Things to Consider When Buying a House With a Slate Roof

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As with any roofing material, you should factor slate roof pros and cons into your list of considerations when you purchase a home with slate roofing. For starters, you need to consider slate roof life expectancy in relation to the age of the house. Additionally, you should learn about the right measures to take if issues arise with slate shingles during the time you own a property.

Overall, homes with slate roofing are among the best properties on today's market. However, any prospective homebuyer should learn some basic facts about the stone and its qualities before moving into a slate-roofed property. Read on for advice on buying a home with slate roof tiles.

How Old Is the Roof?

Slate is one of the longest-lasting roofing options available on today's market. In fact, slate shingles can last as long as 200 years in favorable environments. As such, many homes built in the late 19th and early 20th century still have their original slate roofing intact. Then again, if you purchase an older home with slate roofing, it is important to know some basic things about the background of the slate.

There are two basic types of slate roofing — hard slate and soft slate. Hard slate is one of the strongest types of roofing available regarding weather resilience and fire resistance. As a hard stone, slate will not absorb water or become warped from exposure to moisture. Furthermore, slate will maintain its composition for decades on end. Shingles composed of hard slate can last anywhere from 75 to 200 years.

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Soft slate, as the name implies, is the less durable of the two. Even though it is a stone, its overall composition lacks the near-invincibility of hard slate. Consequently, shingles made of soft slate generally have a life expectancy of 50 to 125 years. Granted, soft slate still has the same weather-resistant and fireproof qualities of its harder counterpart.

Before you decide on the purchase of a home with slate roofing, learn about the age and quality of the slate. If the shingles are approaching the end of their natural lifespan, you might have to replace them during the time you own the property.

What Is the Warranty on the Roof?

The terms of a roof warranty will often depend on the manufacturer. Some warranties will cover the roofing materials against defectiveness for several decades, yet only hold the contractor liable for a few years from the completion date of an installation. Certain manufacturers will guarantee their roofing materials for anywhere from 75 to 100 years.

However, not all warranty policies transfer from one homeowner to another. Some policies do transfer, but only once. Therefore, if a previous property owner installed a slate roof a decade ago, and now the current owner wants to sell, the next owner of the property will not be able to inherit the warranty.

Policies on roof warranties can also depend on local law. In any case, when you set your sights on a home with slate roofing, research the terms of the roof warranty and whether it will be transferable to you. If the shingles were installed poorly or the tiles become damaged due to severe weather, it is best to know in advance whether any roofing expenses will be covered.

How Much Will It Cost to Replace My Slate Shingles?

If you move into a home with slate roofing, you probably won't have to replace the roof during the years you own the property. After all, slate shingles can last up to 200 years. Unless the house pre-dates the construction of the Statue of Liberty, chances are you won't be the lucky homeowner to preside over the property when the shingles finally do expire. That said, you might need to get the roof maintained if damage occurs in select areas.

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Two main types of problems can arise when maintaining slate roofs — broken tiles and faulty flashing. Select tile replacements can sometimes rectify the first problem. If the roofing consists of hard slate, it is probably salvageable as long as you get the broken tiles replaced as soon as possible.

The most significant mistake some homeowners make in this situation is to ignore the problem until more tiles break, by which point rainwater can make its way under the slate and penetrate the roofing foundation. Once the problem has advanced to that level, the only option is a total roof replacement. Likewise, a problem with faulty flashing will generally require a full roof restoration.

When roofing comprised of soft slate begins to crack, it is better to get new roofing. Soft slate is more liable to crack, and the cause of one crack could easily spread to other parts of the roof. If new roofing is required, consider upgrading to shingles made of hard slate.

To determine the cost of shingle roofing, multiply the price per square of shingles by the square footage of your house, as roof and house footages generally correlate to one another.

Who Manufactured the Shingles?

In any given neighborhood where multiple homes have slate shingles, the quality of the slate is liable to vary. The disparity between each roof will often be due to the age of the shingles and the maintenance, or lack thereof, employed by successive generations of homeowners. However, the differences in slate quality will often boil down to the company that manufactured the shingles.

As noted, there are hard and soft forms of slate. Shingle manufacturers that use only the former quality of slate will generally produce the longest-lasting shingles. That said, other differences separate the best manufacturers from some of the lesser brands on the market, and it all boils down to those who use real slate versus cheaper imitation productions.

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One of the telltale signs of genuine slate is its inconsistency. Slate shingles will have a rough, rocky texture and vary in color from tile to tile. Imitation slate, on the other hand, will usually have a consistent appearance and a flatter, smoother texture. Some manufacturers try to pass imitation slate off as the real thing on unsuspecting homeowners. Therefore, it is important to know real slate from fake slate, as the latter has neither the value or longevity of the real thing.

Who Installed the Shingles?

Slate shingles require an advanced degree of skill to apply properly on a residential rooftop. Poorly applied shingles will lead to problems that will compromise the integrity and longevity of the slate. Therefore, slate shingles should only be installed by a licensed roofing company with years of experience.

