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Told we had a slate roof--turns out...

17 years ago's asbestos. We bought our lovely, grand 1910 home less than a year ago and was told (also on the listing sheet) that the roof was slate. Were told that the roof was is great condition b/c the owners replace the loose slate that had fallen due to snow and ice, each winter. In fact, even saw the roofing guy there to replace slate while we were in negotiations to purchase.

Today a slate roofer came to our home to give us a quote on some work and he presented us with the bad, bad news. There is absolutley no slate on our house, simply asbestos shingles made to look like slate. In fact, they are so old that the asbesdos fibers are showing.

Has anyone has a problem like this? I'm at a real loss. I want to blame the Realtor and previous owners for providing false information (our roofer said that any roofer would be able to tell from sight alone that this was not slate) and we never would have paid what we did for this home knowing it was an asbestos roof.

Aside from the legal (?) issue, has anyone dealt with removal of asbestos roof shingles? Any feedback, including cost? And how about those rubber tiles that look like slate? Anyone use those? *sigh*

Many thanks...

Comments (24)

  • elljays
    17 years ago

    Did you have a home inspection before you closed? I'm surprised that the inspector didn't realize the discrepancy. I'm so sorry for your "surprise." We've had a few surprises too that our inspector either didn't see, or chose not to tell us.

  • brickeyee
    17 years ago

    There are asphalt shingles that look like slat from ground level available also.
    Asbestos roofing shingles are pretty low on the hazard scale since they are not usually friable even if in poor condition.
    A local roofer will now what the rules are for removal and disposal.

  • hgolightly
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Well, we did have an inspection. A good one I thought--he spent about 4 hours and was very thorough. He did state that the roof was slate and appeared to be in good condition. He did not get up on the roof and stated in his documents that the scope of his inspection of the roof was thru binoculars.

    The bank also did an inspection and confirmed slate. I think that they all trusted the listing document that stated the roof was slate. It really looks like it. I even saved the "slate" shingles that fell from the winter--had me fooled even while I was holding it.

    How do we replace these missing shingles? Do they even make asbestos slate-looking shingles anymore?

  • Pipersville_Carol
    17 years ago

    From a strictly functional point of view, this doesn't seem like a big negative to me. If it looks enough like slate to have fooled everyone, it must look pretty good. Asbestos cement shingles are a good durable material, as long as you don't cut them and make dust. In a way, they're better than slate because they're less brittle.

    Replacement shingles should be available. We had some replaced on our previous house. The carpenter just showed up with them. I don't know where he got them.

  • redbirds
    17 years ago

    We bought a mid-1800's house in December, which was also listed as having a "slate" roof. This seems to be a common occurrence and is probably not often an intentional misrepresentation. The only thing that tipped me off was I started doing some web searches for cleaning methods for slate and saw a picture of an asbestos roof that was just like the one on our house, and really doesn't resemble real slate when you look at it closely. Luckily, we got a home inspector that specializes in old houses, and he confirmed it was asbestos. During our buying experience, we learned that many people that know a lot about new construction know nothing about old houses.

    We knew about the asbestos before we bought the house and really debated on whether it was an issue we wanted to deal with. The bottom line was that we loved the house, asbestos roofs are incredibly durable and long-lasting, and we did offer a little less money for it due to the discrepancy with the listing. It is weird, because now, I notice our kind of shingle on all kinds of old houses!

    I've attached a link to a photo like our shingles, and you should check out the rest of, that site really calmed me down about the whole "ASBESTOS" word scare.

    With all that said, it does seem to me like your inspector should have known about the material of your roof, or at least researched it to find out. Our roof is in pretty good shape, so we don't have to worry about replacement, at least for now. We did have a small stack of the shingles on our carport, so look around your house for some spares. You can get replacement shingles that have been salvaged, even though they are not made anymore.

    Good luck and don't be too discouraged. I have actually come to really love my roof and its distinctive look.

