance of the ladder sliding either left or right while protecting the guttering and fascia from damage that can occur when a ladder is leaned against it.
Perfect for the tradesman’s or home owner concerned about safety with the added benefit of protecting the spouting. It could save your wallet and your backside from unnecessary pain.
We are trying to improve Ladder safety in New Zealand please view demonstration video

Health and safety in this country in regards to the building industry is finally getting the attention that was well overdue.This includes Ladder Safety in New Zealand as well as scaffold safety.
We as roofers are up at the highest point on most building projects, but when it comes to fall protection we have in the past been thought of little if at all in terms of Safety.
Scaffold is usually put up for the builders painters and plumbers for spouting with little regard for what to roofers require. This has been a frustration of the industry for some time and a risk too great. We have in the past had to walk off the job until it was addressed or turn down the job builders would state they have not allowed for scaffold to gutter height and that it was our problem.

This is now changing for the better there is edge protection available but ideally this is not well suited for roofing as you have no platform to start laying for battens and paper it is of course cheaper but then take longer to carry out your work.
With this option there is no ladder access which is all so a cause for frustration.
Scaffold to gutter height or 300mm below the height of the gutter is the ideal solution to roof safety in our minds.Ladder safety in New Zealand is a real problem which can be addressed

Roofing Issues


Roofing Issues we have been in the game long enough to see other suppliers and installers of various roofing products come and go. From people just selling the product, then the developer gets anyone to put it on with varying degrees of success. Some products can not handle the UV in this country and fail long before their life expectancy. There are two types of roofing companies one’s that have a good history of working with good products that have stood the test of time. Others that are driven by sales only, with little regard for what is in the client’s best interests or for that matter the house itself, they care only about making money which is what every business needs to do, but to go about it with honesty, integrity and a clear conscience. It amazes me how many companies still do not get held account for poor advice poor materials or poor installation. We get asked to look at roofs with issues, some only two to three years old, we can give them the name of who did it and recommend they take it up with them seldom do people choose to. So they get away with it, if every company is truly honest every body makes mistakes, the key is to put your hand up take ownership of it, fix it, learn from it and move on. In life some times you learn more from your failures than you do from your successes.

You need to do your research on what product you like i.e. cost, performance, quality, look
Does it meet your expectations?
Look at installers previous work is a must, how long have they been in business, ask around a verbal recommendation is worth far more than flipping through the phone book or the interweb.

Slate roofing In New Zealand


Slate Roofing, to this day we still find ourselves explaining to customers or people who have an opinion about slate roof tiles, the importance of choosing a good quality slate. yes a good quality slate is more expensive but so is re-roofing in a few years time. If cost is an issue you are far better off going to a French clay tile of flat profile, to give you a similiar look and will last at least 75 years compared with 5 to 25 years for a cheap slate roof. We all so come across poor flashing choices with slate roofs, if a good slate roof will last 75 + years then so should the flashings, to get this right at a latter date will be expensive. Flashings for a slate roof should be Lead or copper for longevity provided they are installed to the correct spec`s.

Cheap slate roof tiles give all slate roofs a bad name, but so can poor workmanship. When choosing a slater`s have a look at some of their work that THEY have done not just pictures of someone else`s work, ask a builder you trust or Architect who they would recommend this can pay dividends to achieve an end result everyone can be proud of.