F.A.Q. - Olde World Slate

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you match my slate? My neighbors had several slates replaced and the new ones don’t match the roof at all.

We always use the closest possible match when repairing your roof. Many companies use one type of slate for all repairs, but at Olde World Slate we are familiar with different slate varieties and keep many in stock. Some types of slate are no longer quarried, and the reclaimed slates available aren’t in good condition. If quality slates of your type cannot be obtained, we will use new slates in the closest color-match possible.

This is my first time owning a home with a slate roof; what do I need to know?

Don’t ignore your roof! While today’s common asphalt shingle roofs can be ignored until they develop a problem, that’s a mistake with slate. Although many types of slates have an overall lifespan of more than 100 years, nature’s elements will break individual slates and even just one broken slate could allow a leak in your home. You should have a slate professional inspect the roof annually or bi-annually, especially if it is more than 20 years old. If you have original metal flashings on your roof, your roofer should keep an eye on them as well. Looking ‘rusty’ is not necessarily a problem, but pinholes are!

Finally, insist that your roof contractor provides you with photos. If you can’t see the problem areas yourself, don’t take their word for it that you need repairs (or that they did the repair you paid for!). Pictures arm you with knowledge about your own roof.

Why does a slate roof need an annual inspection?

Just as described above, nature’s elements can be hard on a slate roof. Heavy wind, snow, or ice can break slates. People can damage slates, too. If you have had painters or masons walking on your roof, or had tree trimming done overhead, schedule an inspection to check for broken slates. Many of our customers with EXCELLENT 100+ year-old roofs need at least 2-10 slates replaced every year. Differing slate varieties have differing lifespans, but an old historic roof can be preserved indefinitely if regular maintenance has replaced individual broken and deteriorated slates.

My home inspector said the roof was good before I bought the house; why do I need all these repairs?

Home inspectors are not slate professionals. Historic slate is such a specific material that we hear this question too often after a home was purchased. A slate professional will determine your type of slate, its lifespan, and what the roof needs both now and possibly over the course of several years.

How do I know if my slate roof needs replaced or just needs maintenance?

Our expert sales estimators can easily determine this with an onsite inspection. It really does take a professional to answer the question, as there are many more factors than whether or not the roof is leaking! We look at what type of slate it is and what condition most of the slates are in. (Appearance does not necessarily answer the question; some varieties of slates will show flaking before their useful life is over.) The estimator may discuss with you a long-term plan; occasionally a ‘poor’ slate roof can be saved if the worst deteriorated slates are replaced annually, thus avoiding a high-cost replacement of the whole roof. However, if most of slates on your roof need to be replaced, it is more cost-effective in the long term to replace the roof (slates near wholesale price) than to slowly replace individual slates year by year (slates at individual price). Schedule a free appointment with one of our sales estimators to talk about the best avenue for your specific roof.

What is the best resource for understanding slate roofs?

If you are interested in educating yourself about the basic needs of your roof, The Slate Roof Bible by Joseph Jenkins is an excellent resource. Also Slate Roofs: Design & Installation Manual published by the National Slate Association. You probably aren’t going to repair your roof by yourself, but that doesn’t mean you have to be at the mercy of what any one person tells you. Know what you have and what condition it is in. With a little knowledge, you’ll spot an inexperienced roofing company a mile away.

My gutter/landscaping is damaged every time we have heavy snow. What can I do?

Install or repair snow guards or snow bars, and reinforce your gutters. Slate is a slick surface to snow & ice, and you’ve probably had melting snow sliding off your roof in huge piles. This inevitably bends gutters out of shape and smashes shrubs and small trees below. If you have a walkway directly beneath the roofline, this can also be dangerous! Properly placed snow guards are one solution. (Some old slate roofs have only thin “wire loop slate catchers”, which prevent a loose slate from crashing to the ground, but fold down almost flat under heavy snow.) Snow guards are heavy-duty, they are shaped to effectively hold back 4-6 inches of snow, and they should be mounted into the wooden plank roof deck underneath the slate in a staggered pattern. Snow bars, or snow fence, is even stronger: usually consisting of 2 parallel bars mounted to brackets which are fastened to your roof deck every 2 feet.

Finally, your gutters can also be strengthened if necessary. If copper is required by your HOA, strength is added by using roof-mounted hangers. These supports are installed under the slate directly to your wooden roof deck. We also install all types of gutter hangers more closely together than code requires, for added strength. If you need aluminum gutters, we use a heavy .032 gauge aluminum, which is stronger than most gutter suppliers use.

What other types of roofing do you do?

All types of roofing! Galvalume roofs, copper roofs, and flashings. Stainless steel is a great roofing material that is often overlooked; it costs approximately the same as copper and lasts far longer. We do asphalt shingle roof replacements, though in keeping with our standard of quality we do not install low grade shingles.

We install flat roofing membranes, such as EPDM and TPO. Again, for quality as well as safety, we do not work with torch-down or hot tar roofs.

We repair and replace gutters: copper for historic preservation, .032 gauge aluminum for strength. We install specially tested security straps on copper downspouts which have been proven effective in preventing theft.

Why don’t you offer other services?

We believe in being masters at our craft. While many home improvement contractors say they can do “everything”, the old saying rings true: “Jack of all trades; master of none”. We love historic roofing, we know everything about historic roofing, so we are your best option for taking care of your historic roof.

It’s a little like buying a suit at Walmart versus buying a suit at a high-end clothing store. You can get multiple errands done with one visit to Walmart, but from the clothing store you will get personal customer service, high quality material, expert workmanship, and many years of use from your purchase. Olde World Slate follows the same model: personal customer service, high quality materials, expert workmanship, and many years of a secure roof. Why do anything less?

Why is it important that my roof contractor has an MHIC license?

MHIC= Maryland Home Improvement Commission. In the state of Maryland, any company doing maintenance or repairs on your home is required to carry a current MHIC license. This license is acquired by taking a written test on the Maryland laws which govern contractors and protect homeowners, and by renewing the license every 2 years by paying a fee into the MHIC fund. Unlike money-making organizations like the Better Business Bureau, the Commission will literally fight for the homeowner who has been defrauded by a contractor. As long as the contractor held an MHIC license, the homeowner can report his/her case to the Commission, which has a fund for reimbursing Maryland homeowners in this unfortunate situation. If the contractor was not licensed in Maryland, the homeowner is on their own against the dishonest contractor. You can check on whether your contractor is licensed here