Sunday, August 12, 2007

Slate Conference in Pennsylvania!

This summer, my family and I attended the Slate Roofing Contractor's Association conference in Pennsylvania. It was an extraordinary event! The organizer and host, Joe Jenkins (author of the slate roof bible) noted that it was the first gathering of professional slate roofers, specifically for slate roofers, in over 50 years. I am not a member of the organization, so in order to attend as a guest of Mr. Jenkins (and qualify for "guest rates"), I volunteered to give a presentation of my slate roof installation. Although I was a rank amateur, my presentation was very well received by the professionals. The event was held on Joe Jenkins' farm, which is a reclaimed strip mine (coal), complete with a lake and primitive camp grounds. Mr. Jenkins' has done an amazing job of restoring the land - he has transformed the previously tortured landscape into the textbook definition of idyllic.

The concurrent workshops were by far the best part of the conference. My favorite workshop was the "rounded slate valley" workshop, given by Brent Ulisky. He showed us two different methods for implementing slate valleys. The one pictured on the right requires no metal flashing. Brent installed this type of valley on his own home and is proud to report that it does not leak. Having put an eyebrow dormer on my house, I can really appreciate the difficulty and elegance of a slate valley.

There were three copper-smithing workshops (two pictured here). Copper work is required in all but the simplest of slate roofs, and I was able to muddle my way through for my own roof. I could have used some of the knowledge transmitted through these workshops. Barry Smith showed us how to build a flat lock, soldered copper roof. Something like this would be required on low-pitch roofs, or flat roofs (like the top of a mansard roof). Man! What an insane amount of work goes into one of these roofs. Even with 4 to 6 attendees helping, it took almost all weekend to finish a small (10x16?) roof. It's easy to see why a roof like this, professionally done, would cost you more than $30 per square foot! Rich Stainbrook was clearly a professional with years of experience. He showed us one way to implement expansion joints in copper box gutters. Expansion joints are required on soldered copper gutters over 30 feet. If you leave out the expansion joints, you can expect the inevitable expansion and contraction of copper to tear apart the copper seams, so this is an important detail.

Liam Tower showed us how to hang slate siding. Here's the result of his workshop - simply incredible! The color, shape, and pattern of the slates he chose evoked thoughts of "dragon scales," for my children pictured here. I am seriously considering slate siding for the sides of the dog-house dormers on our house. I learned that applying slate siding is almost just like applying slate roofing, except that you can use a smaller head-lap. Step flashing is probably a good idea for the corners, to keep things completely water tight.

James Warden presented a workshop on heavy duty now guards. I did not install snow guards on our slate roof here in Kentucky. We get a moderate amount of snow each year, so it might be prudent for me to install retro-fit snow guards on some areas of the roof. For now though, I've got way too much to do before we can even move into the house!

They're talking about having another conference in two years if there is enough interest. I would highly recommend it for professional roofers, amateur roofers, and home-owners. Basically - anyone interested in slate roofs. If you'd like to learn more about the slate roofer's conference, or the organization that puts it on, you can visit

Almost forgot to mention... thank you to Camara Slate for sponsoring the beverages at this event! That's the same company that sold me the slate for our roof. Good people!


Blogger joel and stephanie said...


Great to see a post. I thought you might have fallen off your roof back in June.


August 14, 2007 at 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No.... just a case of blog-bog.
Busy as a beaver with stonework, digital camera broke, internet connection quit working, got caught up in a local tax revolt of sorts, etc. etc., yada yada yada.

I'm back though! Thanks for worrying! This house ain't killed me yet!

August 18, 2007 at 3:03 PM  

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