The beautiful blue, grey, purple, green, red... colors of slate are often seen on homes, schools, and churches and many other types of buildings along the Main Line, in Chestnut Hill and University City, and around the area. Slate was very popular among the Victorians and was very well suited to the various and intricate roofs of that period. Slate was popular not only because it was fireproof and extremely durable but also because it's gorgeous. The colors and textures of a slate roof make the roof an important part of the building's design and character.
Drawbacks? It's expensive (labor and materials) and it's heavy. Benefits? Slate is beautiful, fire-resistant and, depending on the slate used, application and maintenance - can last 100-200 years or more.
CD Kaller is a slate roofing contractor with real appreciation for older and historic buildings and our slaters are specialists in preserving that character on your slate roof whether its a small slate repair or a complete slate roof replacement or new installation. We can help with annual inspections and our highly skilled slaters can repair your slate roof so it retains its character and continues to protect your home for a very long time.
We are charter members of the Slate Roofing Contractors Association
Slate Roofing is a centuries old technology but it is still a great roofing option when either designing a roof for your home or faced with a slate roof that needs replacement. CD Kaller can install a new roof, replace an existing roof - or in many cases repair or replace small sections of your roof. When properly maintained slate can continue to look great and protect your house for a very long time.
Many slate roofs are already 100+ years old. Some of these roofs will eventually have to be replaced but others can continue to protect the home if maintained properly. In most cases, and especially on historic roofs, it is best to repair instead of replace whenever possible. A periodic inspection is the best way to determine how well you're roof is holding up. CD Kaller can identify issues such as broken, cracked, missing or weakened slates and repair these small issues before they become problems.
The National Park Service created a checklist to assist in the repair/replace decision making process, and on how to inspect and maintain your slate roof.
Slate Inspection/Maintenance Guidelines
- Inspect the roof's overall condition annually and after severe storms.
- For safety reasons, it is recommended that building owners and maintenance personnel carry out roof surveys from the ground using binoculars or from a cherry picker.
- Cracked, broken, misaligned, and missing slates and the degree to which delamination has occurred should be noted, along with failed flashings (pin holes, open seams, loose and misaligned elements, etc.) and broken or clogged downspouts.
- A roof plan or sketch and a camera can aid in recording problems and discussing them with contractors. In the attic, wood rafters and sheathing should be checked for water stains and rot. Critical areas are typically near the roof plate and at the intersection of roof planes, such as at valleys and hips.
- Regular maintenance should include cleaning gutters at least twice during the fall and once in early spring, and replacing damaged slates promptly.
- Every five to seven years inspections should be conducted by professionals experienced in working with slate and steep slopes. Good record keeping, in the form of a log book and the systematic filing of all bills and samples, can help in piecing together a roof's repair history and is an important part of maintenance.
- As part of regular maintenance, an attempt should be made to keep foot traffic off the roof. If maintenance personnel, chimney sweeps, painters, or others must walk on the roof, it is recommended that ladders be hooked over the ridge and that the workmen walk on the ladders to better distribute their weight. If slates are to be walked on, it is best to wear soft soled shoes and to step on the lower middle of the exposed portion of the slate unit.
Slate Repair/Replacement Guidelines
- Consider the age and condition of the roof versus its expected serviceable life given the type of slate employed.
- Calculate the number of damaged and missing slates. Is the number less than about 20%? Is the roof generally in good condition? If so, the roof should be evaluated for repair rather than replacement. Also, keep in mind that the older a roof becomes, the more maintenance it will likely require.
- Determine if there are active leaks and what their source may be. Do not assume the slates are leaking. Gutters, valleys and flashings are more likely candidates. "False leaks" can be caused by moisture condensation in the attic due to improper ventilation.
- Check the roof rafters and sheathing for moisture stains. Poke an awl into the wood to determine if it is rotted. Remember that very old, delaminating slates will hold moisture and cause adjacent wood members to deteriorate even if there are no apparent leaks.
- Are many slates sliding out of position? If so, it may be that ferrous metal fasteners were used and that these are corroding, while the slates are still in good condition. Salvage the slates and relay them on the roof. If the slates have worn around the nails holes, it may be necessary to punch new holes before relaying them.
- Consider the condition of the roof's flashings. Because slate is so durable, metal flashings often wear out before the slate does. Examine the flashings carefully. Even the smallest pinhole can permit large quantities of water to enter the building. Is the deterioration of the slate uniform? Often this is not the case. It may be that only one slope needs replacement and the other slopes can be repaired. In this way, the cost of replacement can be spread over many years.
- Press down hard on the slates with your hand. Sound slates will be unaffected by the pressure. Deteriorated slates will feel brittle and will crack. Tap on slates that have fallen out or been removed. A full, deep sound indicates a slate in good condition, while a dull thud suggests a slate in poor condition.
- Are new slates readily available? Even if replacement is determined to be necessary, the existing roof may have to be repaired to allow time for documentation and the ordering of appropriate replacement slates.
If you have questions about your existing slate roof or are interested in installing a new one we hope you will contact CD Kaller Inc. And please see our article on Why you should choose CD Kaller.