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  • Writer's pictureJohn Greene GDC

Identification of your historical slate roof. It's Important!!!

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Why is it important to know what kind of slate I have? Here's why

hard slate vs. soft roof slate

The type of slate you have will determine if it is a long life slate or if it is in need of replacement. Softer slate wears out and is no longer viable as roof slate. Hard slate like Vermont slate, Monson slate, and others is better and will last much longer that soft slate. It is also important to identify the slate that you have so any repairs are a matching slate. Different slates can also be better suited for the slate hammer in use. For example a harder slate may require a german hammer where as a less dense slate may be more suited for a sharper pick Brades strap (English) different slates require different tooling and are better suited for it. The English Brades hammers are some of my favorite for a few reason one of which is that the pick end is very sharp and will break less slate than its American counter parts such as the Belden and Pexto design. These heavier American hammers certainly have their place and I will cover that in a different Blog. The idea that one modern hammer is suited for every quarry stone application is not correct. Though more often than not a roofer claiming to work on slate roofs can't usually supply more than one modern hammer and has no idea what the proper tools look like! I realize I am discussing some older tools here some of which haven't been manufactured or smithed in over 100 years but that is what is necessary to service historical slate roofs. Part of the reason our slate roof company is so valuable a resource is our collection of slate tools which simply are no longer available to the trade. Some of our slate tooling is from the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s. These are rare by nature and we have most ever slate hammer made and we use them. Let me put this in perspective. Would you let someone open your Rolex watch with a Stanley flat blade screwdriver? This is the equivalent letting and contractor work on your historical roof with a modern tool and poor knowledge of the slate roof. The screw drive may open the watch but at a cost of destroying it. When contractors work on slate and copper and don't know how make no mistake they will cause large amounts of damage very quickly.

Availability of your roof slate.

This is another important detail. Some slates are no longer quarried such as Monson roof slate. These are going to be harder to find but they are available if a qualified slater knows where to look or has saved a stockpile as is the case with our company. Even if you have a slate that is still available you will need to order it up to 10 weeks in advance with some quarries like VT. Greenstone quarry. So planning for availability is key.

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