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Repairing a Slate Roof

If you are lucky enough to own a house with a slate roof, then you have a roof that in whole will last 100 years. But, every now and then, a slate will break and come sliding off the roof with the snow. I will talk about repairing individual slates in this article, and leave major repairs, restoration and new installation to your roofer.

What you will need:

  • New (or used) slate to replace the broken one
  • A ladder or scaffold to safely reach the area you will need to work on
  • A Slate Roofing Tool
  • 2 inch Galvanized roofing nail
  • Flashing (copper or galvanized sheet metal) 3"x6"
  • Hammer, Nail Set
Roofing "ripper" tool

Purchase the replacement slate

Well, you may have to hunt around a little to find someone that sells them. Here is the url of place I have used (if you are in the Vermont neighborhood) Vermont Specialty Slate, Inc. Slate comes in all sizes and colors, so if you are going to pick yours up, bring a sample of the ones on your house. If you are buying only a few, you should be making sure you are buying sound slate right there at the dealer. Rap it with your knuckle and it should ring (sort of). A cracked slate will sound sort of hollow. You shouldn't be able to break a sound slate over your thigh. (One day of doing this and I knew my legs and knuckles weren't cut out for this line of work). Now, back to the house....

Getting up onto the roof

Of course, you need to be able to get to the broken slate's location. If it is on or near the edge of the roof, you can probably get to it from a ladder. If it is somewhere in the middle or near the top of the roof, then you will need more than one ladder to get to it. A slate roof shouldn't be walked on, since you can be causing more damage up there then you are repairing. So for those hard to reach spot, another ladder (a light wooden ladder will do) with a roof ridge hook on the end will provide a surface from which to work. You will need to carry this ladder up to the roof and slide the end with the hook up to the ridge to hook it. Then you can climb onto this ladder, and with your weight safely spread out over a larger area, you can work on that slate.

Removing the old slate

Removing the old slate and/or the nails. The slate is nailed up with 2 nails (generally) and using your slate roofing tool slide it up under the shingles above the broken slate to hook on the nails that held it in place. Once the nail is hooked, use your hammer to bang back on the tool to yank the nail out of the roof. Use the tool to sweep back and forth all the way up to where the new slate will go to be sure it is free of nails and loose pieces of slate.

Installing the new Shingle

Now slide your new shingle up into place. Line it up with the other slate in the row. Secure the slate with ONE nail going between the two slates above it all the wall up to just below the slate in the course above that. Use a galvanized 2 inch roofing nail. Set the nail using a nail set, to just below the height of the two shingles on either side of the nail, but don't hit the nail beyond that to avoid setting it into the new slate.

Flash the nail

Cover this nail head with a piece of copper or galvanized flashing that is 3 inches wide by about 6-8 inches long. It should slide all the way up under the shingle above the nail to just cover the nail head. You may need to use the nail set to help slide it up since you are pushing it up between the two slates on either side of the nail.

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