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The right roofing material adds personality to your home and increases curb appeal. Slate has been used for 100s of years and continues to be one of the longest lasting, high quality roofing materials on the market.
Why a Slate Roof?
Slate roofing is a lifetime roofing system that is known for its beauty and longevity for centuries. A slate roof is generally one of the best roofs that you can purchase, however it is one of the most expensive roofs to get installed. If you want your home to stand out and have this phenomenal curb appeal, then considering slate roofing is your best bet. Slate roofing is one of the most fire-resistant roofs on the market while being environmentally friendly.
Slate roofing got its start when it was used on the roofs of castles and churches during medieval times. It was also used on the roofs of some of the most beautiful palaces and royal castles in the Spanish landscape. Slate roofing is durable in the harshest elements. It’s fireproof, waterproof, and sturdy against hail. Even when it comes to hurricanes the material is able to stand up to the task. Slate roofs can last up to about 100 years, which is pretty good compared to other roofing materials like asphalt shingles that would be expected to be changed every 30 years. It’s also a known fact that this roofing material often adds market value to any property once installed.
For many homeowners who are eco-friendly, natural slate will remain environmentally friendly throughout all stages of its life. Using slate for your roofing material can avoid the creation of CO2 emissions
Slate tiles act as a natural insulator, therefore, keeping your home cooler during the summer months and warmer during the winter months. The density of this natural stone stabilizes the temperature of the structure it covers. Not only does a slate roof save you money on heating and cooling costs, slate roofs also produce less waste than any other average asphalt roof. Due to the fact that slate roofing materials outlive most roofing materials by decades, means less roof replacements, which again not only saves you money, but produces less material waste going into landfills overall. Choosing slate shingles as a roofing material means that you are using a product that doesn’t require high levels of manufacturing or processing, which means fewer toxins in the air. Natural slate is all-natural, therefore, no toxic chemicals are used to process the material.
What is Slate Roofing Made Of?
Natural slate has been one of the most reliable roofing materials. The rock itself has a lot of natural features that make it a lot more valuable building material on the market. When doing other projects because the slate is natural it is easily recyclable therefore a homeowner or roofer can reuse a specific slate roof material if it was too outlast the home it was placed on.
Roofing slate is a metamorphic rock that has to undergo a chemical transformation in order to be considered a finished product. The rock is created by shales and mudstones that are compressed by horizontal forces with minor heating. The forces combined with the heat modify the clay minerals in the shale and mudstones. This then develops foliation to eventually yield the product we know as slate. Foliation in slate is the parallel alignment of microscopics grains of clays minerals and mica. These alignments give the rock the ability to break smoothly along the foliation planes. People began to exploit this feature which has continued to produce the thin sheets of slate that are used today.
Before a homeowner gets their slate roof to them there is a process that completed before the slate can be used for a roof installation:
The first step is the quarry, which is where the miners mine the slate by finding the vein of the stone and strategically extracting it. Once it has been exposed and broken into rough pieces, it is then carted out of the quarry and stacked at the cutting area.
The Cutting Area:
Each rough piece of raw stone weighs between 3 to 4 tons. Once the stones have been examined it is jackhammered until all the pieces are small and manageable for the first cutting phase. The slate is then brought to a warehouse after each stone is broken into smaller pieces. The warehouse saw cuts the slate into thick blocks approximately the size of the final slates. The blades that are used are diamond-tipped and cost nearly 1000 dollars each. At each station, there are two saws that cut the lengths and the other for the width. The excess of the slates is to be cut so that all the sides are smooth before the splitting phase.
The Splitting Phase:
When the slate hits the splitting phase each piece is hand split from the blocks created in the cutting stage. The blocks are split into pieces that would be twice the thickness of the final slates. The pieces are then split in half, because of the delicate nature of this stage, a huge amount of the pieces ends up becoming damaged due to an unexpected split or crack. After the splitting stage, the slate is trimmed, which is the last step of the process.
