How to Replace a Broken Slate Roof Tile

Replacing a broken slate roof tile can seem daunting, but with the right tools and a bit of care, it can be a straightforward DIY project. Slate is a beautiful and durable roofing material that can last over 100 years, so it’s worth taking the time to repair damaged tiles properly.

Assess the Damage

The first step is to get up on the roof (safely, using a ladder and roof anchors) and locate the broken tile. Look at the surrounding tiles – are any cracked or loose? If multiple tiles are damaged, it’s best to replace them all at once. Also check the condition of the roof felt and battens beneath the broken tile. These may need replacing too.

Purchase Replacement Tiles

Bring the broken tile down and take it to your local roofing supplier to purchase a matching replacement. It’s important to get the same size, thickness, color and texture. Buy a few extra in case any others break during transport or installation. If you can’t find an exact match, you may need to replace the whole row.

Prepare the Work Area

Clear any debris from the roof and cover up any vulnerable areas like skylights with tarps. Have all tools and materials organized and close at hand to avoid repeatedly climbing up and down the ladder. Use roof jacks or planks to create a safe work platform. Rope off the area below and post warning signs if needed.

Remove Old Tile

Using a slate ripper, pry up the broken tile along with any cracked or loose surrounding tiles. Try to remove tiles intact if possible. Clear away any old tile fragments or debris and inspect the underlying roof components. Replace any battens or felt that are damaged.

Install New Tiles

Dry fit the replacement tile first to ensure it fits properly with no gaps. Use roofing nail or tile hook to secure the new slate. Place nail/hook near top so next course covers it. Tap gently with hammer if needed to sit tile flush with roof. Install any other new tiles using the same process.

Rebed and Point Surrounding Tiles

Use slate tile mortar or flexible sealant like silicone to rebed the new tiles and fill any gaps around them. Retain original pattern of overlaps. Tuck new pointing material up under overhanging tile edges. Tool into joints for a neat finish.

Tips for Replacing Broken Slate Roof Tiles

  • Match old tiles for size, thickness, color and texture as closely as possible
  • Work safely with fall protection gear, ladders/scaffolding tied off
  • Have someone assist to pass up tools and hold ladder
  • Take care when walking on slate to avoid breaking more tiles
  • Keep tiles covered and shaded prior to installation
  • Consider professional help for large or steep roofs

Replacing a few broken slates on your roof is totally achievable as a DIY project if you take care, work safely and use the right materials. With some simple preparation and patience, you can maintain the beauty of your slate roof.

Frequently Asked Questions About Replacing Broken Slate Roof Tiles

What tools do I need to replace a broken slate roof tile?

The basic tools you’ll need are a slate ripper, replacement tiles, slate nails or hooks, hammer, trowel, mortar or sealant, roofing felt, hand scraper, broom, measuring tape, marker, roof anchors, fall protection equipment and planks or roof jacks for creating a safe work platform.

How can I get broken tiles off the roof safely?

Use a slate ripper tool to carefully pry up the damaged tiles. Take care when walking on the sloped surface and always use proper fall protection gear secured to anchors on the roof. Remove loose debris immediately so it doesn’t slide and break other tiles.

Should I replace tiles with new or salvaged slate?

Try to find new slate tiles that match the old ones you’re replacing in size, thickness, texture and color. If that’s not possible, look for good quality used slate. Inspect salvaged tile carefully for damage before installing. Mixing new and old can result in an uneven appearance.

What is the best way to secure replacement roof slates?

Slate tiles are traditionally secured with slate hooks and nails. Copper or stainless steel are recommended over galvanized to avoid corrosion. Place fasteners near the top so they are hidden by overlapping tiles above. Alternatively, use slate tile mortar for a seamless appearance.

How can I match replacement tiles to my existing roof?

Bring an intact tile down and take it to roofing suppliers to try to find the closest match possible. Knowing the age of your roof and manufacturer may help. If you can’t find the exact tile, you may need to replace the entire row or section for consistency.

Should I repair or replace roof battens and felt while re-tiling?

Yes, inspect the condition of the roof battens (wood strips) and felt during the repair. Replace any deteriorated materials to provide proper support and prevent leaks under the new slate tiles. Use roofing felt rated for slate roofs.

How long will my slate tile roof last?

Slate is one of the most durable roofing materials and can last over 100 years when properly installed and maintained. Keeping the roof clear of debris, checking for damage after storms, and replacing broken tiles promptly will extend the lifespan dramatically.


Replacing damaged slate roof tiles is a necessary skill for maintaining the beauty and function of this timeless roofing material. With some preparation and safety precautions, this is a DIY-friendly project that can give your slate roof many more years of service. Matching the existing tiles as closely as possible and properly securing the new tiles will keep your roof looking great. Be sure to work carefully to avoid breaking any more of your valuable slate tiles.