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How to Tell if You Need a New Slate Roof

Waiting until the obvious signs appear like ceiling stains, buckled walls, and chunks of wall and ceiling material falling would be the worst advice for detecting the need for a new roof. Visible damage means the things you don’t see have been a long time in the making and the “maturity” of that damage will cause deep wounds in your economic situation when you’re faced with fixing it.

Like pretty much anything else in life, early detection of the need for new slate is your best defense and least expensive option. If you suspect that your old slate may be getting tired, you can have a professional inspect it for you, but inspecting it yourself is an easy and viable option if you are able to access the underside inside the ceiling cavity.

Yes, it’s the underside of your slate tiles that tells the real story. Failing slate tiles will exhibit easily identifiable characteristics, including:

  • Delaminating, flaking, and peeling
  • White, powdery surface formation
  • Softness

Those visible signs are easy to see. You may even observe color variations that signal moisture penetration. The surest sign of leakage in the near future is softness. Good slate tiles will be firm and hard.

To check for softness, a standard screwdriver is an easy test. Apply a firm pressure as you drag a screwdriver across the underside of your slate roofing. If you can easily score the slate tile, you can be sure it’s time for new slate on your roof. It’s a good idea to perform this test in multiple locations.

There, if you thought that might be difficult, you can be pleasantly surprised. If your roof passes these simple tests, you have peace of mind on the structural integrity of your slate roof. If it doesn’t pass, some of the other information on this site and blog will help you find a reputable and experienced slate roofer.

Slate Roofing Durability in Coastal Areas

The question often comes up about how well slate roofing holds up against the effects of coastal conditions like salt air, high winds, brutal winters, and other demands that nature throws at the roofs located in the coastal areas of Melbourne. The answer is divided into two seemingly paradoxical replies:

Slate roofing holds up exceptionally well against anything coastal conditions can throw at it, and, slate roofing can fail miserably when exposed to the ravages of salt air and other coastal conditions.

How can both be true?

Though they seem to contradict each other, the answer isn’t likely to surprise you when you have life experience. It all comes down to the quality of slate roofing materials used and skilled workmanship just like so many other things in life.

On the downside, salt air in coastal areas is a major catalyst for promoting rust. Nails used to secure slate roofing tiles to your roof can serve as a source for rust. Rust inevitably degrades the slate roofing and leads to delamination, cracking and/or breaking, leakage, and even dislodging of the slate tiles. High winds typical in coastal areas can turn slate roofing tiles into dangerous projectiles causing additional property damage or even personal injury.

How quickly can this failure occur?

As little as 3-4 years!

Yes, that sounds scary, and it should. But the good news is, there’s no better solution for roofing that endures the ravages of nature in coastal areas than slate roofing. Properly installed slate roofing tiles that are lab tested to assure strict quality standards for water and salt air resistance will protect your home or building for decades—typically 15 decades or longer!

Having a “master slater” doing your roof is vitally important. Due to the short life and premature failure, even potential danger of cheap slate roofing, it is no bargain. For a modest price difference, a proven professional will provide a roof that withstands the coastal conditions of Melbourne not just for your life, but your children’s and even grand children’s and great grand children’s.

New Slate Roofing On An “Old” Roof

In case you’re wondering if Abardeen will re-roof an “old” structure with a new slate roof, the answer is emphatically, yes. But next, you may be wondering what the process looks like.

  • Will it be messy?
  • How long will it take?
  • How much inconvenience will it cause?
  • What effects might it cause to your property?

Maybe you’ve seen a slate roofing project that was an eyesore and pretty much met every stereotypical nightmare you could have envisioned: big stacks of material for weeks on end, debris strewn all over the place, you name it, that’s what it looked like. There are slate roofing contractors that operate that way, but here is what you should actually expect.

First, scaffolding is set up for the safety of both the workers and anyone on the ground. We are especially careful to avoid damaging property, landscaping, gardens, etc. Only a few areas are set up at one time so walkways, driveways, and other access points are not blocked any longer than required.

One the first day of your project, and each day thereafter, materials for that day are brought to your site so you will not be supplying a warehouse location. For each day of your project, the section of your old roof for that day will be stripped and stacked on the scaffolding. Very rarely do we need to place materials on the ground but an out of the way location is chosen when needed, and cleanup is always prompt.

New slate tiles and any required flashing will be installed on the section stripped. At the end of the day, you are waterproof, clean and tidy, and debris is hauled off in our trucks. No, dumpsters are not left on your property during the project.

Rinse and repeat: This process continues each day until your new slate roof is complete.

Inconvenience? Minimal to non existent.

