About UsHow history brought us to Light 'n' Shade
We have worked together for almost thirty years and since 2007 we have run our own business called Gilkicker Ltd when we installed our first Light ‘n’ Shade louvreroof on a private dwelling on the Hampshire coast. Prior to establishing Gilkicker Ltd. we both worked for a major international roofing materials group and spent a great deal of time managing parts of that groups operations in the UK and across Europe. The motivation to set up our own business was driven by time and lifestyle. We both knew that we were not getting any younger and that if we didn`t take the step to start our own business by the time we were past our late 40`s and early 50`s then we probably wouldn`t do it. We also felt that the corporate lifestyle that senior management positions within a large international group demand had lost a lot of its appeal. We had been in the corporate world for a long time and it was time for a change.
Our knowledge and experience is in roofing and roofing materials, so it was inevitable that our business venture would be in this area. We wanted to steer clear of our former employer’s direct areas of activity as we still have many friends there, so we established a name and solid reputation in the area of bespoke roofing materials for outdoor areas.
Over the years we had seen the trend of people and businesses developing areas outside their homes and properties for outdoor pursuits or outdoor lifestyles increase rapidly in popularity.
When we started our careers in roofing in the early 1980`s the desire for outdoor living or alfresco living was virtually non-existent. People would occasionally barbecue outside with a portable barbecue and a pub, restaurant or café would possibly have an outdoor area for customers and if they did then a token parasol or umbrella was seen as suitable for shade or shelter.
Certainly very few people or organisations contemplated contacting roofing organisations to see what was available to make these areas more comfortable on the occasions that they were used.
Outdoor dining has come a long way since the pub umbrella! The home barbecue and charcoal approach is being left behind by bespoke outdoor kitchen and dining areas in people’s gardens.
During the 1990`s the idea of outdoor living started catching on and more and more people built permanent barbecues in their back gardens or added other features to their outdoor space.
Covering and weatherproofing these areas was often a DIY project or an awning was purchased to give protection. Pubs and restaurants started to provide more permanent solutions such as large umbrellas or again utilise awnings.
Was this the start of the outdoor dining revolution?
During this time and into the 2000`s the shortcomings of umbrellas and awnings started to become apparent. Many found that they were either difficult to control in Britain’s breezy climate or they became a constant maintenance problem needing regular cleaning. Cleaning usually meant taking the weatherproof covers off and sending them away to be cleaned and re-proofed. The job of refitting the covers was always difficult and often the umbrella or awning never quite fitted as well again.
However, the rise in outdoor living gained momentum and people’s expectations were that they would like to spend more time outdoors whenever they could. Decking started to become very popular and the next logical step was to have something built over the deck or patio to give the area a more permanent appearance and provide shelter.
Popular television programmes such as BBC`s Ground Force helped keep the growth and interest in spending time outdoors moving and many of their projects involved installing decks, patios and pergolas for people to sit and relax in their gardens.
BBC`s Ground Force programme did wonders for sales of decking, not to mention the ubiquitous water features!
Within the roofing industry some products started to be used regularly on outside areas such as single or multiwall polycarbonate sheets or solid roofs of metal, shingles or tiles. However, these products can have some disadvantages for outdoor areas as they either let in too much light and heat making the area underneath uncomfortably hot or they do not let in enough light making any adjoining building interiors too dark at certain times of the year.
It is from this point in the mid 2000`s that the garden room, outdoor living, alfresco dining concept really took off. It has grown to the point today where outdoor rooms and bespoke outdoor kitchens are regular features in homes and gardens magazines and other lifestyle titles.
Adjustable outdoor roofs are becoming an essential item for most outdoor kitchen and dining areas and increasingly we are being asked to fit them with a whole range of accessories such as lights, heating, sound systems and home cinema equipment.
The desire to spend as much time outdoors has not gone unnoticed within the hospitality industry either and most new or refurbished restaurants, pubs and cafes now have permanent covered outdoor dining areas
We are often asked why we don’t offer standard options or standard solutions with our products and services. Our answer is simple and is reinforced on almost every job we get involved with and it is this….
A roof for a building is mostly asked to carry out one function and that is to keep bad weather out whether that is wind, rain, snow, sleet or hail. A roof for an outside covered area, however, not only needs to keep bad weather out but is also required to allow in the sun, some heat and some light to varying degrees throughout the day.
These additional requirements for an outdoor roof sound fairly simple, however, it is not quite as simple as it at first seems. We all know that the Earth orbits the Sun and it takes a year for it to do so. At the same time the Earth is spinning on its (tilted) axis making one complete turn every 24 hours. That means that on any particular spot on the Earth’s surface during daylight no two days will be exactly the same as far as light and shade is concerned. That makes maximising the functionality of an outdoor roof something which requires some thought, planning and discussion.
The changing seasons, the earth’s daily rotation and the built environment has a dynamic effect on how much sun or shade any particular spot might experience on a day to day basis.
This is most dramatic with the changing seasons. However, when you add in daily changes in cloud cover, trees with or without leaves, new buildings or extensions being built, reflections of a low winter sun on water and any number of other natural or man-made features then there are a whole host of variables that can make shading requirements differ quite dramatically from day to day or month to month.
A solid, fixed and static roof can deal with some of these shading issues for some of the time. When there is a need to allow sunlight through onto the outdoor area underneath or the levels of shade desired change throughout the day then an adjustable roof is required. But the correct positioning, orientation and geometry of the adjustable roof can also make a huge difference to its performance and the end users satisfaction.
Our experience in roofing and outdoor roofing is considerable and we bring that knowledge and experience to every project we work on. We interact with architects, designers, builders, landscapers, commercial building owners and homeowners and look at each project with a fresh approach to deliver what is needed.
As well as advising on and manufacturing/installing outdoor roofs our involvement in a project can range from site surveys through to build drawings, the preparation of specifications, budget costs for supply only, supply and install, supply and train others to install or any combination of these and other services.
There are no magic products on the market which can solve all the issues and challenges that each job presents. But there are materials which we have brought together and fabricated to build solutions for projects which have had specific light, shade and shelter requirements brought about by their unique position and orientation.
Please browse our “Tips, hints and advice” page where we highlight some of the aspects that need to be considered when planning a roof for an outdoor space. Similarly please visit our case study pages where we describe some of the challenges that our customers have come across and which we have been able to solve for them. If you don`t see the type of solution that you need or the individual circumstances that you wish to overcome then get in touch with us as we have details of many more projects that we have completed but are not included here.