TUESDAY, JULY 19, 2005

Amish roofers

If you recall, we had already signed with another roofer when After Eight B&B recommended an Amish roofer, Lantz Roofing. His bid was less than everyone else and his references were impeccable, but the real reason we decided to go with him is that he had Peach Bottom slate.

Peach Bottom is in the southern end of York County, right next to Maryland, and the blue slate quarried there is very high quality. In fact, the last “real” roof on the mansion was Peach Bottom slate. Unfortunately, the people that maintained the roof didn’t know what they were doing and so they ended up destroying a lot of it, and then they patched it with cheap slate, so it was quite the mess. (Did I mention all the water damage in the house?)

The Peach Bottom quarries closed years ago and most slate today comes from Vermont. While we have nothing against Vermont, the idea of having Pennsylvania slate is really cool, although I can’t explain why. But if the quarries were closed, then how is it that the Lantz Roofing had Peach Bottom slate? Because they’d just stripped it off a barn! It is about 80 years old, which is barely broken in; a good slate roof can last 300 years if properly maintained. So assuming all goes well, we’ll never have to replace the roof again in our lifetime.

Quick aside: In 1760, the roof would have been hand-split cedar shakes. In 1795, it might have been slate, but probably not Peach Bottom — that was still too far to transport by horse. Surprisingly, the historical folks were okay with slate. They were even okay with fake slate — which is really formed rubber — but that’s so new we weren’t sure what it would look like in 20 years. And in any case the materials cost was small compared to labor, so fake slate wouldn’t have saved us much.

Even though they gave us permission, generally speaking Amish do not like having their photograph taken. There are various theories — some say a photo is vain (deadly sin), some say it is a graven image (ten commandments), still others say they’re just tired of tourists shoving cameras in their face (golden rule).