THE first requisite is a ladder, which can be hired from a builder’s merchant. An ordinary ladder is better than an extending ladder; if, however, purchase is contemplated and can be justified on general grounds an extending type is the most suitable for general use. Erect the ladder so that its top extends a few rungs above the eaves. As a safety measure, during the course of the work, arrange for a second person to stand by the foot of the ladder and ensure that it docs not slip or move. See that the foot stands firm and level; if necessary put a wedge under one side to bring it level.
It is dangerous to put any pressure or weight on the gutter; do not attempt to deal with slates out of arm’s reach when on the ladder, especially on a high roof. Builders use a duckboard, which is hooked over the ridge of the roof and lies upon the slated or tiled surface, but even in experienced hands this is none too safe a contrivance. Apart from safety considerations, an inexperienced person may do extensive damage to adjacent slates and tiles while making a small repair.
Slates are fixed to battens, or to a close-boarded roof, by two nails. Three rows of battens are involved, and the head of the slate lies upon the top batten. The slate is nailed to the next lower batten (upon which rests the head of the next lower course of slates); while the slate we are dealing with overlaps the third batten to a small extent. Any given portion of roof is thus covered by three thicknesses of slate, more or less. A cracked or broken slate must be removed, -as a rule, by cutting the nails that hold it. For this job a slater’s ripper must be used, if it is possible to purchase or, preferably, hire the tool. The tool invariably has a cranked handle and an arrow-shaped head with two V-shaped cutting notches. It is thrust between the slates and the notch on one side brought against the nail to be cut; the ripper is then brought vigorously against the nail in one or two strokes until the nail is severed or pulled out. The ripper is then moved along to deal with the second nail, after which the defective slate can be removed.
Unless several adjacent slates are taken off, which is neither desirable nor practicable as a rule, we cannot fix the replacement slate by nailing; the point of attachment is hidden by the slate of the next course above. The new slate must therefore be attached by a clip made of stout zinc or copper or thin lead sheet bent over and behind the top of the slate beneath the one to be fixed. Another method is to nail the top part of the clip to the batten, through the narrow space left between two adjacent slates of the underlying row. The tail of the clip is left lying flat on the slates; the new slate is slid up into place, and the clip is now bent up and over the bottom edge of this slate in the form of a hook, and pressed down closely.
Replacing Defective Tiles
We can deal here only with plain tiling, since the repair of the so-called single-lap tiles is more involved. Plain tiles are laid with a double lap, in a similar manner to slates, the tile in any one course overlapping part of those in the next two courses lower. But tiles, besides being holed for nails, are formed with ‘nibs’ projecting downwards underneath the head, and these nibs hook over the battens. Not every course is nailed, but, generally every fourth or fifth course, thus facilitating repairs or replacements, since, in many cases, it is necessary only to unhook the adjacent tiles and take out the broken ones. Nailed tiles can be freed by the use of the ripper, as for slates.
Clay tiles are very fragile, and in consequence it is only those parts of the roof easily accessible that can be dealt with by the amateur. Do not disturb any tiles but those immediately concerned; take out the broken ones and put new ones in their place. Put back any others that may have been removed for the purpose. Tiles can be levered up with an old, flat knife or a putty knife, and may be propped up by% thin wooden slips or wedges while the one to be removed is worked out. Sometimes it is possible to get at tiles on the high part of a roof from inside the roof space, and to put in a new one. But it is only in open roofs (tiles on battens) that they are accessible in this manner.