Slate is almost a perfect roofing material- it is fireproof, mossproof, rust-proof, and never wears out. A well-built slate roof can last hundreds of years.
But installing slate shingles takes skill. For correct repair and installation work on slate roofs you need have special slate roof tools. At the minimum you’ll need a slate hammer and a slate cutter. For removing old slate shingles during repair work, you’ll also want a slate ripper.
The slate hammer is looks sort of like a mountain climber’s ice axe in miniature. The hammer head is used for nailing work and the 6 inch tapered tail for punching nail holes in slate shingles. They’re lightweight, about 14 ounces, since nailing slate must be done carefully.
It is easy to crack a shingle by hitting too hard, and hitting too softly can cause cracks as well. Some hammers also incorporate a nail-puller feature or forged in slate-cutting edges.
Some roofers like to employ the hammer, in conjunction with a straight edge like a slater’s stake for cutting shingles. For volume work, a slate cutting tool is the better choice.
Slate cutters look and work pretty much like guillotine-style paper cutters. The shingle is held, finished side down, on the flat surface portion and the chopping blade is lowered in short quick strokes to slice off the slate. For such a sturdy material, it’s surprising how easy slate is to cut and shape.
For replacement of broken slate roof shingles, a slate ripper is used. These are high grade steel bars resembling tire irons, from 18 to 30 inches long, with a short, offset gripping handle at one end and a hooked blade tip at the other end.
To remove a tile, you slip the hooked end under the broken shingle and hook it around the nails fastening the slate in place. Then the handle end is struck with a single hammer blow, and the nail pops out. Once all the shingle’s nails are pulled, it will slide out easily, to be replaced with the new shingle cut to a matching size.
Other Slate Roof Tools
If you will be doing work on roof flashings, for sheet metal work, you’ll probably want to have a good pair of hand tongs. These will Used bend flat seams on seam work, bend metal joints when reflashing chimneys, and do general sheet metal or copper bending. Special angled and offsset hand tongs are also available for situations where you have limited room to work.
Don’t forget that you will need special slate nails for attaching your shingles. The best type is copper. A wax pencil can come in handy when marking out your course-lines, as it will mark good on slate, sheet metal, and roofing felt.