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Busting the myths about slate roofs on cabins: – A roof you’ll never want to replace

Montering av skifertak med sort og brun takskifer fra Otta
For Per Kjetil, it was a dream come true to finally be able to lay stone on his roof – of his own cabin.

– I’m a bit ’spoilt‘, but there’s something about how the sun plays on the rock and changes it, as if it’s being hardened, which I think is quite beautiful. Some people might think it’s a bit strange to put a slate roof on a small isolated cabin in Tynset, Norway, but for me, it was a dream come true.

So says Per Kjetil Holthe-Berg, and the reason he calls himself ’spoilt‘ is that he is a sales manager for Minera Skifer.

Inspired by beautiful slate roofs in Gudbrandsdalen valley in Norway

– I’ve worked with slate for decades, but I’m still just as inspired when I drive down Gudbrandsdalen and see the beautiful slate roofs that have been there for generations. So that was the main motivation behind investing in this for my own cabin, he explains.

Although Per Kjetil lives and works in Oppdal, he chose Otta slate for his own roof.

– An Otta slate roof is something very special. The slate suits the local landscape so well and is incredibly beautiful together with typical Norwegian mountain scenery, such as birch forests. As time passes, the roof will also acquire the characteristic rust colour, which is absolutely impossible to force or fake, he says.

A close-up of a slate roof with brown and rust-colored slate from Otta Pillarguri. The roofing of  slate is over 100 years old.

100-year-old stone – as good as new

The reason for this colour change is the iron content of the slate. As the weather and seasons take hold of the roof tiles, they will simply begin to rust. This eventually appears as a golden patina.

– It’s quite fascinating, because on the side of the roof where the sun shines the most, this process occurs faster, which is due to the many frequent temperature changes. In the mountains, it can go from frost to glorious sunshine and the roof can be exposed to temperature changes of 30-40 celsius degrees every day, Per Kjetil explains.

Unlike ’ordinary‘ rust, this does not impair quality. On the contrary, in fact.

– It’s not at all uncommon that the only thing left behind from dilapidated old buildings built several hundred years back, is the slate roof tiles. This stone is of the same technical quality as when it was first laid and can be used again and again, he says.

Timeless, perpetual and maintenance free

You might associate mountain lodges with grass and turf on the roof. However, your children may not. Per Kjetil can see a growing trend for slate on roofs.

– There are a lot of fine turf roofs, but they require a lot of maintenance and become very heavy compared with slate roofs. Moreover, a lot of moisture is stored in turf roofs and there is always a risk of leakage. You don’t get that with slate, he explains.

Well worth the money

Even laying a slate roof is relatively easy. At least if you get a little help, which Per Kjetil recommends.

– Laying a slate roof is not your typical DIY job. If you are reasonably practical, it is certainly possible, but I would probably recommend getting professionals to take care of this particular job, he explains.

He hired a company that completed the entire process in just three days.

– They were incredibly fast. Within three days, three roofers had completed a total of 120 sqm. So I thought that was certainly well worth the money, Per Kjetil says.

A cabin where a slate roof is to be mounted on a barge.
Installation of a slate roof on a cabin. The roofing slate is black and brown Otta Pillarguri.

Are you still unsure about having a slate roof on your cabin? Here are three myths about slate roofs that are much easier to crush than the slate roof itself:

Myth # 1: It’s expensive

– Yes, it costs more, but it will last longer. I’ve decided to see this as an investment and over time, the initial outlay soon pays for itself. A slate roof is something you’ll never get rid of, Per Kjetil explains.

In the past, the wood under the stone might rot and collapse. This was because the slate roof was mounted in a way that did not allow the wood to breathe, and wood doesn’t appreciate that. Now, attachment methods have improved. So your roof can last for a very long time.

– If this cabin is ever to be demolished this roof will definitely be moved to another building, he says.

Myth #2: It’s heavy

A lot of people are worried about this. Roof slates are thin and the Norwegian mountains are generous with their snow. But this is not something you need to worry about.

– Due to slate’s strength, there is no problem. In other countries, the market is dominated by clay slate. This bears no comparison to the slate we quarry in Norway and Sweden. Nordic slate is far more solid and can withstand the snow masses that accumulate on cabin roofs, he says.

If you’re still a little concerned, you could consider going down a bit in format.

– If your cabin is in a very snow-prone area, you probably shouldn’t use the largest tile size. For smaller tile sizes, there will be a shorter distance between each attachment point, and the roof will withstand more. I haven’t been worried for a second about whether the roof would withstand the weight, he says.

Myth #3: It requires a lot of maintenance

– The short answer here is that it doesn’t require any maintenance. None at all, says Per Kjetil.

He says that in the 12 years his cabin has had a slate roof, he has not replaced a single tile.

– I inspect the roof from ground level on a regular basis, but this is mostly for my own sake. The roof is actually completely maintenance-free!

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