Dwindling or in rude health? In what state is traditional slate roofing in today?
Traditional Slate Roofing: there’s nothing else like it.
Make no mistake, we live in such interesting times. That’s before we mention the state of our industry. Regular readers of this blog may think traditional slate roofing is the definitive roofing material. Today, it faces more competition. Not only from terracotta tiles, but also corrugated roofs and solar roofs. You can now get metal roofs which look like regular slate roofing. A godsend? Maybe not, though the difference is indistinguishable from a distance.
You may be amazed to find that traditional slate roofing is part and parcel of life in India. For several generations, slate roofing has been the default roof covering for some households. Particularly among Sanphur and Phelungru speaking people, said to have used slate since “time immemorial”. According to an article in the Morung Express, the amount of families erecting a traditional slate roof has fallen.
Instead of going for traditional Indian slate they have opted for metal alternatives, such as corrugated galvanised iron roofing. Furthermore, slate roofing had been the preserve of rich families, and this was owing to one ritual. The sacrifice of a fat male pig to dedicate their new home.
Today’s ‘slate roofs’ no longer need to be made from slate. You can now get metal roofs that mimic the style of a traditional slate roof. The solar roof of the future could ape our handiwork too, with a solar roof posing as a bog-standard roof. In the name of consumer choice, all good and well. None of them compare with a real slate roof.
Why traditional slate matters
As well as sensitive town planning, nothing adds architectural value to the area better than locally sourced building materials. It sets the town or village apart from a typical clone town with the same shops and houses. Properly maintained, slate roofs last for years – several years. The roofer’s craft is all there to see.
Furthermore, it is important that the art of traditional slate roofing is retained for years to come, well into the 21st century. The longevity of a slate roof is a force to be reckoned with, and the retention of the specialised skills required is paramount. In the UK, there is still great demand for slate roofing technicians and its popularity as a material – aesthetically and technically – hasn’t waned.