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ROOFING INSPECTION & REPAIR
AMERICAN CEMWOOD ROOFING
BEST ROOFING PRACTICES
BUILT UP ROOFS
CATHEDRAL CEILING VENTILATION
CERTIFICATIONS for ROOFING CONTRACTORS
CHIMNEY FLASHING Mistakes & Leaks
COLD WEATHER ROOF TROUBLE
DECKS, ROOFTOP CONSTRUCTION
EPDM, RUBBER, PVC ROOFING
EXTRACTIVE BLEEDING on SHINGLES
FIRE RETARDANT PLYWOOD
FLASHING on BUILDINGS
FLAT ROOF MOISTURE & CONDENSATION
Green House or Solarium Roof Leaks
HEAT TAPES & CABLES on Roofs for Ice Dams
ICE DAM PREVENTION
MASONITE WOODRUF FIBERBOARD ROOFING
NOISE CONTROL for ROOFS
PLASTIC ROOFING TYPES
PVC, EPDM, RUBBER ROOFING
ROOF ARCHITECTURAL STYLES - PHOTO GUIDE
ROOF CLEANING RECOMMENDATIONS
ROOF COLOR RECOMMENDATIONS
ROOF DORMER TYPES - PHOTO GUIDE
ROOF INSPECTION SAFETY & LIMITS
ROOF JOB PROBLEMS, RESOLVING
ROOF LEAK DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
ROOF NOISE TRANSMISSION
ROOF REPLACEMENT SNAFUs
ROOFING FELT UNDERLAYMENT REQUIREMENTS
ROOFING MATERIALS, Age, Types
ROOFING TILE SHAPES & PROFILES
ROOFING UNDERLAYMENT BEST PRACTICES
SADDLE CONSTRUCTION at CHIMNEYS
SNOW GUARDS & SNOW BRAKES
STANDARDS for ROOFING
STRESS SKIN INSULATED PANELS
TEST LABS - ROOF SHINGLE
TREES & SHRUBS, TRIM OFF BUILDING
TRUSSES, Floor & Roof
UNDERLAYMENT REQUIREMENTS on ROOFS
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
WALK-ON ROOF SURFACES
WARRANTIES for ROOF SHINGLES
WORKMANSHIP & ROOF DAMAGE
Slate roof installation workmanship: this article explains various factors that help determine the quality and thus life expectancy of a slate roof. This series of detailed slate roof inspection and repair articles describes procedures for evaluating the condition of slate roofing. How to inspect, identify defects, and estimate remaining life of slate roofs are addressed. The article series also references slate repair procedures, repair slate sources, and slate quarries. An earlier version of this article appeared in the winter 1991 issue of the ASHI Technical Journal - the content has been edited and updated for this online version - March 2010.
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The following may all be indications that the roof is failing from the condition of the slate nails:
In our opinion, galvanized flashings (or too-thin thin copper or painted steel) are a mistake on slate roofs. The flashing is very likely to wear, rust, and fail before the slates. While replacing flashings is quite possible and appropriate, it's often expensive and if not done by an experienced slate roofer, there is risk of costly damage to the roof.
We had a client this year whose slate roof was damaged by the mason working on the chimney. He accepted a low-bidder for roof repairs. We found asphalt shingles nailed over and around the area of damaged slates. To say that the roof leaked was the least aggravating observation concerning this work.
Inspecting from the attic interior may also give clues to fastener age, type, and condition if some nails are visible. You may see tips of nails, depending on the length of fasteners used.
Slate Roof Installation Pattern as a Factor in Slate Roof Life
Hand punching of nail holes in slates: Because most roofs have at least some custom slate fitting (for example at valleys), some slates are hand-punched and may be fractured around the nail hole. Usually only two holes are punched, 1.25" to 2" from either side and about a quarter of the length of the slate down from the top.
More holes and more nails may be used to hang thicker heavier slates. Where battens or spaced roof sheathing are used the spacing of the battens will affect where the holes are punched in the slates. Slates punched too close to their centers or too low in the slate are more likely to leak when water seeps down in a fan-shaped pattern from the vertical abutment of the sides of the slates in the next course up the roof.
If you are inspecting a roof which frequently leaks following prolonged rains, and if the slates and flashings look pretty good, and if leaks are everywhere, you might look for improper punching or nailing errors. Don't rush to condemn the roof - how often and how badly does it leak? Under what conditions? What is being damaged? Where is water going?
Nail tightness: Slates should hang loosely on the nail. Nails too tight may break the slate as they're pulled through it as wood shrinks. Nails not driven fully are likely to break the slate above.
Other signs of poor installation include inadequate side laps. Side Lapped slate pattern.
Side laps on slate roofs should be not less than 3" and each side-joint should be as near as possible to the center of the slate below. Particularly where improper repairs have been done you may find violations of this rule. Inadequate side laps risk leaks as a result of wind-driven rain. Inadequate side laps might be suspected on roofs which use varying-width or graduated width shingles. However some experienced roofers and inspectors commented that graduated, random-width, graduated width slate roofs were more costly than other slate systems and were often installed by more skilled roofers.
Do not mistake graduated or random slate sizes for necessarily improper application.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about how to determine the quality or workmanship of a slate roof installation
Questions & answers or comments about how to assess the quality of workmanship on a slate roof installation job.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.