When you think of roofing materials, you probably don’t think of slate. But slate is one of the most durable roofing materials you can invest in. Slate roofs have been known to last a hundred years and longer when properly installed and cared for. A slate roof is an investment, but given the length of its life, it might be an option worth considering.
If you’re thinking about having a slate roof installed, or if you want to learn basic maintenance for your existing slate roof, read on for some basic slate roof facts.
Know Your Slate
A roofer who installs slate is called a “slater.” An experienced slater can help you decide if slate is right for your home, but learn the basics about slate roofs before you ask for quotes. Installing slate is a big investment, so arming yourself with some knowledge will help you when talking over your options with a slater.
Here are five slate roof basics to keep in mind:
1. Slate should be installed on solid wood. Your roofer or slater should make sure the wood support in your roof will last as long as the slate will. Plywood isn’t going to last that long, so make sure your roof support is solid lumber.
2. The slater should use only copper or stainless steel nails on your slate. Just like the solid wood support, these types of nails are more likely to last the life of the slate. The last thing you want to do is replace all the nails in your roof because they weakened before the slate did!
3. When installing the roof, the slate should be drilled for countersinking, and it should not be nailed down tightly. Nailing tightly creates stress on the slate and could lead to cracking and breakage. Countersinking, or making the nail flush with the tile, ensure that the nail heads won’t damage surrounding tiles. The slate should hang comfortably, but not tightly.
4. Make sure your slater uses high-quality flashing. Flashing is a thin metal sheet that’s installed around areas like chimneys to prevent water from getting into cracks and under roof tiles. Copper, stainless steel, and lead are all very durable, and all are good choices for a slate roof.
5. When your slate roof is installed, make sure the slater leaves at least a 3-inch overhang from one row to the next (this is also called a head lap). Anything less could result in water leaks.
Roof – Slate Maintenance and Repair
Once you’ve got your slate roof up, it will require very little maintenance from year to year. You may want to visually inspect your slate roof periodically, especially after storms when tree branches or debris may hit your roof. Keep an eye out for any cracked or broken pieces of slate.
Every now and again, you may need to replace a slate tile or two. A professional slater will have the necessary tools to get the job done quickly, but here’s how a simple slate replacement is done:
1. Chose your replacement slate. Be sure it looks similar to the existing slate in both color and size. When it’s time to install the replacement, your slater will likely use hook ladders on the roof. These specialized ladders ensure there’s no pressure on the existing slate while the replacement is installed.
2. Any broken pieces of slate should be removed with a slate ripper. This is a tool slater use to pull out the countersunk nails without damaging the surrounding slate.
3. The new slate is nailed in, and a piece of copper may be put underneath to prevent water from getting under the new tile.
So, those are the bare basics of slate roof installation and repair. It may seem like a slate roof is complicated compared to the majority of roofing options available today, but a slate roof is one of the longest-lasting and lowest maintenance options out there.
A slate roof may be an investment up front, but it will protect your home for generations with the right installation and upkeep.