The Trimming Stage:
Every piece of slate is individually trimmed. This step removes the cut edges and gives each piece the common look of slate that many are accustomed to seeing on roofs. If a homeowner is looking to use the slate as a roofing material, they would have to have the slate be punched for nails. Nails can’t be driven through the slate because of the fact that the stone would crack and split. The slate would be punched in small groups or one by one, in order to ensure that the nail holes are placed at the ideal spot for maximum strength and durability.
Slate Roof Repair (Restoration or Replacement)
In many cases, minor maintenance and repair jobs are needed throughout the lifespan of a slate roof to ensure that it will last long. However in some situations, mostly with historical homes, not completing routine maintenance inspections and repairs over the years can lead to deterioration or disrepair ahead of the expected lifetime of the roof. Therefore, in that kind of situation, choosing restoration, which is a more intense form of slate roof repair, may be warranted. In other cases, age or extensive damage may lead a homeowner to make a tough decision on whether they want to completely replace the roof.
In order to go toward restoring a slate roof, between 70 to 80 percent of the roof itself should be feasibly intact, with minor replacements needed throughout. Replacing a slate roof on the other hand usually needs to happen at some point, particularly with older, historic homes. Some slate roofing contractors would push for replacement when the roof itself is 20-30 percent deteriorated beyond reasonable repair. A professional slate contractor needs to perform an inspection on the roof, because it may not be visibly apparent that the roof is deteriorating. When hiring a professional, they will check for signs such as flaking of the tiles, any powdering occurring on the underside of the roof, or hollow sounds when tapped that would indicate that the slate has already started to break down. It also may help looking for a roofing contractor with free estimates to minimize the costs and get the answers you need for your project.
Compared to other roofing materials, slate is a lot more expensive to replace, leading to homeowners to hesitate to complete replacement. However in some cases, the value of your home can be attached to the slate roof, making the replacement the only choice in some cases. It is important to know that replacing a slate roof is not a small job. If a homeowner is living in a home that has an older slate roof, the homeowner should begin to plan and save for such an expense and try to look for a roofing contractor who provides financing.
Slate Roof Maintenance
A really good suggestion for homeowners with a slate roof is to have a professional perform routine roof inspections and maintenance. It’s essential that the roof be inspected annually by an experienced slate roofing contractor who can effectively evaluate the roof’s conditions in order to benefit the homeowner and preserve the longevity of the roof. Scheduled cleanings are one of the best maintenance tips for slate roofs. Cleaning helps the roof maintain its structural quality and that beautiful appearance. When hiring an experienced slate roofing contractor, they should remove any debris such as moss and fallen leaves that are above and below the tiles so they can proceed to wash the roof with a gentle cleaning solution. Walking on a slate roof is an absolute hazard to any homeowner or roofer when they are doing any kind of maintenance or repair to the roof. The reason is that when walking on a slate roof, it can cause the slate to crack and create a bigger and more expensive problem. That is why it is highly recommended that a homeowner have a professional slate roofing contractor who understands the different tendencies and hazards that come with slate, compared to any old roofer or handyman.
Synthetic Slate Roofing
Synthetic slate is a commonly used product for many homeowners. It is made from a combination of plastic and rubber, and it is designed to mirror the beauty and uniqueness of natural slate without being as expensive to purchase and install. Synthetic slates are made by injection-molding petroleum-based materials that form into the metal which ends up being cast from the original slate. Some brands are known to be manufactured with virgin rubber or plastic, while other synthetic slate products are produced with recycled rubber or plastic, mineral dust or cellulose fibers. When it comes to recycled material used, it would usually consist of high-quality post-industrial materials. However, there are only a few that are produced by post-consumer recycled materials. Just as natural slate roofs last long, synthetic slates are advertised that it will last longer as well.
The benefit that many companies advertise is that synthetic slates can be recycled. Compared to authentic slate, synthetic slate is more resistant especially towards the sun. The synthetic slate contains advanced ultraviolet inhibitors that actually reduces damaging and gradual removal or deformation of the material from the sun.
Synthetic slate usually contains impact modifiers in order to help withstand storm damages. In fact, the majority of them are certified by Underwriters Laboratories as a Class 4 roofing material. Underwriters Laboratories complete standardized tests and classify roofing materials based on a class rating system. Class 4 is the highest level for roofing materials. Therefore, many synthetic slates also have the highest fire-resistance rating, which is class A. This is something that any homeowner would want because it means the roofing material is effective against severe exposure to external fires.
