The Older Home: Caring for copper, slate and tile roofs

Copper, slate or clay tile lends a house a traditional beauty and gives it a distinctive character. These materials also are long-lasting and resistant to damage from fire, rot or insects. But compared to standard asphalt shingles, all of them tend to be more expensive and harder to install and repair.

A Copper Top

In addition to installing more conventional types of shingles, Andy Gallina also does custom copper roofing through his company A & J Reliable, Inc., Inc., based in Spring Valley, N.Y. ( He said this specialty makes up about 30 percent of his business.

Gallina admitted that copper costs about three times as much as a regular asphalt roof, but claimed it will hold up three times as long. “Where asphalt lasts 18 to 25 years, copper lasts 40 to 50 years,” he said. “We like to say, ‘Install a copper roof for your grandkids.’”

A & J Reliable, Inc. operates its own sheet-metal shop in Spring Valley where workers bend and stretch the copper. Gallina said his company has installed these roofs mostly on Victorian houses in older, upscale towns such as Ridgewood. The products he uses come with copper or brass accessory parts that add historical accuracy.

One reason why copper is so long-wearing, Gallina said, is because it flexes with outdoor temperature changes. “If it’s 40 degrees in the morning and 70 in the afternoon, the roof actually moves,” he explained.

He advised that it takes special skill and training to install or repair a copper roof.