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Blog 6 – A Roof Over Our Head

natural slate

I only thought the design stage was hard until I had to start deciding on finishes for our dwelling. I started to loose my professionalism getting very indecisive as decisions had to be made. It’s easy to see a finished product for a client but making a decision for myself that I will have to spend the rest of my life looking at is a whole other ball game….it’s giving me a better understanding for clients!

Our contractor Seamus Friel & Sons designed and cut our roof timbers. We were originally going with a fiber cement tile roof finish, solely based on it being more financially viable, but as the roof timbers progressed we started to doubt our decision and looked into the option of using a natural slate roof finish. For anyone who’s not sure of the difference, a fiber cement tile is a manufactured alternative to the natural slate.The above image is of a natural slate roof and the below picture is of a manufactured fiber cement tiled roof. I just love the ruggedness of the natural slate above. It has so much more character than the manufactured alternative.

fiber cement

Fiber cement slates can discolor through time but a natural slate will last a lifetime. I was actually on another clients site last week and there was an old farmhouse that had natural slates still intact 300 years later. Now that’s something for a lifetime guarantee! We were also advised that a natural slate is a better option on exposed sites such as ours and we should have very little problems with slates falling off during bad winds throughout the years. Choosing the natural slate also reverted back to my design concept of a modern dwelling using old traditional Irish construction materials.


I didn’t realise there was so many options with a natural slate. We used a company called Cembrit who supply locally in Coyles Arro, Buncrana and Cembrit’s local rep John Breslin was very informative and professional arriving with loads of different slate samples for us to choose from and advising on the best option for our needs. I’m in the industry a long time but didn’t realise the area of expertise there was in choosing a slate and we were lucky to have John to guide us through this process.


After a few days driving about looking at other houses and getting advice from our contractor and friends we decided to go with Cembrit’s Spanish quarried slate in the smaller size of 50x25cm with a plain clay ridge. I preferred the look of the smaller slate as it gave the roof a lot more character and as I watched our slates progress on site I was thrilled on how well they looked. In our eyes the extra cost at this stage will save us money in the long run as the natural slates should last a lifetime and as the saying goes “you pay for what you get”.


And now can we take a moment to appreciate the chimney…….


Thank you to Jamie Friel for creating our bespoke in-situ chimney! Whoever thought a love for a chimney could develop…maybe this build is sending me crazy!!!