How to slate a roof

UK Home Improvement

How To Slate A Roof

Slate roofs are among the most popular types of roofs in the UK, offering a wide range of functional and aesthetic benefits to properties across the country.

As well as looking fantastic, slate roofs offer great longevity, are low maintenance, and are environmentally friendly.    

If you’re looking for advice on how to slate a roof, you’ve come to the right place.

In this blog, we’ll provide you with all the information you need about slating a roof explaining the best way to do so.

The different types of slate roofs 

There is a wide range of slate options on the market, and before we discuss the best way to slate a roof let’s look at the variety of products available. 

Natural slate 

The most common type of slate in the industry is natural slate. Made from natural stone, this product offers the most authentic look and guarantees a stunning appearance on every property it’s installed. This type of slate is also fire-resistant and extremely low maintenance. 

And it’s not only the UK where this slate is sought after.

In fact, natural slate roofs can be seen all over the world. Spanish, Canadian, Brazilian and Argentinian slate are all examples of natural slate products that can be purchased and installed on UK homes. 

The only drawback of natural slate is that it can be quite expensive. This leads us nicely to the options below…    

Man-made roof slate 

If you’re looking to achieve the spectacular look of natural slate without the accompanying price tag, man-made roof slate is the choice for you. 

The most common type of man-made roof slate is fibre cement slate which is created in factories using cement mixed with synthetic, non-asbestos substances. Not only are these slates cheaper than the natural alternative, but they’re also extremely eco-friendly. This is because they’re 100% recyclable and lightweight – meaning they can be transported in a more sustainable way.  

Their appearance also closely resembles natural slate, while looking slightly more modern and contemporary.  

Recycled roof slate 

Using recycled roof slates is exactly as it sounds. Old slate tiles from previous roofs can be reused to create a brand-new slated roof. This is normally a far cheaper alternative than using brand new natural roof tiles and is even better for the environment as it enures no wastage and manufacturing is not necessary. 

Multicoloured roof slate 

While most slate tiles are black or grey in colour, there is a wide range of multicoloured options available. This is particularly advantageous if you’re opting for a bold, striking decor on your property’s roof. 

Safety considerations for slating a roof

Before you begin any work on a roof, including slating a roof, it’s essential you have the correct safety procedures in place. 

First and foremost, it’s worth noting that slates can be extremely slippery when walked on. With this in mind, if you need to walk on the roof while the slates are in place, make sure to be extremely careful. A fall from a large height is extremely dangerous and can result in lifelong injuries or even death.  

The best and safest way to access your roof is through scaffolding. If this is not possible, keeping a ladder firmly fixed to the side of the house is another safe way to access the roof. You might also want to consider an additional hook ladder which can help evenly distribute weight when working on a roof. 

It’s also important to wear the correct clothing when conducting repairs or working on a roof. For example, rubber-soled shoes and thick gloves are an absolute must. As well as this, you should consider protective headgear, a coat with thick sleeves, a high-visibility jacket and safety goggles. 

You should also make sure someone knows you’re working on the roof, and ideally be supervised. This way, should you suffer an accident or get into difficulty someone will be there to help.  

How To Slate A Roof

Once you’ve considered the necessary health and safety considerations, you’re ready to begin slating a roof. 

By following the steps below, you can ensure this is done in an effective manner that leaves you with a stylish looking roof that is also extremely practical. 

Measure the roof’s pitch

The first step is to work out the pitch of your roof. This step is extremely important as it will indicate how many tiles you’re going to need as well as how much overlap you will need when laying them.

Typically, slates can only be used on roofs that have a pitch of 20° or more. You can work out your roof’s pitch by downloading a smartphone roof app that will guide you through the measuring process.

 Fit the roof’s membrane 

Next, you can start fitting the roof’s membrane. The purpose of a membrane is to keep the interior of your property protected from water, so it’s important they’re fitted correctly.

Before you roll the membrane over your roof, be sure to check for splinters, old nails or anything that could potentially damage the membrane and make it less effective. When you’re happy the area is clear, begin at the bottom corner of the roof and roll the membrane across all of the trusses. Do this until you’ve reached the top of your roof. 

Once the roof is completely covered, secure the membrane with nails. Pull the membrane so it’s tight, and add a few more nails until you’re certain it is properly secured.   

Set out your battens

Now, it’s time to figure out where to place your roof’s battens. These battens are laid between rafters and provide a secure place for slates to sit. 

Place a batten on the roof but don’t secure it just yet. Then, place one slate on the batten, allowing 50mm for overhang. Temporarily fix the slate to the centre of the batten.

Next, place a second batten beneath the tile and move it upwards towards the batten you placed first. Then, use galvanised nails to secure both battens together making sure they’re parallel to one another. 

Put a third batten below the top two slates. Grab another slate tile and place it in the centre of the new batten. 

Now, you can calculate the batten gauge for the rest of the roof. Measure the distance from the top of one batten to the top of another. This will give you a measurement that you can use for the rest of the battens on the roof.   

Lay the tiles 

The final step is to lay the tiles. 

Once all of your battens are secured and in position, make a line from the roof’s eaves to the ridge to the width of each slate. Allow a 5mm gap for the joint between each slate and the batten.

Beginning at the eaves, fix an eaves slate course. Use a one and a half slate to create a staggered pattern on the course. Once this is done, lay a full-length slate with the bottom tile positioned in line with the under-eaves course. Secure this with nails. 

Keep doing this until you reach the top corner of your roof and the area has been covered with the slates. 

When you get to the very top of your roof you’ll need to install the top slates. At this point, be sure the battens are positioned 5mm thicker than the rest of the roof.  


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