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Natural slate, repair and maintenance.

Hi there!
Its been a while since my last post here, mainly down to the fact we have been very busy over the last few months. A complaint I hope to use more often!!
Anyway, I'd like to thanks those who have took time to read my posts over the last year, and those who have left comments, both positive and negative. Like everyone I learn from the opinions of others.

I recently came across an article written by an american guy called Jeffrey S. Levine, all about natural slate roofing and just wanted to share a short extract with you that highlights some important tips when it comes to repairing and maintaining this type of roofing. I like how he mentions the use of mastic or glues as a no, no when it comes to making repairs, something many roofers or repair men use as a quick fix or easy way of making a quick quid...


Repairing Slate Roofs:

Broken, cracked, and missing slates should be repaired promptly by an experienced slater in order to prevent water damage to interior finishes, accelerated deterioration of the roof and roof sheathing, and possible structural degradation to framing members.The damaged slate is first removed by cutting or pulling out its nails with a ripper. If steel cut nails, rather than copper nails, were used in laying the roof, adjacent slates may be inadvertently damaged or displaced in the ripping process, and these, too, will have to be repaired. If the slate does not slide out by itself, the pointed end of the ,slate hammer can be punched into the slate and the slate dragged out. A new slate, or salvaged slate, which should match the size, shape, texture, and weathered color of the old slate, is then slid into place and held in position by one nail inserted through the vertical joint between the slates in the course above and approximately one inch below the tail of the slate two courses above. 
copper bib protecting newly created nail hole 
After removing the deteriorated slate and sliding the new slate into place, it is secured with a copper nail. A copper bib (shown here) is formed to protect the newly created nail hole. Finally, a slate hammer is used to push the bib in place over the nail head. Photo: Jeffrey S. Levine.To prevent water penetration through the newly created nail hole, a piece of copper with a friction fit, measuring roughly 3" (7.5 cm) in width and 8" (20 cm) in length, is slid lengthwise under the joint between the two slates located directly above the new slate and over the nail. Alternate methods for securing the replacement slate include the use of metal hooks, clips, and straps that are bent over the tail end of the slate. The application of roofing mastic or sealants to damaged slates should not be considered a viable repair alternative because these materials, though effective at first, will eventually harden and crack, thereby allowing water to enter.
Mastic also makes future repairs more difficult to execute, is unsightly, and, when applied to metal flashings, accelerates their corrosion.When two or more broken slates lie adjacent to each other in the same course, or when replacing leaky valley flashings, it is best to form pyramids (i.e., to remove a diminishing number of slates from higher courses) to keep the number of bibs required to a minimum. When reinstalling the slates, only the top slate in each pyramid will need a bib. Slates along the sides of the pyramid will receive two nails, one above the other, along the upper part of its exposed edge.

A roof and its associated flashings, gutters, and downspouts function as a system to shed water. Material choices should be made with this in mind. For example, use a single type of metal for all flashings and the rainwater conductor system to avoid galvanic action. Choose materials with life spans comparable to that of the slate, such as nonferrous nails. Use heavier gauge flashings or sacrificial flashings in areas that are difficult to access or subject to concentrated water flows. 
Flashings are the weakest point in any roof. Given the permanence of slate, it is poor economy to use anything but the most durable of metals and the best workmanship for installing flashings. Copper is one of the best flashing materials, and along with terne, is most often associated with historic slate roofs. Copper is extremely durable, easily worked and soldered, and requires little maintenance. Sixteen ounce copper sheet is the minimum weight recommended for flashings. Lighter weights will not endure the erosive action of dust and grit carried over the roof by rain water. Heavier weight, 20 oz. (565 grams) or 24 oz. (680 grams), copper should be used in gutters, valleys, and areas with limited accessibility. Lead coated copper has properties similar to copper and is even more durable due to its additional lead coating. Lead coated copper is often used in restoration work.Terne is a less desirable flashing material since it must be painted periodically. Terne coated stainless steel (TCS) is a modernday substitute for terne. Although more difficult to work than terne, TCS will not corrode if left unpainted; a great advantage, especially in areas that are difficult to access.Once a metal is chosen, it is important to use it throughout for all flashings, gutters, downspouts, and metal roofs. Mixing of dissimilar metals can lead to rapid corrosion of the more electronegative metal by galvanic action. Where flashings turn up a vertical surface, they should be covered with a cap flashing. Slates which overlap metal flashings should be nailed in such a manner as to avoid puncturing the metal. This may be accomplished by punching a second hole about 2" (5cm) above the existing hole on the side of the slate not overlapping the metal flashing. It is important that holes be punched from the back side of the slate. In this way, a shallow countersink is created on the face of the slate in which the head of the nail may sit.The use of artificial, mineral fiber slate is not recommended for restoration work since its rigid appearance is that of a manmade material and not one of nature. Artificial slates may also have a tendency to fade over time. And, although artificial slate costs less than natural slate, the total initial cost of an artificial slate roof is only marginally less than a natural slate roof. This is because all the other costs associated with replacing a slate roof, such as the cost of labor, flashings, and tearingoff the old roof, are equal in both cases. Over the long term, natural slate tends to be a better investment because several artificial slate roofs will have to be installed during the life span of one natural slate roof. 
application of roofing felt 
Roofing felt is being installed over the decking; a rubberized membrane is used selctively at the eaves and under some flashing. Photo: NPS files.Clear roof expanses can be covered by an experienced slater and one helper at the rate of about two to three squares per day. More complex roofs and the presence of chimneys, dormers, and valleys can bring this rate down to below one square per day. One square per day is a good average rate to use in figuring how long a job will take to complete. This takes into account the installation of flashings and gutters and the setup and breakdown of scaffolding. Tear-off of the existing roof will require additional time.
 
Repair/Replacement Guideline

The following guideline is provided to assist in the repair/replace decision making process:
1. Consider the age and condition of the roof versus its expected serviceable life given the type of slate employed.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.

Maintenance:

Given the relatively high initial cost of installing a new slate roof, it pays to inspect its overall condition annually and after several 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 lowermiddle of the exposed portion of the slate unit.

Conclusion

Slate roofs are a critical design feature of many historic buildings that cannot be duplicated using substitute materials. Slate roofs can, and should be, maintained and repaired to effectively extend their serviceable lives. When replacement is necessary, details contributing to the appearance of the roof should be retained. High quality slate is still available from reputable quarries and, while a significant investment, can be a cost effective solution over the long term.

7 Comments to Natural slate, repair and maintenance.:

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Home improvement contractor on 25 April 2013 13:57
Regular roof maintenance is your best bet to avoiding costly repairs, damage, and total roof replacement.I like the way you write the post to the point. I really appreciate and keep writing!
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Repairing your roof can be a cost effective way to increase efficiency and prevent extensive replacement efforts.Keep sharing your excellent work.
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Benz on 22 August 2013 07:05
I found this post really very informative, as I am looking for roof repairing tips from past few days. The roof leakage is creating trouble for me and wants to get from this as early as possible. Though our house is insured but our insurance company has cheated on us and put us in legal complications as well. I am planning to hire an expert solicitor who can help me to recover the claim.
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A/c repair phoenix on 14 February 2014 14:29
you describe the whole information about the repair of roofing. I was searching for this kind of services.
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