Specialty Roofs

Many churches built late in the nineteenth and early in the twentieth centuries were built with specialty roofs – slate, tile, or copper. These are fireproof and durable enough to last for more than a century.  In fact, the flashing and felt beneath the slate or tile often deteriorates and needs to be replaced before the slate or tile. These materials should be retained whenever possible because they are important to your building's character and they are more durable than asphalt shingles or other materials with which you may replace them.

Tips for your congregation on maintaining your slate,
tile or metal roof

  • Replace missing slates or tiles. Save money by getting them through building supply companies or salvage yards.

  • Support Systems. Though durable, clay tile and slate were not meant to support weight. Contractors use support systems to avoid putting weight directly on these materials while doing repairs.

  • Gutter care. Be sure to maintain and keep gutters and downspouts fully functional so the support systems for heavy clay tile and slate roofs remain sound.

  • If the roof is beyond repair, replace the roof with identical materials. If real tile or slate is cost-prohibitive, use new substitute tiles and slates, made of fiberglass or architectural cement.

  • Replacement with modern asphalt shingles is a last resort. If you must do this, use shingles the same size and color of the original roof.

  • Reference Material: Refer to Preservation Briefs 4, 29 and 30 – Roofing for Historic Buildings, Slate Roofs and Clay Tile Roofs.

  • The New York Landmarks Conservancy publication, Common Bond, dealt with lead, copper, and metal roofs in this issue:.http://www.nylandmarks.org/pdfs/CommonBond-21-2-Spring2007.pdf.

  • Partners for Sacred Places has additional articles on roofing, slate, and tile here.