With slate shingles, the slightest imperfection could cause a shingle to fall off. The exposed area would then be vulnerable to leaks. Due to the price of slate and the complicated nature of the installation process, a missing slate shingle is more difficult to replace than a wood or asphalt shingle. A slate shingle, after all, is not as easy to replicate as a cedar shingle.

Despite the high stakes involved in the installation process, a lot of less-than-qualified roofing companies apply slate shingles on residential properties. In worst-case scenarios, the installer might crack a shingle or two while walking over the roof. Therein lies one of the weaknesses of slate — its vulnerability to motion pressure. When someone walks on a slate roof without care, slate shingles can crack.

Other problems with a poorly installed slate roof may involve an inconsistent layout. If gaps exist anywhere between the shingles, water can seep under the slate and form saturation points on the underlying wood. Therefore, only the most skilled and qualified of installers should work on slate shingle projects.

If you ever need the shingles replaced on your roof, only have the work performed by a licensed company that specializes in slate, preferably with years of experience.

Do They Specialize in Slate Roofing?

When you have a slate roof installed or maintained, the work should only be done by roofing professionals with extensive backgrounds in the application of slate. This qualifier is crucial, considering the special handling required for slate shingles. A roofer with little or no knowledge of slate is liable to make mistakes during an installation that could lead to costly problems soon after completion.

A common mistake among roofers is to employ the same application methods that work for other types of roofing materials. For starters, the roofer might break tiles while walking across the roof during the installation process. Even worse, the roofer might leave the fasteners exposed to rain and snow.

One thing a roofer should never do is coat slate shingles. There is no reason for slate to have any coating, as the stone is, by nature, resistant to fire, rain, snow, hail and wind. Roofers who leave nails exposed — "face-nailing," as the problem is called — have been known to cover the imperfection with tar when performing repair work. In cases like these, tar often winds up brushed along the shingles. When covered with tar or any other coat, the surface of the slate loses its aesthetic luster.

Roofers who are inexperienced with slate will often not know how to distribute the tiles on a roof properly. When doing partial roof repairs, the roofer might mismatch the color of the new and pre-existing tiles. Mistakes like these can be difficult and costly to reverse. Make sure any company you hire for installation or repair work on a slate roof has plenty of experience with handling the stone.

Does the Roofing Company Provide Maintenance as Needed? What Kind of Maintenance Is Required?

If you have full or partial slate roofing on your property, it is important to choose a company that will offer maintenance work, if needed, should problems arise. Maintenance work will often be covered under warranty with the roofing company. However, each company has different policies, so the length of the warranty and the types of issues that are covered will depend on which company does your roofing.

Slate, in general, requires little or no maintenance because the stone does not rust, warp or attract mold. As such, a slate roof is unlikely to be damaged by any natural event short of an earthquake or a tornado. That said, slate tiles can crack if you walk on them. Therefore, it is best to avoid walking on a slate rooftop for any reason. Trim nearby tree branches, so they don't land on the rooftop. If your cat likes to climb up walls, don't let it out of your sight when you let it roam outdoors.

When problems do arise with slate shingles, the issue is typically down to tiles with face nails, on which the fastener gets exposed over time to rainfall, snow and water buildup, which can lead to rusty nails that ultimately fail to hold the shingles.

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Benefits of a Slate Roof

Slate roofing is one of the most valued features a home can have on today's real estate market. Houses with slate shingles tend to attract lots of attention from prospective homebuyers. Slate is valuable because of its longevity and aesthetic appeal. In fact, slate can last for more than a century and match with virtually any style of architecture.

The longevity of slate is key to its value in the eyes of homeowners. After all, roofing can be expensive. Slate is one of the few roofing options that doesn't need to be replaced within the span of a lifetime. In most environments, slate shingles will last at least 125 years and sometimes as long as 200 years. As such, slate will outlast multiple generations of occupants at a given address.

Slate is also widely considered one of the most beautiful roofing materials. As a stone, slate has a natural, timeless appeal that never goes out of style. Slate shingles complement classic homes from the 19th century as well as modernist homes built in recent decades. Moreover, slate is one of the most diverse roofing options when it comes to color. Slate tiles are available in tones of green, red, purple, grey and black.

The biggest of all benefits regarding slate is its strength. Slate can withstand all types of weather patterns, year after year. In areas where snow and hail are common during winter months, slate can bear the weather unscathed. Slate will not rust or attract mold. Furthermore, slate is fire-resistant. Basically, a home is a whole lot safer with slate roofing.

Slate Shingle Roofing from Huber & Associates

A slate roof could be one of the most valuable features on a residential property. If you move into a house with a slate roof, you might never have to replace or repair the roof for as long as you own the property, even if you remain at that address for many decades.

With all the benefits of slate shingles, slate is one of the best choices you can make if you have a wood or asphalt roof that needs to be replaced. At Huber & Associates, we have provided customized slate roofing on homes, businesses, and other institutions for more than 40 years. Look through our service offerings and contact us today to request a quote.