When it comes to specifying natural slate, the choice is endless. One of the world’s oldest and most continuously used roofing materials, natural quarry slate remains a popular choice amongst architects, specifiers, builders and developers for both new build and refurbishment projects. Indeed, many reclaimed slates continue to be installed on re-roofing projects, even after decades of previous use.
As with all premium products, natural slate commands a premium price. Therefore, when cheaper slate becomes readily available, it can be tempting to be swayed by the price, or to be seduced by the super extended warranties being offered by some suppliers – in some cases up to 100 years.
When designing and specifying natural slate roofs, there is a long list of factors to consider – from the type of slate, to its colour, size and texture, and of course, the cost. The warranty should also be a key consideration.
When things go wrong, robust warranties should provide an effective safety net. If there is a problem with the project or slate, it’s important to be able to rely on that company to stand by any warranties that may apply. When the chips are down, will the supplier step in? If the company ceases trading or the supply chain breaks down further down the line, what then? If the slate was imported, is the warranty even enforceable under UK law?
If just one link becomes broken, there could be no back up and the warranty can disappear too, regardless of its longevity. The only recourse is to seek legal action, a timely and costly exercise at best, and the onus is very much on the builder or developer. During the recession, many slate supplier companies were wound up voluntarily. Whilst some disappeared without trace, others re-emerged trading under a new name, supplying the same products, but without providing cover for any previous warranties.
Unfortunately, what may seem like such a sweet deal at the time of specification can soon turn very sour. Of course, the impact from the fallout will only be felt in the event that a warranty claim needs to be made. However, that’s precisely at a time when support is most needed.
Therefore, how do you safeguard against a company going into liquidation, leaving you without valid warranties and after-sales service? When selecting your slate, you should seriously consider the reputation and credibility of your supplier. More than ever before, this is the barometer of confidence in your purchase.
Reputation and integrity count for everything, and if problems surface further down the line, and support becomes necessary, these attributes will far outweigh the savings you may have made by sourcing cheaper products or falling victim to extended warranties.
Buy in confidence
Pick a supplier that is in it for the long term, is financially sound, and has a plc status. The origin of the products it supplies is important too. For example, if you are purchasing products manufactured in the UK and the merchant goes into liquidation or re-registers its company name, you will have some legal protection from the manufacturer under British law. However, when it comes to imported products, seeking redress via the European courts can be tricky in the event of a claim, as proving the source of origin can often be practically impossible.
Despite sourcing products from abroad, there are natural slate providers, such as SIGA, that offer robust warranties and case histories. They have invested in their suppliers and supply chain, and will have sufficient protections in place. More importantly, when you buy premium branded slate, like SIGA, all warranties will be honoured, even if the slate quarry that supplies the slate ceases trading.
When it comes to choosing natural slate, you should always take into account its quality and selections. Equally important though is the traceability of supply and labelling of the slate, as this is a likely indication of the professionalism and chain of custody provided by the supplier. Should there be a problem linked with any one of these three components, the contractor could be left with a problem.
Always remember, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. With natural slate you get what you pay for, more than with any other roofing material. There is always cheaper slate around, but there will always be a reason that it’s cheap, so specify with caution.
Specifying inferior slates may not only damage your pocket, it can seriously discredit your reputation. Far better to put your trust in a reputable supplier, safe in the knowledge that the slate you are buying is the real deal.