Renovating with Salvaged Slate

We are renovating the facade of the top floor with similar slate that was there before. It is called Pennsylvania Black diamond cut. It actually looks grey. PA Black is a little softer than other slates but still great stuff. We bought our slate from Doug Cochran at Reclaimed Roofs, Inc.

Doug is a good guy. Very sincere and a fan of green building before it was called green building. His prices are good and his service is great. I contacted about seven salvage companies and liked his the best.

Price is about $350/100 sq.ft, which is in my eyes a really good deal for something that looks amazing for the next 200 years. We nailed them in with copper nails, again because they last a long time. This kind of job is something I can really get excited about. It ain’t the pyramids but it’s getting close!

Below are pics of the original painted slate and the new slate we are putting on since we are raising the wall four feet. We are stripping the brown paint off the old slate so that the whole wall is the original slate color. Doug doesn’t think stripping will be effective since PA Black is a soft slate and he thinks it has absorbed the paint. I tend to get a lot of expert opinions and then do what I want anyway 🙂 so the verdict is not out on that yet since we’ve not done stripping.

Jack Watson, one of my workers and a great green builder is taking on this job.

Salvaging Slate

We needed some slate to repair an existing slate wall on the top of the green show house. One consideration was using a slate look alike that is made from recycled materials.

But then I discovered there is a thriving community of people who salvage old slate from homes. They have merged into the “green” movement but really come from the older tradition of salvaging historic buildings, which of course was green before we had the term “green”.

It makes a lot of sense since good slate can last many hundreds of years. When the people are dead and gone the slate is still there ready for a new renovation (for example the green show house!).

One other thing, though is that the slate has to be trucked to the site from where ever I finally find it…but then that would be the case for all slate, new or old. The trick is to find a source close by.

The slate we have on the roof now is called Pennsylvania soft black with a pointed nose.


Adding Solar gain and recyclables to Facade

Above: Facade with planter and recycled joists.

Originally the top facade of the building had a lot of rotted wood. And there was a great view. So in the heat of the summer I tore down the wall and planned on adding a wall of glass. It would have been magnificent.

But then as the cooler weather came I came to my senses and realized the large window was on the north side. To have it would be a huge heat drain on the house. I basically made a colossal mistake. This is green building 101.

So I took the windows I had already bought for the space and put them on the south side of the house. This creates a very powerful passive heating element as the sun pours into the house and heats it. Solar gain to the max.

Then I was faced with doing something with the gaping hole on the north side. Some of the old slate had been broken when we took down the wall so we had a problem. We didn’t have enough slate to built it back nor could we buy similar stuff. Do we take down the rest of the remaining slate and replace it or what? Taking it down is so not green.

So I decided to get a little artsy and use the slate we have for the lower part of the facade. For the upper part we are going to create siding out of salvaged wood joists. We are going to shape it in a “V” shape and at the base of the V we will put a large planter that will collect the water from the siding above it.

The planter will be made of two triangular sides attached to the facade to create a harmony of triangular shapes with the larger triangle formed by the siding.

Even though the planter box will be very well insulated and one of its three sides will be against a heated house we will use plants that don’t need sun or warmth since the cold winds can be harsh up there. Water probably won’t be an issue since we’ll use water retaining materials in the earth.

The planter will help insulate the north wall, provide greenery, allow us to recycle old joists and keep the existing slate. This is a great example of green building.

Pre Construction:
The truly green thing would have been to repair the damaged wood and leave the windows as they are in this picture. But in the heat of renovation we got these grand ideas to make a wall of glass. Being in an environment you love is green to but not at the expense of wasted energy when you can have just as nice windows but on the south side….

And so we tore the facade off:

But then we realized our mistake and tore the south wall down to put the already ordered windows there. The sun shines in wonderfully making a fantastic space and heating us up. In the summer this heat can be a problem so we plan on having good passive ventilation, blinds, and solar panels above the windows that will also act as awnings when the sun’s angle is high in the sky during the summer months. During the winter months the sun’s angle will be low enough to pass under the panels.
The south opening: