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2006: Issue #5:


Many home owners today complain that they can’t find a competent roofing contractor who can install a slate roof. Or if they do find a contractor, he screws up the job. Maybe they’re just looking in the wrong age group. Albert Gerbig of Skillman, New Jersey, for example, had been an AARP member for ten years and was 60 years old before he started installing his first slate roof. A retired food technologist and consultant, his background didn’t prepare him for the arduous task of stone roofing. However, with local roofing contractors charging $3,000.00/square ($30/square foot), or more, to install slate, Mr. Gerbig said, “What the heck? I can cross this off my list of things I always wanted to do!”

Mr. Gerbig, determined to install his own slate roof, prepared himself with knowledge and inspiration by reading the Slate Roof Bible. Then he ordered the appropriate tools, equipment and materials. His roof jacks came from (ph: 866-641-7141). Other tools and equipment were procured from various sources and included a platform lift and scaffolding. The 10x14 Vermont black slate was purchased from Camara Slate Company in Fair Haven, VT.

Al began by stripping off the old cedar shingle roofing, which was the original roof on the house, and at only 20 years old it already needed replacement. He also removed the old spaced sheathing and replaced it with new solid sheathing. The project, still ongoing at the time of this writing, has taken about three and a half months, with three or four weeks lost to rain days. A professional sheet metal contractor is helping with the lead-coated copper flashings, which include drip edges and fascia flashing.

Costs for the project added up to over $40,000.00, including slate, sheathing, dumpster costs, tools, snow guards, copious quantities of leaded copper, and structural enhancements to the load bearing capability of the building. The new slate roof, however, should easily last a century. Al’s grandchildren will be able to admire his craftsmanship — as adults.

In this day and age, when the popularity of slate roofing is soaring and natural roofing is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, it can be disheartening when the average roofing contractor does not have the time or the motivation to learn the basic skills required for such an endeavor. It’s not rocket science. A simple search on the internet will yield a wealth of data about slate roofs, including books, information, instructions, sources of tools, materials, and slates.

Many times, a handy-person or property owner will ask, after searching in vain for a competent roofing contractor, “Can I install my own slate roof?” With the proper information, tools, supplies, safety equipment and determination, and thanks to the efforts of sexagenarians, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!"

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If you need a professional opinion about your roof and want Joseph Jenkins, author of the Slate Roof Bible, to look at your information (photos, contracts, etc.) and reply with an opinion via email and/or phone, then you can purchase this service here.

Senior Slaters - Elderly people installing their own slate roofs!

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Senior Slaters - Elderly people installing their own slate roofs!

See another Owner-Built Article in TR6

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General Installation Guidelines for Natural Quarried Roofing Slate

General Architectural Standards for Installing Natural Quarried Roofing Slate

Standard thickness roofing slates (3/16 inch to 1/4 inch) that have drilled holes without counter-sinking may be sub-standard slates. After installation, the nail heads can rub against the overlying slates and eventually wear holes in them. Thicker slates are OK to be drilled because there is usually enough room between them for a nail head.



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