However, to go against better judgment, other opinions point out that slate is a geological mineral such as marble or quartz. Therefore, for the synthetic material to be created using rubber or plastic and continue to be called slate is undeniably incorrect. These manufacturers are selling products only imitating or resembling natural slate roofing. In other words, these products are not performing the same as natural quarried roofing slate would. Creating this misrepresentation of the synthetic products as slate can be deceptive to the customer and harmful to the slate roofing industry. Natural slate is a solid stone, which inherits the stone’s durable characteristics, while synthetic slate on the other hand is made from rubber or plastic which does not have the same kind of durability as natural slate. The lack of durability can lead to an increased risk of leaks and repairs, which can be costly in the long run.
Other Types of Roof Slates
There are many other types of roofing slate and each of them have its own particular qualities. It’s quite important for homeowners and contractors who work with slate roofs to know the different roofing slates and the characteristics that come with them. One type of roof slate is fibre cement slate, which is one of the popular alternatives to natural slate. Fibre cement slate comes in a variety of factory-applied colors and custom shapes such as a diamond-shaped slate. It’s a lot lighter than natural slate and can be installed on roof decks without additional reinforcements. They are usually purchased with pre-drilled holes which helps a contractor spend less time laying and installing the tile.
Another type is bituminous slate which is closer in quality to common roofing shingles. The main component of the material is bitumen which is the liquid binder of asphalt. They both have similar lifespans and require routine maintenance and repair. They are light and flexible slates which would be very easy to cut to size. You would usually see these roof slates on garden sheds, carports, and sauna huts. However, if a homeowner was to want to apply this to their home, it can be applied on a steep roof. They are available in several colors and roofers are able to fix them onto the roof with nails that have a broadhead. There is even a type of slate called spanish slates. Spain was one of the first natural slate producers in the world. The biggest and the best of tectonic natural slates are found in the northern part of Spain, which is an area where there is a strong mining tradition. Spanish slate is one of the most renowned roofing materials and a lot of architects and housebuilders are using it as a part of their projects.
There are even Standard slate roofs, patterned slate roofs, random width slate roofs, multicolored slate roofs, graduated length slate roofs, textural slate roofs, and hang down slate roofs. All of these are the different types of structure that each slate roof can come in. Sometimes slate roofs just come the way that it was designed and structured as a template.
Disadvantages of Natural Slate Roofs
One of the biggest disadvantages of natural slate roofs is how expensive they are and the installation difficulty. Slate roofs can cost you from as much as 1000 to 6000 a square when it’s installed, with many homes needing multiple squares to complete the roof. A common mistake made by homeowners is hiring a roofer who has only been trained to work with asphalt shingles and don’t really know much when it comes to installing slate tiles. Creating even more risk for error during your slate roof installation. Hiring a local qualified contractor is one of the most important things when it comes to roofing slates. Especially a local contractor that knows what they are doing. The reason being that when a homeowner hires a local roofer or handyman, they wouldn’t know the specific requirements on installing slates. For example, if you were to ask a random handyman or local roofer, they may not know that slate tiles may not be gauged, which means that they can vary in thickness and create gaps that can lead to leaks.
Another disadvantage is the weight of slate roofs compared to other roofs. Slate roof tiles are by far one of the heaviest roofing materials, which means that the roof deck needs to be reinforced in order to manage the load of that weight. A slate roof can weigh anywhere from about 700 to 1500 pounds. Therefore, your home would have to be inspected in order to determine if your home can support the weight before installing a slate roof.
Another issue is again the type of contractor that the homeowner decides to hire. A slate roof can last for what seems to be forever, but if your contractor has to walk on it, damage can happen very quickly if they don’t know what they are doing. If a tile was to break or be lost, trying to find a replacement to match the roof can be difficult. The fact is that slate is a naturally colored stone, which means that the color variation within each stone can be so extreme that you may have a patch that completely stands out.