    Here is a link that might be useful:

  • sharon_sd
    17 years ago

    Are there disclosure laws in your state that have been broken? You may be able to receive damages from the PO, the realtor and the inspector who misinformed you.

  • tleventer
    16 years ago

    OMG! I just had this happen TODAY! I'm in the process of getting quotes for work on other parts of the roof (regular shingles) and have had 1 contractor tell me that the original house roof isn't slate, it's asbestos. There's no way I would have purchased the house if the inspector had uttered that word, much less written it on the paperwork!! GRRRR. And something tells me the FHA would have had issues with it as well in doing my loan. I can get the repairs done around it, but am looking at putting it up for sale in 2 years... how is this going to affect its saleability??? Livid doens't quite cut how I feel right now.

  • kframe19
    16 years ago

    Asbestos is a HUGE bugaboo word.

    Mention it and people start panicking thinking they're going to immediately contract asbestos-related cancer and die tomorrow.

    Encapsulated asbestos, the kind that is found in your shingles, in certain types of vinyl flooring, cement products, etc., is safe as long as it is in good condition and nothing is done that will liberate the asbestos particles.

    For something like roof shingles that would require crushing, severe abrasion, etc.

    Check with your state department of environmental affairs to see what kind of requirements there are for dealing with slate-like shingles that contain asbestos.

  • geokid
    16 years ago

    A lot of time asbestos roofs are referred to as asbestos slate and the asbestos part gets dropped and people just say slate. The sellers probably thought they had a slate roof too, so don't know about any recourse you could have. Even if they did know it was asbestos and not true slate, I don't know how you could prove that. If it fooled you they can easily say they were fooled too. Maybe if they had roofing work done you could go to the roofer they used and see if he remembers it.

    Just our experience:
    Our 1920 foursquare had asbestos shingles too. We bought our home using a first-time home buyer program and we got and FHA grant to make upgrades. One of the things that needed to be done was fix the chimney (crumbling, leaks, the whole bit) and no contractor would touch it with the asbestos roof. So, although the roof was in OK shape, we had it completely replaced. Roofers we hired were certified in asbestos removal and it took them two days to remove old shingles and install new ones.

    They did run into a problem when they pulled the old roof off and space between roof boards was too wide to just put new shingles on. They had to add a plywood (I think that's what they used) base and then add the shingles.

    I actually miss the old roof. It gave the house a really unique look and now it looks like every other house.

    Guess what I'm saying is:
    -Asbestos roofs aren't bad as long as the asbestos isn't deteriorating. And the good thing with these roofs is you can just replace the tiles individually as they go bad. They give the house an unique look, as I know you know since you bought your house in part because of the roof.

    -If you do decide to replace the asbestos, check your roof board spacing (if you have an open attic, just go up there and see how far apart the boards are). You may have to have a new base put on for the new shingles and that will add to the cost. Our roofer knew our financial situation and only charged us for the material and not the labor so that helped.

  • geokid
    16 years ago

    I guess I didn't read your post well enough, sorry. Sounds like they did do roof work and it sounds like your roofer implied that their roofer should have known and thus the sellers should have known as well. If their roofer has copies of the bills he sent them that has details about the replacement tiles he used, then you may be able to prove the sellers knew.

    I doubt you'd have any recourse with the realtor because they usually go by what the sellers tell them and they can claim ignorance.

    I'd contact a real estate lawyer and ask their opinion. I know real estate law differs from state to state so I don't know how your state specifically handles this type of situation.

  • worthy
    16 years ago

    Too bad the Audrey Hepburn loving OP hasn't posted back. Legal remedies depend on the state. But with more than two-third of states having passed seller disclosure laws, the days of caveat emptor are long past. And real estate agents can't, in most cases, get away with "I was just passing on (mis)information."

  • worthy
    16 years ago

    In a transaction where I was assured there was a legal right of way to the property over adjacent land, but there wasn't, I sued the vendor, the agent and his broker and my lawyer. They settled before a Court appearance.

  • mightyanvil
    16 years ago

    This is an issue for local professionals.

