Walking on Slate Roofs - How to Stay Safe
Author: Brian Carpenter|Date: October 2, 2019
Once in a while, certain parts of our home will need maintenance. If you’re the do-it-yourself kind of person, this won’t be a problem, especially with the plethora of instructional guides and videos all over the internet. With a little bit of elbow grease, things like replacing fuses, installing shelves, and repairing doors can be done by the average person.
However, there are some parts of the house that will need professional contractors to get the job done. This will be because the job will either require technical understanding and skill, specialized tools and equipment, or the nature of the work is just too dangerous.
The goes for installing, maintaining, and basically just walking on slate roofs.
As a roofing material, slate is one of the oldest and best options. In terms of architectural aesthetics, slate roofing makes a house look elegant and classy. Slate also stands well against both fire and ice; and helps in regulating the home’s temperature. It is therefore no wonder that is such a popular roofing choice in Frederick, MD, especially in 19th century homes and buildings.
Slate’s durability is also excellent, lasting for decades, even centuries. Often, slate roofs are so great against the tests of time that it can even outlast the building itself.
However, despite its great qualities, slate roofs will require maintenance from time to time. There will be times, especially if the roof is near a tree, or if the home went through strong winds, that a tile or two will be dislodged or broken. In which case, somebody needs to get up there and fix it. Hopefully, you’ll have the wisdom to hire a professional roofing repair contractor by the time your finish reading this.
Getting Up There
As a rule, it is generally ill-advised to get up on a slate roof. First of all, there is the danger of falling. Even from a single-story house, a ten-foot drop is not exactly something that anyone can just walk off. Second, slate is a slippery surface, especially when wet: which is why you should never go up the roof after a rain. Finally, the very thing that makes slate a great roofing material is also the reason not anyone should be walking on it: slate roof tiles cleave easily along its grain with the right force; from either a well-aimed hammer or a clumsily placed foot.
Like previously mentioned, repairing and maintaining a slate roof requires a lot of know-how and tools that may not be available for the average person. It will require people who know what they’re doing and have the right tools to do it.
First up, access to the roof will require more than just a ladder. Before anyone even gets up there, the roof surface must be cleared of any obstacles. Moss is also a factor that needs to be considered, since slate lends itself to moss growth, making the surface even more slippery. And since slate is slippery when wet, the repair should happen on a dry and sunny day.
Electrical hazards will also have to be something to be cautious about. Modern homes will have a lot of wiring along the roof; and your contractor will have to take not of where they are to avoid their roofers being electrocuted.
The types of ladders will also be something that won’t put any force on the roofing tiles. Walking on slate roofs will either cause the tiles to slip or be broken, which defeats the whole purpose of why you’re up there. Most commercial roofing contractors will usually use chicken ladders when doing the job, so that they won’t be stepping directly on the roof.
Fixing Slate Roofs
Slate can be a finicky material when handled, which is why specialized tools are required in removing and installing them. You will need a slate ripper to take out a damaged slate and then nails that keep it in place. After that, you’ll need a slate cutter to trim the replacement tile to size. When you have your proper-sized replacement tile, you’ll need to slide it into place; hammer it down with copper nails, making sure you use just the right amount of force to nail it properly in place; then install the copper sliding under it; then making sure everything is waterproof with asphalt or caulk.
Fortunately for homeowners in the Frederick MD area, Semper West Roofing is right there for you and your roofing needs. With over three decades of experience in the roofing service industry, you can rest assured that they will set up and fix your slate roofs using the best quality materials used by their expert roofers and craftsmen.
We're so glad we selected Semper West for our roofing, gutter replacement, and front door trim repair project. The owner, Brian, gave an informative presentation of their services, and explained all the options, methods and materials they use. Brian quoted a very competitive price without us having to ask. He also provided full documentation on their licensing, insurance, and bonding with the estimate.
The job was scheduled within two weeks and work began shortly thereafter. They did NOT ask for an up-front deposit or require payment until we were fully satisfied. Their crew chiefs, Lance & John, were always available to answer our questions and were key to ensuring a great job! Highly recommended!
- David M. Brookeville, MD