For an average sized Melbourne area home, this process takes about two weeks. You will always know in advance the actual time required for your project. Once we are done, you won’t know a roofer was ever on your property except for the beautiful new slate roof. The Boy Scouts of America have the motto, “Leave no trace.” That sums up our philosophy as well.

See an example of a slate re-roofing project

The Slate Roofing On Your New Building Project

If you’re the builder or the owner of a new building (or new home building) project, you realize how interdependent all of the contractors are on each other to keep everything on schedule. That would especially apply to having a new slate roof put on. Many of the contractors can’t complete their part of the project until that new roof is finished.

Here’s a brief overview of items you should consider when hiring a slate roofing contractor:

  • Experience – Slate roofing requires years of experience and practice under the apprenticeship of a master slater to truly acquire the skill needed.
  • Reputation – As already pointed out, contractors depend on each other to complete a project on schedule. You want to be sure your slate roofer has a reputation respected by other contractors.
  • Safety – Not only is the safety of workers on the roof paramount, extra precautions need to be taken to insure the safety of everyone working below them. If the roofing quote is temptingly low, safety shortcuts are almost certainly being taken because you may not think to question this in advance.
  • Framing – Be sure the carpenter or framer has been provided with the proper specifications for the slate roofing being installed. Having an experienced slate roofing contractor involved in the early stages of your building project is highly advisable.

A new construction project should be exciting for you. Having something as beautiful and enduring as a slate roof should add to the excitement. Look around some of the Melbourne neighborhoods at other “new” projects and you’ll see not everyone gets exciting results. That’s sad but it doesn’t have to be that way. These few simple guidelines will help you remain excited even decades from now.

Designing and Building for a New Slate Roof

It should come as no surprise that when your new building project is to have the enduring beauty and resistance to nature that a slate roofing offers, the best time to prepare for that is in the design process so it can be implemented in the building process. Then a skilled slate roofer already has the proper framing and setup to install the slate roofing.

But how to get there and what to look for in a slate roofing contractor is the part we want to help you achieve. If you’re in the Melbourne, Australia area we serve, then it’s easier because at the risk of a shameless plug, simply call us. But if you’re not in Melbourne, then you’re still in the right place because this post will help you prepare on both the designing and building stages.

Whether you’re the architect/designer, builder, or even the owner, the same set of guidelines apply in finding a qualified slate roofer to collaborate with who will inevitably become the installer. The guidelines are fairly intuitive but still serve as a good checklist so these don’t get overlooked.

  • Experience – Slate roofing is a special skill that requires years of practice under the apprenticeship of a master slater. Given that old world standards for slate roofing means roofs that last 150+ years, this kind of experience isn’t too much to ask. Everything else below is really just a subset of slating experience.
  • Product knowledge – This ought to come with experience but is included for your consideration during the design and building stages. Look for a slate specialist who displays extensive knowledge of matching your project requirements to the best slate quality, color, texture, and style options and what you should expect with each.
  • Construction specifications – Slate roofing requires its own installation style and framing as indicated above. Unless you know exactly how to design and frame for the type of slate roofing being installed, look for someone forward thinking enough to provide, or at least examine in advance, carpentry specifications as part of their service when needed.
  • Reputation and reliability – Every construction project requires a team effort to keep everything on schedule and prevent the proverbial break in the chain. A wrong choice of contractor for ANY part of your project can not only disrupt scheduling, but poor craftsmanship can ruin someone else’s work. The other contractors already know this but if you’re the architect or owner looking for a slate roofer, you do well to verify their reputation.

We’ve kept it simple because it really doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, this can be summarized into something easier to remember. Slate roofing is more than a special skill that takes years to master, it requires someone willing to help you make the right choices and who recognizes the interdependency between the owner, architect or designer, builder, and every other contractor involved in the project. Remember that and you’ll have no regrets with your new slate roof.

Creating a Legacy Together

When you’re looking for a new slate roof, it’s much more than just a new slate roof. Those who would try to sell you on just price are doing you a serious disservice. They actually fail to recognize the value of what they are supposed to be providing you with. That’s truly a shame for both you and them.

In reality, your new slate roof is the birth of a legacy that will outlive you, the architect, the builder, and the slate roofer. We often work with all four when doing a slate roof and it’s great to work with people who understand they are creating something future generations will still be able to enjoy.

Perhaps you’ve never really thought about it in that light before. In the process of managing our hectic lives, and the need for a new slate roof enters into your life, it’s easy to forget that the choice you make in getting that roofing done has such enduring value. But at least now you know that we’re thinking about that when we’re doing your new slate roof.