    Contact a lawyer to determine what responsibility the real estate broker, previous owner, and home inspector might bear in this deception. I suspect you have a good case.

    Hire an asbestos abatement company to test the shingles to determine the % of asbestos content and how friable the material is. Ask them to recommend the best action to take short of removal.

    Resist the temptation to guess about the seriousness of the problem or what you should do about it.

  • kren_pa
    16 years ago

    my opinion? this is both very serious, and not too serious.

    not too serious, because it probably is a great roof for longevity and wont' give you many problems.

    very serious because of two reasons....the value difference is very great between real slate and asbestos slates. you paid for one and you paid for an inspection that said that it was what you thought.
    also serious because you will lose value when you sell. no matter how many people tell you that it's not very dangerous, and no matter how little you worry about your own asbestos exposure, you are now bound to disclose the presence of asbestos. and you have thereby lost a significant number of customers right off the bat. so, to protect your investment, you need to contact a lawyer and attempt to get a settlement for the difference between slate and asbestos roof. that's not a trivial number... just MHO. and sympathy. kren

  • lisad71
    15 years ago

    Wow! Glad I stumbled upon this. We are househunting in Northern VA and I absolutley fell in love with this little Cape Code built in 1953 that came back onto the market because the contract fell through. I looked at the property record and it says it has an asbestos shingle roof. I'm starting to wonder if this is why the contract fell through. Hmmm?

  • heimert
    15 years ago

    kren_pa hits it on the head. An asbestos roof isn't bad, and in fact is very good. If someone could come up with such a material and name it something other than asbestos, everyone would use it. I always think of California and the fires that get passed along through burning roofs--not a problem with asbestos. There's no health risk from the shingles as they sit, and minimal one from removing them.

    As for the "slate" claim, that's one to discuss with your realtor/lawyer. If the disclosure was inaccurate, then you may have a claim. Slate is a premium roofing material, and not to get it when it's claimed in the house seems to me like a major, material misrepresentation (I'm not sure it needs to be intentional, but state laws vary).

  • glen199
    15 years ago

    See attached link.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Asbestos roof tile repair and replacement

  • rae0101
    15 years ago

    Wow. I just posted about asbestos roofs earlier today. I've been researching online ever since and found the same Jenkins site that Redbirds mentions as well as the link that glen199 provided. The info on both of those sites was very helpful to me, and I'm much more comfortable with the 'scare' issue now. The realtor for the PO in our situation actually pointed out the 'slate' roof as a great feature (leaving the 'asbestos' out, and me very curious as to whether this was some other kind of very ugly slate than what I was used to), but our inspector knew right away that it was asbestos. The roof is in good condition, but it IS very old. As I mentioned in my other post, the color of it is really bad. I found several sites for roofing companies in Australia who offer 'encapsulating' services for asbestos roofs. They paint the roof with a special sealing paint to take care of the asbestos issue, and the added benefit (especially here in Texas) is that the paint apparently significantly lowers cooling costs. The product that I'm going to try seems to be used primarily on industrial buildings. The downside is that it's tintable only to light colors, but with my color scheme, I think I can get away with a light charcoal grey. Hopefully this will enable us to put off having to deal with replacing the roof for several years. I've included a link to the paint I'm ordering, and if anyone's interested, I'll let you know how it goes.

    As for being told that the roof was slate when it wasn't, if I'd paid for slate, not 'asbestos slate,' I would definitely contact a real estate attorney. That's just NOT right. I hope everything works out well for you.

