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Elizabeth Heghinian
New member
Username: Bbclarinet

Post Number: 9
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Wednesday, June 04, 2008 - 03:06 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'm also a non-slater homeowner with PA Gray slate. Initially, I thought less than 25% of the roof slate needed replacing. The repairs turned out to be an almost new roof with all the damage discovered. As I began to do my own investigating, after my having depended on 4 allegedly "professional" slaters, I found lots of decay and shoddy workmanship, including wood needing replacing. Even a NSA (National Slate Association) roofer told me I was insane and my roof was fine. At least when one is insane, one is allowed to make mistakes, a privilege not grated to sane people. Hence, I proceeded to prove or disprove my hypothesis of help possibly needed for my roof. I listened to my inner voice and am glad I did. Extensive damage was caused by fraudulent roofing practices -- interior carpenter rusting nails on the roof, tar on copper flashing, thin pieces of aluminum covering up holes in wood, aluminum touching copper, etc. The roof had been passed each time by the town bldg. inspector and there were no leaks, y e t. I was fortunate to accidentally stumble across the great and only Joe Jenkins, one kind enough to answer technical questions, respond to snapshots I sent to him accompanied with concerns, and steer me in the right direction, including a Quarry that I drove to pick up the slate, which consumed a day's drive from near Manhattan in NJ to the Penn Big Bed Slate Co., in Slatington, PA. The men there are also slaters, not like the local roofing supply places. I also have a couple of referrals of local slaters to try from the NSA Quarry man who don't advertise. I asked for these because (a) he is a slater and thinks like one, (b) the outfits Joe recommended were not all that local, over 30 min away, so that if an emergency should arise I could be stuck and (c) the outfits I could find were only interested in new slate roofs, not maintenance of existing ones, including cleaning the roof of leaves in the fall and oak blossoms in the spring. Although (c) doesn't net much profit in comparison to a new roof, it is a necessary preventative maintenance to minimize moisture and thus the decay rate of the slate. I have tons of oak trees where I am. I wanted someone who knows how to walk on slate and assess the slate, to replace it if necessary for these biannual cleanings. When my main roofer retired, I had and still have no one. The reason for the Quarry need is that, actually, I could not buy PA Gray slate locally in northeastern NJ/NYC Metro area and was told by many outfits such a type of slate does not exist. Thus, I persisted in my insanity. I could only carry in my Subaru Outback Impreza Sport a max. of 100 12x14" slate, about 400 lbs per 220 mi round trip, but I did so numerous times. There, I met the VP of the National Slate Association who works at the Quarry, who also gave me guidance and who knows Joe Jenkins. They have a roof of PA Gray Slate there that has lasted since Civil War days in good shape, no leaks, i.e. the 1860s, not bad for 75 years. I think this speaks for the quality of the slate and slaters. Since I ended up having so much roof and carpentry work to do for the labor invested, it made sense to have a quality uniform slate product. The coverage turned out to be over 85% of the entire house, which I never would have guessed would be the case.

For your Question #3, although I would ask someone with greater knowledge, I would say that the best answer to give is "it depends". If too many slate need replacing, to be determined as the Slater is working and who may bump into unanticipated troubles, as I did, then re-roofing is probably best. If there isn't much damage underneath and the slate is in decent enough shape overall that only a small amount need replacement, I'd probably just replace those slates. Due to the quantity of slate I now knew I needed at the end, since the job was bigger than anticipated, I used to have the remainder slate shipped to me, but the Quarry has shipping arrangements, too. There was more breakage of the slate, no one's fault, only because the slate I carried in the interior of my vehicle, which never did break, had the Kyb shock absorbers I installed that will outlast the life of the vehicle and the truck's trailer lacked these. I also got supplies through It cannot hurt to compare pricing with your getting the materials the contractor states he wants and the price if he supplies all materials. If you get the slate yourself, the contractor can only guarantee his labor, however. If you have any doubts of the contractor's abilities, get the guarantee. In some cases, it may be cheaper not and unnecessary to have the warranty, but only if you have a good, competent Slater. If the job is done right, only basic, normal care would ever be required. If the job is done wrong, no warranty will be sufficient for the hassles of repeated visiting addressing the same action items. I did my roof only because I could not find a local Slater, was tired of my repeatingly paying new roofers to do the job right the first time and ending up with still more roofing bills, needed a roof. I learned basic slating as I went along, a truly fascinating science. Necessity is the mother of invention or education. I am an electrical engineer, not a slater, and am sharing thoughts.

