Slate roofs are one of the oldest roofing materials used to cover houses in Robin Hoods. It has a great reputation as being durable, long-lasting, a great-looking. If you're interested in having a slate roof installed on your home, here at CheckaRoof, we can help guide you through the process all the way from design to installation.
Let's take a closer look at why a slate roof can be the perfect option for you.
Slate is a natural rock that has been mined and cut into thin tiles to be used as a shingle. It has a wide variety of uses, including garden stepping stones, indoor flooring, tiling, and of course roofing.
A slate roof uses these slate tiles placed in regular overlapping rows to cover a sloped roof. A specialised roofing contractor will be able to calculate the slope of the roof and how much overlap is needed to make the roof secure.
There are some very good reasons why slates have been such a popular roofing material for so much of our history, and why they are still so popular today. Let's take a look at exactly what benefits you can look forward to when you have a new slate roof installed.
Probably the biggest draw of natural slate roofing is how long it lasts. Alternative roofing materials, like an asphalt roof, can expect to last a decade or two. In contrast, a slate roof can last for centuries. Yes, centuries. Slate roofs often outlast the home they were built on.
Slate roofing is very effective as a form of insulation. They help to keep the heat contained in your home in the winter and stop the outside heat from getting in during the summer. This not only helps to keep your home comfortable but it can help to reduce your energy costs.
House fires can be absolutely devastating. Slates are made from rock that has been formed under great pressure and heat, so they have a high level of fire resistance. If you are unlucky enough to have a house fire next door or be struck by lightning, or have a wayward firework land on your house, you can rest assured that your slate roof won't catch on fire.
Natural slate tiles are an environmentally friendly roofing material option. Unlike man-made tiles, natural slate roof tiles don't give off any pollution during the manufacturing process, so they don't contribute to climate change.
Not only that, but slate tiles are 100% recyclable. Broken slate can be re-used again and again. This can be in creating a whole new roof (even 100-year-old slate can tile a whole new home!) or it can be repurposed for other projects, including garden edging or for separating plants, as slate chalkboards, as drainage in plant pots, and many more.
While some asphalt shingle can be recycled, it still accounts for nearly 5% of the material in landfills. This is compounded by the fact that it needs to be replaced so much more often than natural slate.
Slate roofs are one of the most durable roofing materials. They absorb water at a very low rate, with a water absorption of just 0.29%, so are weather-resistant, including frost damage, heavy rainfall, and high winds. It also requires very little maintenance, beyond the occasional cleaning.
Slate roofs are popular because of their practical benefits, of course, but they are also popular because they are so aesthetically pleasing. A slate roof has a timeless style that just screams quality. And there are so many style options to choose from beyond the standard grey straight lines.
The first choice you can make when installing a slate roof is the type of slate you are going to use. There are quite a few different options of natural slate styles that all give a slightly different look.
Welsh roof slate is one of the most popular slate roofing options in the U.K. and across the world. It is durable, U.V. resistant, and very dense. It is made from layers and layers of mudstone and shale that have become compressed over millions of years. It is still being mined in a handful of mines in Wales and retains its great quality.
Approximately 3/4 of the slate in the world is mined in Spain. The cost is slightly less than Welsh slate, but can still give a high-quality look to your roof. Most of the slate quarries are in the northwest area of Spain, and different quarries produce slightly different colours and types of slates.
It can range from slates that can be split very thin and other slates that tend to be thicker and more similar to Welsh slate.
Brazilian slate is the second most common roof slate in the world, and the cost is less than some other types. It is mostly mined from the Minas Gerais region and it is known for its quality. It is very resistant to damage and harsh weather conditions.
Not only can you choose from a range of different slate materials and colours or your roof, but you can also have control over the way that they are laid.
This is the traditional method of laying a slate roof in the UK and it is still being used today. Many quarries would sell slate on an "as available" basis rather than sorted into specific lengths and widths. With a graduated slate roof, the slate is sorted by the roofing contractor on-site and is laid in a specific way, with the larger slate tiles near the eaves and the smaller ones near the top.
This method of laying the roofing tiles helps water to run off the roof and divert away from the house.
Standard slate roofs give a clean and modern look. The roof slates are cut to 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch tiles that have a standard length and width. With this type of slate, there is no need for the roofing contractor to sort the tiles for different sizes to be placed in different locations. Instead, they are laid in clean horizontal lines with aligned vertical joints.
This style either uses slate tiles that are of different lengths with their heads on the same line, or slate that is laid to appear as though it is different lengths (with some laid on a higher line). The bottom of the longer tiles gives a hang down look that can look rustic and traditional.
This is another rustic-looking style and it involves using slate tiles of varying widths and lengths that have a rougher surface and vary in their thickness.
As well as choices about the way the slate is cut and the way it's laid, you can also get creative with the colour scheme. A multicoloured slate roof uses a variety of colours to create an attractive and eye-catching roof.
