The Roof – Part 2

On the roof

On the roof. Cutting the slates at an angle to fit round the zinc valley.
Chris cutting the slates, Brian fitting them.

We left the roof a while ago with trusses and roof lights in place and awaited the arrival of the slates. In due course, they turned up – crates and crates of them, followed shortly by Brian and the return of Chris, last seen putting the scaffolding up.

Their arrival coincided with some of the highest winds we’ve encountered during the build which, at one stage, had me packing emergency caravan evacuation bags. But this didn’t seem to faze the men on the roof. Whatever the weather, slates were being laid.

The first job was to repair the roof felt that had been shredded in the winds and to lift some of the crates of slates onto the scaffolding.

Then, attach the slates. Since the joiners had finished the roof with sarking boards, there’s no need for any more battens to attach the slates to. They are just nailed down to the sarking board through the blue roof felt. It means Brian takes careful measurements at the start of a row, fastens the first slate in place then carefully lines up each subsequent slate to keep the row completely level.

This is very much a Scottish roof in that respect. It’s also very Scottish in that the slates are pretty heavy too. Stan had taken a look at the slates Andy had specified (Cupa 4 Spanish slates) and reckoned he could do better.

The Cabrera Grey Spanish slates that turned up had a very impressive quality certificate which said they were as tough as old boots. I think Chris would agree. His job was to cut the slates down as required by Brian using a traditional slate knife. It was taking him 6 or 7 thwacks (technical term!) with the knife to get through them. Even a slater’s guillotine was taking 3 or 4 blows. These slates will last.

The North Face of the house from the summit of Mount Topsoil, a little known peak in the Borders, Showing how the slates flow round the Velux roof lights.

The North Face of the house from the summit of Mount Topsoil, a little known peak in the Borders.
Showing how the slates flow round the Velux roof lights.

Gradually they worked round the roof. On the north side, there are 8 roof lights to work round. Velux provide flashings designed to fit their windows so “all” a roofer has to do is cut the slates to the correct width.

Slowly, over 7 or 8 days, the roof is filled with slates.

I had been curious how they manage to work up there. The height’s not so much of a bother because the scaffolding is in place but somehow they had to get up to the ridge and continue to work.

The answer is roof irons which are hammered in place between a couple of slates, then a scaffolding batten is laid on top – instant platform. To assist with this, Chris explained how they attach adjacent slates with a single nail so they can be swung out of the way to allow the platform to be placed.

The half finished living room roof with battens for working from

The half finished living room roof with battens for working from

Where they couldn’t place a platform, they simply nailed battens into the sarking boards as an informal ladder and climbed up these instead.

Stan had allowed them 2 weeks to complete the roof and it looks like they will just run over that. But they did spend half a day unloading insulation from a wagon that turned up a day early in the gales last week when we all spent a couple of hours chasing loose sheets of Kingspan all over the county.

Nearly there then and it will look stunning when it’s finished and has had a couple of showers of rain to wash the dust off it.

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