Slate Roofing Tiles: A Detailed Guide

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Finding the perfect roof for your building is a big deal. The numerous options make the decision-making process even more difficult. However, we’ve found that many homeowners consider slate their ideal roofing choice. This is no surprise because slate tiles are an attractive, superior roofing material.

We’ve curated this detailed piece to show you all you need to know about this premium-quality roof, including its history, pros and cons, and maintenance tips. At the end of this article, you might just become a slate roofing specialist.

What Is Slate Roofing?

A slate roof is a premium roofing material excavated from the ground. Slate is formed when the earth’s weight compresses fine clay into shale before transforming into slate. This roof type was popular long before civilization and is one of the earliest materials used for roofing.

Slate has layers that make it easy for manufacturers to split into different thicknesses. The layers result from the various compression stages during the slate formation. Slate occurs naturally in slabs before the manufacturer saws and quarters them along the cleavage lines or layers till they get the desired size or thickness. The smaller slate pieces are designed into shingles using machine or hand. In contrast, the bigger ones are utilized for things like flooring, countertops, and electric panels.

The only reason many people don’t have slate roofs on their buildings is their pocket size. Not only is the slate roof very functional, but it is luxurious, and only a few people can afford it. You’ll usually find them on exquisite properties. They are highly durable, waterproof, and long-lasting. Once you use a slate roof for your roof, you can rest assured that it will be your last one.

History of Slate Roofing Tiles

Slate roofs are documented to have been used first as roofing material on a private property in North Wales in 1300 A.D. They were very expensive and were usually seen on military buildings and castles. It wasn’t until the 16th century that people started using them in America. In 1734, the first quarry was established between the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Slate roofs remained luxurious and only became accessible to the average property owner in the 1800s.

Slates are abundant in Asia, the United States, and Brazil. Before slates are manufactured into roofs and other products, they are transported from the quarry to the mills for thorough inspection. Natural slate exists in different colors as a result of the different mineral compositions of each one.  Some of these pieces contain more chlorite, which gives them a green color. Those with hematite will have a purple hue, and those with high carbon content will have gray or black shades.

Pros And Cons of Slate Roofing

Pros

  • Has the most attractive appearance on buildings
  • Eco-friendly and can be recycled
  • Extremely durable
  • Resistant to fire and insect attacks

Cons

  • Four times the weight of asphalt
  • Despite being strong, slate is brittle and easily damaged by large hail.
  • Requires the service of a roofing contractor who specializes in slate roof installation
  • Demands inspection of your roof structure by an engineer to ensure it can carry the weight of slate
  • Not easy and safe to walk on, especially when wet

What is the Life Span of a Slate Roof?

Slate is either soft or hard, and this classification determines the life span of the slate. Soft slate roofing tiles can last for about 50 to 90 years, while hard slate, which has a longer lifespan, has a lifespan of about 75 to 150 years. 

Despite the significant role the hardness or softness of a slate plays in how long it lasts, there are other factors that influence a slate’s lifespan. They include installation, roof maintenance, slate origin, and the quality of the slate’s finishing. The slate’s origin influences its softness. For instance, slate exhumed in Pennsylvania is usually soft, while that in New York and Vermont is usually hard.

Slates hardly ever need replacement. Most of the time, when some roofing companies suggest that you need one, what you need might be to perform some easy maintenance routine. This is why you should only hire a skilled and experienced roofing contractor who specializes in slate. If you do otherwise, you might get the wrong solution and spend more money than you should.

We recommend hiring a roofing inspector to assess your slate roof if it is older than 30 years. You shouldn’t wait to encounter a problem before you do that. As we’d always say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

5 Maintenance Tips for Your Slate Roofing 

Do you want your slate roof to see the end of its lifespan? Then, you need to pay attention to these tips we will share with you. 

Before you install a slate roof, it is essential that you are informed about the potential problems you may face. And if you already have one, it’s not too late to stay informed. Observing the steps below will save you from stress (physical, mental, and financial):

  • You must conduct an annual visual inspection of your roof’s surface to ensure there are no cracked, missing, misaligned, or broken tiles. You can achieve this using a drone camera,  binoculars, or a cherry picker without getting on the roof.
  • Pay attention to areas where there could be a case of a flashing fail—places like the chimney, dormer, and valley. 
  • Examine the rafters located in your attic at least twice a year. By doing this, you can be sure that the weight of the slates hasn’t caused any damage to the structure of your roof. Also, look out for rotting wood and stains to make sure your roof isn’t leaking.
  • Always scan your downspouts and gutters to ensure that no materials are clogging the free passage of water away from the roof.
  • Only roofers with adequate experience installing slate tiles should have access to your roof for maintenance to prevent damage.

4 Things You Should Know Before Getting a Slate Roof 

1. The structure of your roofing system must be able to carry a slate roof’s weight 

The weight of a slate roof is equivalent to quadrupling the weight of asphalt. You’d agree that’s a lot of load, right? Because of the slate’s weight, as a homeowner, it is crucial to ensure that you build your house in a way that will support the slate tiles’ weight. Failure to do so would cause your roof to sink or the building to collapse.

2. Only skilled roofing contractors who have years of experience installing slate roofs should install your roof

If you want to avoid running into problems or ruining your investment, you should hire a trustworthy roofer to install your slate roofing tiles. 

3. Slate is one of the priciest roof types

A slate roof is on the higher side of the price scale. In short, a slate roof is not an option for a homeowner on a tight budget. But if you want aesthetics and longevity, a slate roof is the ideal choice, provided that you can afford it.

4. There are no warranties on slate roofs 

Buying a new roof usually means getting two warranties from the manufacturer and roofing contractor, respectively. But it might break your heart to know that it isn’t the same for slate roofs. They do not come with a manufacturer warranty because they are naturally occurring.

However, you can still get a warranty from your roofing contractor for workmanship. This is why we emphasize hiring only a professional contractor who is skilled in installing slate roofing tiles. The warranty on workmanship varies from a year to a lifetime. It all depends on the company. So, it would help if you kept your eyes wide open when selecting a contractor for your roof to make the best choice.

How Much Does a Slate Roof Cost?

The answer isn’t definite, as there are many factors to take into consideration before having the correct estimate.  

The first thing you want to factor in is the strength of your roof structure. If it isn’t solid enough to hold the weight of a slate roof, you would have to fix that first, and that will indeed happen at a cost.

The second thing to consider is accessibility to an expert slate roofer. The cost of workmanship for installing slate roofing tiles already costs a lot of money. The farther the roofers are, the more expensive their charges will be, increasing the installation cost.

However, a rough estimate of the cost of installing a slate roof is between $1200 and $3300 per hundred square feet, depending on its color and thickness.

Conclusion

Slate is a natural roofing material and almost every homeowner’s ideal roofing choice. It has a reputation for being durable, visually pleasing, and long-lasting. This reputation it has had for years makes it high in demand. 

However, because it is costly, only a few homeowners can afford to use it for their roofs. Instead, they go for cheaper alternatives. So, if you are among the few who can afford it, make sure you get a skilled roofer to do the job.

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