Business Articles - Specialty and Trade

Making Natural Slate Roofing Green

Roofing ranks near the top of the list when it comes to commonplace home improvements that can benefit big from going green. After all, your roof's exposure to heat, cold, and sunlight make it an excellent candidate for improving your home's overall energy efficiency. And seeing as how your roof is also your home's most important line of defense when it comes to protecting you and yours from the elements, it's easy to see why homeowners across the country are drawn to the quality workmanship and high expectations that green remodeling is known for.

Natural Slate Roofing is Green Roofing
In addition to all that, it's hard to find a better choice than natural slate roofing if going green is a priority for you. It's 100 percent natural building material, requires minimal processing to turn it into roofing, and its reputation for longevity and low maintenance make it the perfect fit where green is concerned. Virtually across the board, slate roofs are a great choice if you're looking to go green in the roofing department.

Green Roofing with David Johnston
There's nobody better walk you through the ins and outs of how make sure your natural slate roof installation is as green as they come than David Johnston, founder of the green consulting firm What's Working, Inc., author of the Nautilus Award winning book Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time, and ServiceMagic's point man on all things green. Here's some of Johnston's advice on what you can do to make sure your natural slate roof is as green as they come.

Green Roofing and Increased Energy Savings
There's no question that choosing a greener roof can translate into cheaper energy bills in the long term. Here are a few things you can do to get the most out of your new slate roof in the energy savings department.

  • Install Radiant Heat Barriers—Radiant heat barriers are a thin layer of metal insulation (usually tin foil with a paper backing or a metalized mylar sheeting), which can reduce radiant heat transfer into your attic by as much as 95 percent when installed to the underside of your roof.
  • Install Rainwater Catch Systems—You can reduce your water bills by installing cisterns or drums as part of your roofing installation in order to catch valuable rainwater for landscaping use.

The Environmental Benefits of Natural Slate Roofing
Energy savings are good, but environmental stewardship is at the heart of any green roofing project. While natural slate roofing is as environmentally friendly as roofing materials come, here are a few suggestions to help you take the environmental aspects of your new slate roof to the next level.

  • Consider Reclaimed Slate—Since slate is natural stone, the slate used in older slate roofs can often be reclaimed and reused. If you can find reclaimed slate and a contractor willing to work with it, you'll be investing in one of the most environmentally friendly roofing materials on the market, period.
  • Recycle Slate—If you're replacing or tearing out an older slate roof, be sure to recycle this valuable roofing material, rather than send it to the landfill.
  • The Closer to Home, the Better—If you can, try to purchase slate that's been quarried as near to your home as possible. You'll save on high transportation and labor costs associated with shipping slate long distances, and you'll be doing right by the environment at the same time since less fossil fuels will be burned shipping the slate from the quarry to your jobsite.
  • 100-Year Roof—In a time when most roofing products aren't manufactured to last more than 20 years, slate roofs routinely last five times that long with minimal repair and maintenance needs. From an environmental standpoint, that's five times less roofing that's destined to end up in your local landfill.

Quality, Health, and Going Green with Natural Slate Roofing
Johnston is quick to point out that green remodeling is about a lot more than creating energy-efficient homes. It's just as much about creating higher quality, safer, and healthier homes, as well. Here are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that these issues are a priority during, and after, your new slate roof installation.

  • Slate Roofs are Healthy Roofs—A properly installed natural slate roof is one of the healthiest roofing products around since it requires just two things to install: slate and nails. Both are as healthy as roofing materials get, unlike petroleum-based roofing materials and common roofing adhesives that can off-gas harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air around your home for weeks, months, and even years after being installed.
  • Hire an Experienced Slate Roofer—Slate requires skill and experience to install and repair. If done right, a natural slate roof can last 100 years or more with little or no maintenance and repair. If done wrong, a slate roof will provide your home with little more than good looks. From a green perspective, the latter means leaks, moisture damage, rot, and mold development, all of which can contribute to poor indoor air quality and potentially serious health problems.
  • Provide Adequate Attic Ventilation—Proper attic ventilation is vital to a healthy, green roof. Ridge vents, soffit vents, and gable vents all help to keep air circulating, resulting in a cooler attic (and home) in the summer, and reducing condensation build-up in the attic in the winter, which can result in water damage, rot, and mold growth.
  • Build a Steep Sloped Roof—A roof with a steep pitch discourages standing water, leakage, and other water damage. That means less chance of moisture penetration, and a reduced risk of water damage and mold growth.

Calculating the True Value of Going Green with Your Roof
What is it going to cost if you go green with a natural slate roof? To be honest, green additions like radiant heat barriers, rain catchment systems, and opting for reclaimed slate are all going to be pretty insignificant in the face of the high cost of natural slate roofing to begin with. Anyway you look at it, a natural slate roof is an expensive undertaking, though you can take some comfort in knowing it's the last roof you'll ever have to install. That said, Johnston does warn homeowners against getting caught up in "the payback trap" when going green, noting that green remodeling is worth a lot more than can be measured in dollars and cents. A green natural slate roof is healthier, long lasting, and it's a lower maintenance roofing solution. Add that to that the fact that by adopting a green roofing philosophy, you'll be committing to a more environmentally responsible world for your children and grandchildren, and it's easy to see what Johnston means when he says that the true value of going green is worth far more than any bottom line.

If you think green is the right choice for you, be sure to talk to your contractor about adopting a green building philosophy, find a contractor who specializes in green building and remodeling, or seek out the services of a green consulting firm to help you plan and design the best, and greenest, roof you possibly can.

David Johnston
We are proud to partner with David Johnston, internationally recognized green building expert, to provide our homeowners and service professionals with the information necessary to "green" their projects.
• To learn more about David Johnston, click here.
• To learn more about Green Certification training, click here.

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