An alliance should be formed to address key issues in slate roofing.

One would be hard pressed to argue against the natural beauty and durability of slate roofing. The product is unique, and those who make a living quarrying, marketing, installing, and repairing it are all the more so. These individuals seem to thrive on the various arguments of how it should be quarried, marketed, sold, installed, and repaired.

Discussions among various interests have gone on for years about restarting a national slate roofing association to address the needs of the slate roofing industry. Such an association did exist some years ago. Recently, these discussions grew into a meeting, called by contractor Dave Leeland and consultant Bill Marcum. Something may really come of the talk this time.

I agree that an alliance should be formed to address key issues in slate roofing. Most notably, there is a need for a review of product quality, testing and grading standards; standardization of dimensions and terminology; and training for slaters and slate roofing contractors.

Slate roofing offers one of the greatest opportunities in the roofing industry. The popularity of slate has been growing and is not showing signs of letting up. This could be an opportunity missed if the pressing demands of competition from emerging quarries are allowed to force quality compromises from the traditional quarriers, or if slate roofing contractors fail to train the next generation of slaters. Building owners demand standards, and they look to various authorities to back these standards with testing and experience. This even goes for natural building products like slate.

At this point, however, all the individuals involved are not exactly in lockstep with each other regarding how an association should be initiated or run. The interested parties all have a different agenda. There are at least two groups seeking to form an alliance, though the lines of communication between them remain open. The Leeland/Marcum group has met and has begun discussions on standards and training issues.

I applaud those who are making the effort to organize the slate roofing industry, and think it is about time. I also believe that slate roofing contractors should be in charge of a slate roofing association. There is the precedent of many other associations in the roofing industry where the roofing contractor is in charge. With contractors in charge, there is a natural tendency for others in the industry to lend support while drawing energy and improving their own situation.

However, while the contractors may be in charge, they would be lost without the advice, council, engagement, and support, from quarriers and specifiers. And if an association is to grow and prosper, it should keep the door open to those with interests in other similar steep roofing products with which slate roofing contractors might become involved as a natural part of their business, such as tile and faux-slate products.

Those with an interest in slate roofing are encouraged to engage. Roofing Contractor will report on initiatives as they develop. More meetings are planned for this spring. Listed below is contact information on two individuals involved in developing events. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions with us as well.

In the end, in order to reach consensus and settle divergent opinions, everyone should maintain an open mind and bring a willingness to hear other opinions. That is one of the key reasons for having a trade association. And the slate roofing industry needs one.

Slate Association, C/O Dave Leeland, 50 Rock Road, Ephrata, PA 17522

Joseph Jenkins, P.O. Box 607, Grove City, PA 16127