You (or someone who can climb a ladder) might want to take some digital shots of your slate that you deem to be the slate in question or that your roofing contractors have suggested you replace (I had each contractor take shots with my digital camera so I could review the photos and compare these to the data I saw on and in Joe Jenkins' book, The Slate Roof Bible, which I highly recommend all slate building owners read. What I was unable to determine, Joe was kind enough to lend me his opinion.) With this message board forum, other professional slaters, hopefully more in your area than in mine, can add useful commentary. Independent agreement by professionals (Here, I use the term to mean excellent Slaters in terms performance and integrity, not necessarily paid people that claim to do slatework.) to suggest what is necessary can alleviate apprehensions and anxiety. Pictures may also help define a problem to those who respond to your post, thus giving you the better answer you seek. In engineering this is the first step to a design or task; "Define the problem." Even if you don't do the job yourself, your knowing how to do it correctly means you will be less likely to be burned and, more importantly, you may be able to contribute to your own solutions as the roof progresses. In engineering, it is commonplace that the ideal way or the way the design is supposed to work fails. Hence, economical workarounds are vital to make the project work properly and within budget. I'm guessing this is the same for slating, since not all of life is cookbook approach. Thinking outside the box often is the difference between success or failure.

In shopping for a Slater (or any service provider), don't look at financial cost initially. Sometimes you get what you pay for in life. Instead, try looking at the following in this order:

1) skill.
The best work assessment is from other slaters. You'll get a better review than from neighbors, whose forte is not slate. Remember, all that glitters is not gold. Also, finding your own references tends to be smarter than asking a company directly for these. No company will give you a lousy reference for itself, if the job is desired.

2) honesty and integrity of Slater and of outfit.
In terms of probability analysis, corporate management can change over time, even frequently, but the scruples of a man will not fluctuate as quickly or leopards don't tend to change their spots as rapidly. My roof was so expensive due to my foolishly believing what the "expert" analyses stated: including the BBB, the State Attorney General's Office, town building inspectors, my ignorance of slate and trusting the Slater/outfit hired to do the job correctly in exchange for my financial compensation. Around my area, big jobs are only wanted by contractors, which is where the consumer gets stung big time and why even historic homes now have shingle roofs on them. Without Slaters slate roofs do not survive. Shingle men abound and are disguised as slaters, why I recommend your reading The Slate Roof Bible, to pose questions to which you will know the answers and observe the answers you get. Slaters are a rare breed here, real ones. Slate work is mainly maintenance. When these outfits refuse the small stuff, I recommend walking away from such outfits completely, even if the cost appears cheaper initially. Practice makes perfect. A guarantee is only as good as the one who stands behind it. If no repairs are done by the slate roofing company, the probability of good repairs being done is questionable. Like a surgeon, if you are undergoing the knife, you want someone who has done multiple operations that year, not only three. The same is true I would surmise for a slate roof. Personally, I would not consider any outfit that will not return to do preventative maintenance work in the future, even if it means stopping by periodically to look at the roof. It is far cheaper to replace one or two slate regularly than an entire new roof.

The following may prove a waste of time, as in my case, but do check the BBB report of the organization,, and your State's Attorney General Office, following up on all complaints, and on insurance claims made, i.e. multiple injuries on every job done or no injuries reported. Realize, some complaints may be valid and others may be invalid. You must be satisfied with your findings which hopefully are substantiated by multiple independent sources. Valid issues in the past may have been addressed or not.

3) the price of the roof repair/re-roofing.
If you are satisfied with the responses of 1) and 2) now is the time to do price shopping among the remaining roofers on your list whom you are considering.

Good luck with your roof.
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Joe Jenkins
Senior Member
Username: Joe

Post Number: 262
Registered: 07-2006
Posted on Monday, April 07, 2008 - 11:19 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Regarding the water underneath the slate, here is a picture showing what can be expected:

water creep under roofing slate
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Walter Musson
Senior Member
Username: Walter_musson

Post Number: 81
Registered: 07-2006
Posted on Sunday, April 06, 2008 - 04:05 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

If it is truly soft penn. slate at the century mark -- then you're probably throwing good money after bad if you spend much on repairs.
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Laura Seidel
New member
Username: Laura

Post Number: 1
Registered: 04-2008
Posted on Sunday, April 06, 2008 - 03:37 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

My house has approximately 100 year-old PA gray slate. Several slate contractors have been by and have indicated that anywhere from 20 to 60 slate are broken and need replacement. The longevity of the south roof has been estimated by different individuals to be "not much time left" to 30 years. The longevity of the other side has been estimated to be 20-75 yrs by different roofers. Recently a slater removed a slate from my roof showed me a wet bottom side and was able to crumble the slate in his hand without that much difficulty. He told me the roof was through and not worth repairing and I should think about reroofing either with slate, or otherwise, depending on finances. He would not even offer a bid on repairs.

1. Why such great discrepancy in assessment? (These are real slaters.)

2.What are the implications of wetness on the bottom of the slate? Does this signify the end?

3. It seems to me that there should be a single objective answer about the need for reroofing. I want to know if repairs are futile at this point. Is it just delaying something inevitable and relatively imminent? Is it a waste of money?

4. How much should I expect these repairs to cost?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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