    Here is a link that might be useful:

  • hgolightly
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    I had originally posted a response back in March, but I now see it only went to the person sending the email, not the group. So, here it is:

    Wow, hard to believe that my post from over two years ago is re-circulated! And sorry to hear that someone else is going through what we did:(
    I agree with previous reponse that you do not need to replace it. Asbestos is a scary word, but the form it takes in a roof is not dangerous, as even if it does shread off, the particles are too large to be inhaled, like dust. We were told that the roof was leaking (although we saw no evidence of it yet) so we had to replace. Yup, EPA was notified (scarier sounding than it actually was...roofing co. did all of it) and specail dumpsters were ordered (more money than regualr ones). Since it was wood shake underneath, that had to be removed (sooooo messy) and then plywood had to be installed. Whole thing cost $25,000 which we will never be able to recoop in the sale of the house. I don't think it effected the price of our house by that much, but I'm sure that a slate roof was factored into the over-all desirability of the house. For us, it was more a matter of being told it was slate, confirmend by our inspector and being told it was in great condition. We never, ever, ever would have paid what we did if we knew it was 1) Asbestos and 2) needed to be completely replaced tothe tune of $25,000. We (as you) did everything right and our "professionals" lead us astray.
    There will probably be no recourse with the real estate co. as they just put down what they are told. your only other options are to find out that the previous owners KNEW it was not slate (old records? Call roofing Companies? Check permits to see when they had roof repair done??) and possibly the inspector. That can be tricky as inspectors may not be insured and often they have a clause stating that they do not inspect roofs. Mine however, wrote out 2 pages about our slate roof and how to care for it. And he was less than 6 inches away from it when he said what great condition it was in. Grrr!
    That being said, I don't know how much it will effect the listing value of your home. Sure, slate roofs are $100,000 to put on, but you can never assume that your house would be listed for that much more. Call a realtor and talk about it.
    Good luck!

  • snidelywhiplash z5b
    15 years ago

    Many people don't realize there's a difference between asbestos tile roofs and slate. I've had arguments with people - people in the building trades no less - about the difference.

    And one thing is for sure - most realtors don't know the difference between asphalt, asbestos or slate. They help people buy & sell real estate - that's basically it.

    Before you run off and sue anyone, it is imperative that you figure out if you have actually been:

    1) Damaged; or
    2) Deceived.

    It's entirely possible that the difference in value between a slate and asbestos roof of similar age isn't significant.

    It's also quite possible (I'd say even likely, given what you've posted) that the PO and their realtor had no clue (repairs or not) that the roof contained asbestos. I hear such shingles referred to as "slate" almost universally. As others have pointed out, the material isn't usually considered hazardous unless badly deteriorated, it can be repaired, and has a very long service life. You mistook it for real slate when it was in your hand.

    Further, it sounds like the inspector did his job - he pronounced the roof to be in decent shape. Since he couldn't get up and walk the roof (can't do it w/ either real or asbestos slates), it doesn't sound like he could've informed you.

    Despite kren_pa's pronouncement, I'm not sure that you've "lost" anything. Asbestos-shingle roofs are common enough in older neighborhoods that it seems unlikely to me that they'd deter that many people from purchasing a particular home, so long as they're in decent shape. They just come with the territory.


  • PRO
    Jims home repair
    9 years ago

    I have an asbestos cement roof. I painted it this spring. It looks great. I was able to wash and walk on it. Prior to painting. The trick is to walk smartly. Always press full weight of foot deliberately at bottom portion tile overlap. When painting. Take your time. Clean all collected dirt and dust. I used a brush. I just sat on the roof with my weight dominate placed again at the lower portion of the tile. I painted about ten squares in a day. Not working hard just steady. I am near sixty. Been working and walking on tiles a bunch. What I liked as part of this experiment with painting was the use of latex. (Latex loves concrete) . I also chalked with latex caulking. Did a second coat touch up. Three years later the roof still looks great does not leak. Is easier to walk on, and will be here another seventy years. Cost of material was around $120. A lot cheaper than any roof and better than shingles. Once prepped the spring day painting was more about enjoying the view.

  • worthy
    9 years ago

    So the OP paid $25K to replace her leaking asbestos cement roof that she was told by the Inspector and the Vendor was slate without consulting a lawyer to see if she had any legal remedies. Sigh.

  • PRO
    Jims home repair
    9 years ago

    That photo which is sideways is my asbestos cement painted roof. I will have to get how to rotate photos figured out. But I thought I would share that old roofs can look great.