Tar coated slate roof (C) Daniel Friedman Temporary Repair for Slate Roofs
     


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Temporary or emergency repairs for leaky slate roofs: this article explains several holding actions to try to preserve slate roofs by making temporary repairs until proper slate roof repairs can be ordered. A patch job, even an ugly one can save a valuable slate roof until there is enough money to perform a proper repair.

But a bad slate roof patch job can make later repairs more difficult. Permanent slate roof repairs are discussed separately at SLATE ROOF REPAIRS.

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Holding actions for older, damaged, or leaky slate roofs

Tarred slate roof dormer valley (C) Daniel FriedmanIf a client cannot afford to replace a slate roof a wiser course may be to do nothing in the short run, other than to trap small leaks in an attic, or to tar leaky areas. Although these steps are not preferred, they are often better than abandoning what may be a valuable roof of predominantly durable slates.

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. Our page top photo shows a slate roof in Port Jervis, NY. This roof was coated throughout all of its surface in an attempt to slow roof wear and leaks. We also provide slate sources and where to buy slate roofing materials and slate roofing tools and products

Tarring leak areas in a slate roof is a very unpleasant and ugly holding action. However if a roof may be salvaged by deferring a proper repair for a short time we'd probably tolerate this step.

Advising clients that the only option is to complete a very expensive slate repair immediately is likely to result in an asphalt roof-over which may, in the long run, be a worse crime. This is clearly a matter of opinion.

What went wrong on the slate roof in our photo at left? Often the metal flashing has worn out and is leaking while the slates are still good on a roof - that's what happened at the valley of the roof dormer shown in the left side of our photo.

As a roof leak temporary repair or holding action the repairman tarred the roof valley over the dormer - which might have worked, but it looks as if during access to apply the tar the repairman walked on and broke and loosened slates in the area just below the valley.

You can also see tar running out from below some of the slates just under the valley, showing us the sequence of repairs. Five slates were replaced (notice the dark gray slates?). But the slate nails may also be failing on this roof - which could explain why there are loose, falling, and missing slates in the area of the "repair".

Where the slates are good but fasteners are failing, some roofers may be willing to remove, salvage, and reinstall slates. Slates which are less than 1/4" thick should be discarded. The increase in labor costs for this procedure makes this "re-roofing" process expensive.

Some slate companies suggest that this procedure might be selected as a continuing repair/maintenance process so that over a decade of maintenance the roof has been totally replaced.

It's likely that the total labor bill for a drawn-out project will be larger than the costs of an all-at-once repair. However this approach permits spreading out a large investment over a longer and less painful period. -- Personal communication, Vermont Structural Slate, December 1990

ASHI ethical guidelines require inspectors to have no financial connection with work performed on buildings they inspect. But where further evaluation and/or repair advice is needed it is perfectly proper, and in our opinion advisable, to refer clients to experienced, qualified slate roofers just as you would to an expert in another field for other concerns.

For slate roofs, refer clients only to roofers who have experience with slate materials. While we'd prefer to refer a client to three reputable experts, if we could locate only one in our area, by our opinion of what's most sensible, we'd refer to that one.

Contractors who are not familiar with slate and confronted by a leak in a valley or in an area of limited mechanical damage, may sell a complete re-roofing job to an anxious owner.

Similarly, improper repairs or traffic on a roof with fragile fasteners or slates, may cause much more new damage than was present before.

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