Can You Walk On a Slate Roof

Slate is a very durable material that can provide great weather protection and long-term stability when used on the roof. The material can, however, deteriorate over time, making it more pliable and prone to damage. If you’re unsure whether your slate roof is safe enough to walk on, follow this guide to determine the condition of your roof before you step onto it.

Reasons to Avoid Walking On a Slate Roof

Slate roofs can be as brittle as they are durable. A properly maintained slate roof can last over a hundred years, protecting your home’s structure in all weather conditions. But under pressure, especially the precise and localized force of a footstep, a slate roof can crack. It’s possible to walk on this surface and not see any visible damage, but small crevices could still be created throughout the tiles, which can lead to water accumulation and leakage. 

In most cases, it’s best to call a professional to do any repairs or maintenance to your slate roof. If you’re considering getting this type of roofing installed or currently have it protecting your home, we’ll explore a few more details related to this material and why walking on it might not be the best idea.

Moisture Accumulation

If it has recently rained or snowed, you should always wait until the roof has dried before stepping onto it. Slate can become incredibly slippery when wet, making it difficult to gain traction when walking on the roof during wet conditions, even with non-slip shoes on.

Potential Unseen Damage

Slate roofs can start to soften and crumble, or even loosen and break off, as they age. If you notice missing or visibly cracked tiles, pieces of tiles flaking off (also known as ‘delaminating’), or a powdery appearance, it’s time to start looking into repairs and possible roof replacement.

Tile Discolouration

As the slate tiles age, they will turn darker—often a brown, brownish-yellow, or tan colour. This natural weathering process may be normal, but it can also indicate that the roof requires extra care or maintenance and may be less stable than when it was first installed. If you notice that your roof has changed colour since it was first installed, you’ll want to do some repairs before anyone walks on it.

Rotted Roof Sheathing

The thin sheets of wood underneath the slate tiles can absorb moisture and eventually rot, especially in areas where the slate has cracked or deteriorated from age or weather damage. Don’t get up on the roof if you see signs of wood rot or mould, either from the interior or exterior, as that could mean the whole structure is unstable.

Cost of Repair and Replacement

If you’ve gone through the process of having a natural slate roof installed, then you know that it’s two to three times more expensive than regular shingles. Due to the weight of slate tiles, shipping tends to be costly, and it’s likely your roof’s structure needs to be reinforced to withstand the additional weight. While you may not be able to avoid weather damage or unforeseen circumstances requiring you to replace your slate tiles, you can avoid damaging them further by ensuring you don’t walk on the roof and contact a professional roofing company for repairs.

How to Properly Walk On a Slate Roof

Slate is hard-wearing and durable, but it can easily crack under pressure. That’s why professionals use hook ladders, jacks, and planks when working on slate roofing, allowing them to walk on the surface without putting any weight on it. If you don’t have the proper materials to do it safely, it’s best to let a professional tend to the roof.

We’re Here to Help with Your Slate Roof

Whether you’re looking into slate roofing for your home or another material, our team can walk you through your options and what longevity, maintenance, and replacement might look like. If you have more immediate needs, like a slate roof inspection, repair or replacement, call us at Roofmaster today. Our specialized award-winning roofing experts are properly trained to work on slate, even during the winter and spring weather. We’re just a call away for all your roofing repair and maintenance needs!