How to Build a Roof to Last a Century

These days, it often feels like nothing is made to last. We live in a throwaway society, where we expect to replace things like phones, TVs and cars every couple of years at most. However, the same should not be said for the roof over your head; that should definitely be built to last.

And it can; with the right materials and techniques, you can build a roof with the potential to last not only for the rest of your lifetime, but for that of your children, too.


Naturally, as slate suppliers we are somewhat biased, but we believe that slate tiles are one of the best materials you can use if you want a durable and long-lived roof. There are plenty of examples to back this up – you can find slate roofs throughout the country that have lasted well over two hundred years! Not all slate is equal, however –softer types might not make it to the end of the century, so choose good quality slates with a proven track record.

It’s not just the tiles that matter, though – you also need to give consideration to what you’re nailing them to, and what you’re nailing them with. Using durable natural wooden boards and battens will give your roof more durability than plywood, laminate or particle board. Similarly, the nails you use need to last as long as your slates, so don’t choose galvanised types which may corrode; the traditional options are copper or stainless steel.


The design of your roof will have some impact on its longevity; it needs to be able to cope with the elements. The pitch is an important factor, as this facilitates the run-off of rain. If the pitch is too low, the water will be more likely to collect and leak, particularly at the bottom. Traditionally designed roofs often tend towards a steeper pitch, but this will require more materials, so look for a good balance.


Finally, the way that the tiles are actually laid impacts the durability of your roof. Firstly, it’s important to plan the way you lay the tiles in order to avoid having to walk on them – this avoids putting unnecessary stress on them.

Secondly, the tiles should be laid so that there’s adequate headlap. This means laying your tiles so that each course not only overlaps the row below, but also the top (or “head”) of the row before that.

How much headlap you need varies depending on both environmental conditions and the pitch of the roof, but is usually somewhere between 3 and 4 inches. To work out the course spacing with your headlap included, simply subtract the headlap length from the length of your slates, then divide the remainder by two. For example, if you’re using 20” tiles with a 4” headlap, your calculation would be (20-4)/2 = 8, so you’ll have 8” of each row of tiles visible when they’re laid.

Naturally, you should work this out before you order your slates, to ensure that you have enough to cover the roof.

With these factors considered, you should be able to install a roof that will last well into the 22nd century! At All Slates, we can provide you with the very best reclaimed slate, durable enough to make any roof both long-lived and stunningly beautiful. For more information, contact us on 01829 262 600 today.

Categories: All Slates, Reclaimed Slate, Slate, Slates Roofs