Saturday, October 14, 2006

Nine courses up on the slate eyebrow dormer

Notice that the color of the slate looks different in almost every one of these pictures? That's not the camera or some funky computer artifact - it's the way things look in real life! Sometimes you'd swear the slate was all grey, and sometimes you'd swear it was all blue, but the real color is a mix of grey and green. Depending on the sunlight (and clouds and dew), the roof takes on a different hues at different times of the day.

That's me in the upper two pictures, using a rope to stay on the side of the roof while I nail down the slates. Most of the roof has skip sheeting, making it easy to climb around, but the eyebrow is sheeted solid, making it a better sliding board than a ladder. Ropes are required here. In the left two pictures, you can see the top of the tower in the background... with the little american flag. (the tower has felt because I don't know when we'll get around to slating it). Most of the slates you see stockpiled on the roof, resting between the battens, are field slates that my brother in law was installing on the main roof today while I worked on the eyebrow dormer. I put down 60 small slates at most, while he probably installed at least 200 full sized slates elsewhere (and worked on other things too!).

I ran out of terne coated stainless and started using more expensive (and possibly less durable) copper flashing because the roofing supply houses are closed on the weekends and I didn't want to halt work. I'm at a point on the eyebrow now where it's probably flat enough that it wouldn't absolutely require flashing between the courses, but I'm installing flashing just to be sure.


Anonymous Jim K in PA said...

Thomas - that is a real work of art. My slate has been challenging enough without eyebrow dormers! I have one section left that is flat, square, and has no valleys (finally!).

Keep the faith.

October 16, 2006 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Looks great!!!!

We are just in the beginning phases of our timber frame home. We plan on raising our frame the first half of November.

Since reading your Blog I have been doing a lot of research on slate. I have also bought the Slate Roof Bible. I have just started reading it but I am sure it will prove very helpful from what I have read already.

My concern right now is cost. I would like to install it myself but time may be a factor there. Although this would hold down the cost. I have also been looking at a composite slate. I recieved samples this past weekend and am impressed by the look but do not know if I am sold on it.

My first concern would be sunlight. It is a rubber/plastic product treated with a UV protectant. This sounds good but what if this protection breaks down? It does have a warrany of 50 years but by comparison to actual slate it does not hold a candle.

Could you please give me some kind of idea what the slate cost is for your roof and suppliers that you might recommend.

Again great looking place!!! I look forward to your posts!!!


October 16, 2006 at 9:36 PM  
Blogger oldmilwaukee said...

Thanks Jim and Rob!


you gotta love those simple roof areas, where you can nail the slate as fast as you can get it to the roof... especially after fiddling with valleys and flashing! You're using Buckingham Co. slate aren't you?


Cost and availability was the reason that I was not able to hire a contractor. The nearest contractor who could quote the job was 2 hours away, and their price reflected that fact. When I bought it about a year ago, Vermont slate was between $350 and 400 per square. (textured, 1/4 to 3/8 thick, 18 and 20 inch slate in random width, unfading green and unfading gray). I boguht slate from Camara Slate, and I would recommend them. (Stay away from Virginia Slate Company.) As with just about any construction material, be sure to order the slate way ahead of time, regardless of what the suppliers tell you about availability. If you get it too soon, the slate will not "go bad" sitting in the weather! Buy at least 10% or 20% more than you think you need. You will break some, and you will find some that look flawed, regardless of who you order it from. It is a natural product. Remember too, you can use extras for floor tile, etc.

Preparing the roof for slate and flashing for the slate is a job, equal in magnitude to actually laying the slate itself. If someone quotes the job, be sure it includes laying the wood battens, as you do not want them to nail directly to osb or plywood. (but you know this if you are reading the SRB). If you are estimating the work for yourself, don't forget about the flashing, etc.

I wouldn't use composite slate. Real slate has been proven to last over 100 years. Just my opinon?

Thanks for the kind comments guys - keep checkin in!


October 17, 2006 at 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Jim K in PA said...


Sorry for the delayed response. Yes, I am using reclaimed Virginia Buckingham, 9x18. It is some heavy, beautiful slate. I will have plenty of extra, and plan to cut some into 9x9 or 8x8 tiles for some flooring near the doors to our family room.

I notice that you are not using any snow catchers. Is that due to your more "temperate" climate, or personal taste? I am using MJ Mullane bronze guards on my roof. They are low-key, and work great. I did not want any fancy Fleur-de-Lis, oak leaves or screaming eagles on my old farmhouse roof!

October 23, 2006 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger oldmilwaukee said...


haven't planned for any snow catchers... could be a regional thing. I was 16 before I ate a bagel, 24 before I ever saw a snow mobile, and 32 before I ever saw a snow catcher and realized what it was. We get snow here in KY, but it's not enough to convince ANYONE to trade their ATV for a snowmobile. Most of the entries to the house are gable ends, and sliding snow would pose no threat to anyone coming or going from the house, but perhaps I should consider them on the north side of my house, where my car will be parked, while my wife's car is parked in the warm (below house) garage. :)

October 29, 2006 at 6:11 PM  

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