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How To Tell if Your Contractor is a


[Look at photos of "Neanderthal Tracks"]

How To Tell if Your Contractor is a Neanderthal!

It is an unfortunate fact that many of today's historic slate roofs are being destroyed by roofing contractors. Often, roof owners must hire incompetent, ill-informed, inexperienced roofing contractors and pay them good money to have their roof defaced and abused. One of the most unpleasant tasks of competent slate roof restoration contractors today is the removal and replacement of bad repairs, which can amount to 50% of a competent contractors workload. How can you tell if the contractor you are considering hiring is a Neanderthal? Here are some things to consider:

Replacement Slates

Ask them how they attach replacement slates to the roof. There are only two generally acceptable methods: a nail in the slot covered with bib flashing, or use a slate hook. The nail in the slot should be a 1.5 inch hot-dipped smooth-shank galvanized roofing nail or a 1.5 inch copper or stainless steel smooth-shank roofing nail (not an 8 penny nail) on standard-thickness slate roofs. This method is illustrated on this website. Replacement slates should not be face-nailed (nailed through the exposed face, leaving exposed nail heads; this is only acceptable in very rare circumstances. Nor should exposed straps be used to hang slates. The straps are unsightly and unnecessary and will eventually fail. These techniques are popular among Neanderthals. Replacement slates should only very rarely be cemented into place. Furthermore, the contractor should have replacement slates that match in size, type, shape and age.

Getting Around on the Roof

Contractors who use ropes and walk on the slate roof should be avoided at all costs. The generally accepted method for working on slate roofs is via the use of hook ladders, which hook over the ridge of the roof and allow the contractor to walk all over the roof without putting any weight on the roof itself. Aluminum hook ladders do not need to be padded. If the roof has no ridge (such as a hip roof), then roof jacks and planks will create a platform on which to rest a roof ladder. [Note: An experienced slater who knows what he is doing *can* walk carefully on a slate roof without damaging it. But this is done only when needed, not routinely.]

Proper Tools

Every competent slate roofing contractor will have a slate ripper, slate cutter, and slate hammer (not to mention ladders and ladder hooks).

Roof Cement

Roof cement is not an acceptable material for repairs, except under very limited conditions. Roof cement (tar) should never be applied to the exposed face of a slate anywhere on the roof (a limited exclusion to this rule is made for sealing chimney flashings as a form of temporary repair). The slots (narrow spaces between slates where they butt side-by-side) should NEVER be cemented. If valley metal is cemented, the slates alongside the valley should NEVER be cemented under any circumstances. If you see black tar spots on the roof, or, worse yet, large areas covered with tar, your contractor is a Neanderthal.


Roofers installing slates should not be walking on them during the installation. If they are, they're Neanderthals and you will have lots of slates to replace in a short period of time. Many new slate roofs today are losing 50-100 slates or more in the first ten years or so due to slates breaking during installation by Bigfoot Contracting, Inc., and falling off later (after the contractor is long gone and won't return your calls). The best slate roofs are always installed on solid boards, never on plywood, particle board, OSB, or any laminated wood material. Standard installation procedures should always be followed. Felt paper should NEVER be layed over top of each row of slates, as some Neanderthals are prone to do. Self-adhesive membrane is not necessary on any properly installed slate roof.

Click here for a sample Slate Roof Installation Contract

Be Informed

If you own a slate roof and want to keep it, get your hands on a copy of the Slate Roof Bible. If you don't want to spend the $49, get it through your library or buy the E-Book. Read the book. You will know more about slate roofs than probably any contractor you talk to after you've finished. The book is available on this website at our store. Most roofing contractors today are "production roofers" who make their money re-roofing with petrochemical products. They will tell you that a perfectly good slate roof with many decades of remaining life needs to be replaced with asphalt shingles - a very inferior roofing product. Don't be hood-winked!

Slate Roof Bible 3rd Edition by Joseph Jenkins

Click here to see some photos of Neanderthal tracks.


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Call us at 814-786-9085, M-F, 9-5, Eastern time, USA.

Call us at 814-786-9085, M-F, 9-5, Eastern time, USA.