The colours can either be arranged on your roof in an almost random arrangement or they can be arranged in specific patterns. You can even use the tiles to spell out a word!
Laying slate roofing is a highly skilled job. The technique is different to that for other roofing materials, so it is always important to use a company that has the knowledge and experience to lay a slate roof properly. Let's take a brief look at the roof installation process.
Slate roofs can either be laid using hooks or with pre-drilled slates tiles. The first is a more traditional but more complicated way of laying a slate roof.
The first thing that needs to be done is to work out the roof pitch. This is how steep the angle of the roof structure is and there are a variety of methods and tools that can be used to discover it. It is important to find out this information because it determines how much overlap will be needed for each slate tile.
Next, the area needs to be prepared. Your roofing contractor will make sure that the rafters are clear of anything that could damage the slate tiles, such as splinters or nails.
Then the roofing membrane needs to be laid. The purpose of the roofing membrane is to prevent water from getting through the roof to the house beneath, which could cause dampness or mould. There are two types of roofing membrane: breathable and non-breathable.
A breathable membrane will allow moisture to escape which can reduce the chance of condensation building up inside your home. This is more of a risk in homes that are better insulated, with vapour barriers.
A non-breathable membrane, however, isn't permeable to water. It's worth remembering, however, that if your roof already has ventilation points, non-breathable may be fine as there are already avenues for the moisture to escape.
The roofing membrane is secured at one edge and then pulled tautly and secured at the other edge, ready for the batten to be laid. These are wooden slats onto which the slate tiles are laid, so they need to be installed precisely to ensure that they are the correct distance apart for the slate to have the required overlap.
The first batten is laid and some slates are measured up against it to determine where the next batten should be placed.
On some homes, especially in Scotland, sarking boards are laid first to strengthen the roofing structure against very strong winds. Then counter battens are laid, followed by the membrane and, finally, batten again.
The slate tiles are then laid so that their pre-drilled holes or hooks are in the centre of each batten and build up into the pattern that has been decided. It is common practice to leave small gap of around 5 mm between each of the slates to account for natural expansion.
Natural slates are durable and versatile roofing materials. If you are considering installing a new slate roof, then it is important to think carefully about any downsides or complications that could crop up.
Roof slate is one of the heaviest roof materials available. It is so heavy that some houses aren't able to support the weight of the roof once the slate material has been laid.
Because of this, it is important to have your home surveyed before having a new roof laid so that you can find out if your home is able to support the weight or if you may need to have some supports installed before a slate roof is laid.
Slate is on the very expensive sides of building materials. It will cost much more per square metre to use slate for your roof rather than an affordable alternative.
You will also likely come across higher labour costs. Because laying slate roofs is a highly-skilled job that takes a long time, it is a more costly roofing project than some others.
With that being said, this initial cost can be offset by how long a slate roof will last. If you do use a more affordable roofing material, you may have to have it replaced every 15 to 25 years. Whereas a slate roof can easily outlive you and even outlive your children.
Some roofing companies offer roof warranties that will cover any roof restoration needed for a period of time.
It is important for your slate roof to be installed correctly if it is going to last as long as you want it to. Finding a specialised contractor who has the training and knowledge to properly lay a slate roof can be quite difficult and it is always a good idea to double-check the company's experience.
While slate roofs are extremely long-lasting and durable when left on a roof exposed to the elements, they are also highly vulnerable to direct damage. If you have a contractor come to work on your roof, such as cleaning your gutters, the slate tiles can easily become damaged if they don't avoid walking on them.
Repair work for slate roofs can be quite complicated. The process of replacing a damaged slate tile involves using a slate ripper under the damaged tile to trap the nail that's holding it in place and then hammering the handle of the slate ripper to remove the nail and slate. Then the new slate is re-laid by using a lead strip as a hook to secure it in place.
The problem is that the replacement slate needs to be completely identical to the slates that are already in place. Making the slate the right size isn't so difficult but getting the right style can be almost impossible.
As we have already seen, slate can vary so much from country to country and quarry to quarry, but it also changes in colour and texture over time. This can make finding a slate that will perfectly match the ones that are already in place an almost impossible task. People will even go searching for recycled tile that was mined from the same quarry at the same time as the slate they already have.
Any slight difference in the colour shade of the slate will stand out like a sore thumb, so sometimes the only option, if you want it to look uniform, is to replace the entire roof.
Different types of slates vary in their quality. And lower-quality slates won't have the same durability or longevity as better quality slates. There is a grading system designed by CUPA that will assign different types of slate different grades depending on their quality. Shingle manufacturers will typically display the grades for each of their slates.
A slate roof doesn't just have a timeless appeal, but it also is a sound investment that has the potential to last well beyond your own lifetime. We are experienced and knowledgeable roofing contractors who will work with you to find the right slate options to suit you and your home. Get in touch with us today so that, together, we can create the perfect slate roof for you.