Best Slate for New Slate Roofing

If you want to know which slate is best for a new slate roofing project, a recommendation from someone who has been slating roofs since the 1970’s certainly counts as a qualified authority. Add to that the fact that a roof completed in 1983 still looks as good as the day it was first completed, and you have a solid recommendation.

That slate material is Del Carmen Ultra and it is the defacto standard when you want the best slate roofing material for your new slate roof. There are many reasons we can make this claim but we’ll just cover the primary ones and skip the boring stuff that only us master slaters care about.

First, Del Carmen Ultra includes a 100 year warranty. We could probably stop right there because that alone tells you all those recently completed new roofs around the Melbourne area with visible premature failure is a problem you’ll never have to worry about.

Slate is a product of nature. That one attribute means we would have a hard time passing consumer protection laws mandating nature comply with manufacturing standards. The only enforceable course of action is testing. Many slate tiles on the market get zero testing. Knowing that, it shouldn’t surprise you that slate roofing failure is so prevalent.

Del Carmen Ultra undergoes rigorous testing to assure qualities such as 0.3% water absorption and the ability to endure salt air unscathed. Without testing standards, slate tiles are also susceptible to delamination, cracking, and breaking, and more; other conditions you’ll never have to worry about. These slate tiles undergo the toughest testing standards in the world.

Del Carmen Ultra slate tiles sold together are extracted from the same slate veins so you get consistent color and texture. That definitely is not true with many other brands.

Simply put, Del Carmen Ultra slate tiles are equal to the best in the world. Will you find others that are as good? We’re pretty sure you could. But finding any better, not when they have to pass the toughest standards on the planet.

New Slate Roofing Services in Melbourne

Slate roofing is the long standing roofing material of choice in and around the Melbourne area. With a life span of up to 150 years even in this climate, combined with the aesthetics and choices of colors, textures, and material grades, it’s easy to see why.

With over 35 years in the slate roofing trade, we’ve found most people are surprised by some of the characteristics and diversity of natural slate roofing. For example, purple slate? Yes, some slate is purple. Slate is comprised of minerals and therefore naturally occurs in many colors. Given the prevalence of grays most common for slate roofs, the degree of color choices actually available is typically met with fascination.

More Interesting Advantages to Slate Roofing

Graceful Aging

We already mentioned the surprising array of color choices which also include blacks, greens, reds, and more, but because the colors in slate are provided by naturally occurring minerals in the slate and run throughout the thickness of the slate tile, color fading is minimal or non existent and actually adds to the appearance as it does occur.

Every slate roof is unique and takes on additional artistic style as it ages. An experienced slate roofer can guide you in creating a new slate roof that expresses your personality and fits the architectural style of your home or building. Then, as it ages, it even improves its appearance over time.


The Melbourne area is particularly brutal on roofing which is why slate outshines all other roofing materials. The key is in the “grade” of the slate used. High quality slate tiles are impervious to water penetration. They endure salt air with unrelenting stamina. Properly installed, even the harshest winds cannot dislodge them from their secure position on your roof.

Basically, to beat slate roofing, you’d pretty much have to move underground, where, ironically, you’d probably be under layer of slate.


There’s just something innately beautiful about a slate roof. Add the graceful aging and unparalleled weather protection and it’s in a league of perfection that life just doesn’t offer in large quantities. It looks good on new structures as well as “old” and “period” ones.

The size and shape, color, and texture of the slate tiles can be artfully implemented to compliment home or building.


It seems an exaggerated boast to say one choice of material for your new roof could be so superior to everything else, but slate roofing has earned that distinction. It ought to be self evident that only proven slate quality and experienced master slaters are capable of providing all these benefits, but you’ll want to be sure both are combined when contracting your new slate roof.

Rust Stains On Slate Roofs

Poor quality slate roofing with faulty installation rusting after only 4 years!We’ve all seen rust stains on slate roofs here in Melbourne. What’s worse is that it happens surprisingly quickly even on new slate roofs.

What can you do about it?

Unfortunately, nothing. The problem is unrepairable. The only solution is to replace slate tiles that have rust stains.

There is one good thing to say about rust stains. They at least alert you to a problem because those stains will eventually become leaks so you know the roof needs attention. Not all slate roofing problems are so easy to see.

When you need a new slate roof or new slate tiles on an existing roof, there is only one effective strategy to avoiding rust stains…prevention. Rust stains are caused by faulty slate roofing installation. It is imperative that your slate roofer be experienced and use quality slate tiles. You’ll want to screen your slate roofing contractor very carefully.