The Ultimate Guide to Slate Roof Tiles

The Ultimate Guide to Slate Roof Tiles

Having to purchase roof tiles isn’t something most of us have to do on a regular basis therefore when you do find yourself in the position of having to buy roof tiles, we completely understand how daunting it can feel. Below we’ll take you through a brief history of roof tiles and the properties of slate roof tiles in particular which in our opinion you can’t go wrong with!


The History of Roof Tiles in the UK

It was the Romans who first introduced roof tiles to Britain in around 100 AD however, these were made from clay and were expensive, this meant clay roof tiles weren’t an option for most people. The alternative was to have a roof made from turf, a common practice until around 735 AD when these turf roofs began to be replaced by thatch which was light and easy to transport by horse-drawn cart. It’s reported the first private home to have slate roof tiles in the UK was in North Wales in approximately 1300 AD and was most likely for an extremely wealthy individual as at this time it wasn’t common to see buildings with slate roofs which weren’t either castles or other military buildings.

As time progressed it became more common for buildings to have slate roof tiles however, before the Industrial Revolution of 1760 it very much depended on the location. In some areas of the UK thatch was still readily used and in the central regions such as the Cotswolds stone slate could be found. Cotswolds stone slate is more accurately a tile stone than slate due to the limestone forming the Cotswold slate being created from Sedimentary rock. This differed from Wales, the Northwest and Scotland where slate was widely used due to the proximity of slate mines.

With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, towns such as Manchester rapidly grew into cities with thousands of worker houses erected to house the large number of people working in the factories and mills. No longer restricted to within the proximity of a slate mine, the improved transport networks meant these houses were predominantly roofed with either Welsh slate or Cumbrian slate.


The History of Honister Slate Mine

For over 400 years Lake District Green Slate has been mined at Honister Slate Mine in the Lake District National Park. Tunnelling deep within Fleetwith Pike, Honister Slate Mine situated at the top of Honister Pass was used extensively during the Industrial Revolution due to the expanding rail network and the improvements in mining techniques which resulted in the large-scale production and transportation to building projects across the country. Indeed, Honister Green Roofing Slate has been used on many notable buildings including Buckingham Palace (built in 1705 and later converted into a palace in the 1820’s), St Pauls Cathedral (built between 1675 and 1710) and the Ritz Hotel (built in 1906).

 Image of Person Making Slate Roof Tiles

Slate Roof Tiles 

There are many different options when it comes to slate tiles from black, grey, and green and varying sizes from small slate roof tiles at 12” x 6” up to larger 24” x 12” tiles. Slate roofing tiles in the UK are installed by a slater traditionally using copper nails to create a watertight roof, although nowadays alloy and stainless-steel alternatives are available. In England and Wales slate roof tiles are typically secured with double nails onto timber battens, and in Scotland and Northern Ireland they are usually nailed directly onto timber sarking boards. Replacing a slate roof tile is also a simple process where the replacement slate tile is placed in position and secured using copper wire and a fixing nail however we would recommend seeking professional help with this.

The properties of slate lend themselves perfectly to roof tiles. Not only are they aesthetically beautiful with a raw natural appearance but they also have an extremely low water absorption meaning they are resistant to frost damage. Being incredibly durable and weather resistant, they are proven to stand the test of time, in fact slate roof tiles can last several hundreds of years. Being able to cope with heavy rainfall, high winds, and the fluctuation of temperatures throughout the changing seasons, slate roof tiles can withstand the harshest of conditions. They are also non-combustible, energy efficient, hard-wearing against pollution and aren’t susceptible to moss and lichen growth meaning very little if any maintenance is required.

Image of Slate Roof Tiles

How to Clean Slate Roof Tiles

Although natural slate roof tiles require very little (if any) maintenance, you may feel from time to time that your roof tiles would benefit from cleaning. Cleaning is a very simple process which begins with removing any loose debris such as leaves and moss from your slate roof tiles. Please ensure you feel comfortable working at height from a ladder and if you feel uneasy at any point, we recommend contacting a professional to undertake the job. Please also make sure you ladder is placed safely and securely. Once the loose debris has been removed any remaining moss, mould or rust can be gently scrubbed using a mixture of water and vinegar and a medium stiff brush. The final stage would be to rinse using a hose pipe, this should be done straight away as leaving the mixture on the roof for any time could result in damage occurring to the roof in terms of rusting and chemical alterations to the slate.


The Uniqueness of Slate Roof Tiles

All the incredible properties of slate coupled with the fact that it is a natural material makes for a truly unique product. As a natural product the individual markings on each slate create a characterful roof with a timeless quality perfect for both stunning and striking modern builds and picture-perfect period properties alike. And with Honister green slate, the distinctive dark green hue and unique textures creates a truly stunning appearance which will elevate your properties curb appeal. Additionally slate has a lower carbon footprint compared to other synthetic, composite roof tiles, can be recycled, and even reused for other building projects with reclaimed slate roof tiles being readily available in many reclamation centres, making slate an environmentally friendly roofing option.


If you are interested in finding out more about the options available when it comes to Honister green slate roof tiles, then we’d love to hear from you.

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