Slate is made up of a mixture of minerals, including quartz and muscovite, and has been widely used by man in many ways, particularly as a roofing material. Historical accounts tell of slate roofing as far back as the late 13th century, when it was used to cover a church in North Wales, and it became very popular, due to its resistance to both fire and weather conditions. In those times, slate was extremely difficult to mine, and only the very rich could afford a slate roof. Having said that, there were wealthy people who used slate roofing for castles and churches, and it remained that way for a few hundred years.
The Industrial Revolution
Of course, the close proximity to natural slate was required, and both Spain and Wales both became the home of many slate quarries in the mid-19th century, and the mining process was developed to a point where even the average family could afford slate roofing, which offered great weather protection, as well as being fire resistant, which was very important in those days. The last 40 years of the 19th century saw a heavy demand for slate roof tiles, both in Europe and America, which is why there are so many heritage buildings today that have slate roofing.
In the mid-1800s, there was a thriving import export industry in Australia, and slate was used as ballast for the ships that were returning to Australia from the UK, as it is very dense and the weight would be shifted to the middle of the vessel’s cargo bay, which helped to keep it stable. This happened to coincide with a need for a suitable roofing material, and as you can see if you live in NSW, even today, the slate roofing is still in good shape.
This rivals the unique black slate that can be found in Spain, and much of it ended up in Australia, where it as well received. Many civic buildings sported slate roofs, and this fuelled a demand that is still evident today. The harsh Australian climate is very unforgiving, and with the risk of fire always present, slate is the ideal roofing material, and with its insulating properties, it helps to keep the interior cool.
Modern Day Use
Despite the arrival of steel and concrete roofing, slate is still highly in demand in Australia, as there is nothing else that matches it in terms of a durable roofing material, however, sourcing tradespeople with the necessary skill so not so easy. As you would expect with so many heritage buildings that have slate roofing, there are companies that carry out repairs, and with their extensive stock of the finest slate tiles, they would be able to find a match for any roof.
Many homeowners today prefer the classic look of a slate roof, and by sourcing an established slate roof tiler, you can explore the options. There are other materials that are more affordable, but when you factor in that a slate roof will last for centuries, it is a wise investment.