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  • Writer's pictureJohn Greene GDC

How rare are true master slaters or coppersmiths?

My name is John Greene

and I'm a master slater and coppersmith here at GDC Slate and Copper. We have been repairing and replacing slate and copper roofs in New England since 1931. Today I would like to talk about your historical slate and copper roofs health and what it takes to keep these roofs in good condition. Let's start with some basics. This is a specialists profession and there are not many of us around. We are from New Hampshire and I am not aware of another master slater or coppersmith in the state of NH or within 590 miles. There are many contractors saying they do slate and copper however their work and tools say otherwise. For example our tools that we work with on slate are not available. Our tools are in most cases over 100 years old. We have a museum full of slating tools to choice from which have been in use in our company for 80 years. This is a very basic requirement. If you don't have the tools for historical slate and copper you can't preform the work required. Although this is a basic requirement in my profession it is the first requirement failure by 99% of all so called slate roof contractors. The lack of knowledge and appropriate tools is absolutely epidemic. Because of this shortage of qualified slate and copper specialists it is very common for our jobs to include very basic repair work of the slate and copper which was damaged by the poor workmanship of the unqualified contractor. This problem is an old one. It started when roofing manufacturers introduced lesser quality materials to the market and pushed for the shortest replacement cycle of roof possible. By doing this they were able to sell more products and make more money. The old ways of doing things were pushed aside and a new generation of roofs began. The old timers who knew slating and copper work have mostly died off and with them that knowledge of the slate with was carried over to the USA from the Welsh, English and German. The paradox is now that they pushed these specialists out for inferior roof products the existing roofs that were slate have survived the test of time and are now squarely the problem of the current generation as the slate roofs are in need of repairs that most don't know how to repair them. The alternative solution of course is to replace them with modern inferior material such as asphalt shingles. The truth is that most slate roofs just need basic maintenance but more than likely don't get it for lack of available knowledgeable slate roofers. What we have now is a large group of modern roofers that are really causing even more damage to these historical slate roofs. I see it everyday and I fix it everyday. What i even more amusing is that good money is paid to these unqualified contractors to damage good slate and copper roofs!!! If you have a historical slate or copper roof in need of service let us know we are here for you. Start by looking over the tools. Historical slate and copper restoration starts with the tools and the ability to select the correct slate tooling for the appropriate slate. I will expand on this as needed per the slate roof type in question. I will discuss slate identification next as it is necessary to know where your stone came from and what it is to work with it.

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