Will I ever Be A Roofer?

When serving my apprenticeship in roof slating and tiling, I always used to think “will I ever be a roofer ?” I was super keen and interested and always worked as hard as I could but I just felt so overwhelmed in the first couple of years.

There was so much information to take in. How was I ever going to know what all the tools and materials were called never mind actually be able to do the job. My tradesman would shout “go and get the lead dresser” and I would say to my self “oh no what’s that again?” but I would never ask, I would just go down to the van and look about for what I thought a lead dresser would look like and usually go back with some other tool that was the wrong thing much to the amusement of my colleagues at the time.

It would be the same with slates and tiles, firstly I figured out they were two different things, then I began to quickly realise there were lots of different tiles , double roman, Ludlow major, renown to name but a few and then on top of that for every tile type there was there would be various manufacturers including Marley, Redland, Russell and sandtoft plus others. It was a minefield and a lot of information to take in.

Then there were the different slate types, being based in Scotland we had a lot of traditional scotch slates with Ballachulish being the most popular, there were also welsh slates which had a purple colour to them and also the newer more modern Spanish slates which were imported from the Spanish quarries.

I think you get the picture, there was just an abundance of different materials and tools and that was before even learning about what the maximum gauge for laying roof tiles was and how to work out the gauge for a slate roof as it’s all different techniques and can change with the different roof pitches.

My rule of thumb to be a good apprentice was to always be one step ahead of my tradesman and be as helpful as I could be. So I decided no matter how stupid I felt I would always ask questions so that I could gather more knowledge and then hopefully the more I asked and the more I would get told it would begin to click. This approach started to work as my tradesmen I was working with would start to see I was remembering what things were and they would be happy to show me things and teach me as they could see I was interested. More feedback I got that I knew this was working was the tradesmen in the yard in the morning would ask if they could take me on their job.

My advice to any apprentices out there would be to just trust the process, stay keen and interested, ask lots of questions and try to listen carefully to remember so you don’t need to repeatedly ask the same things. Try things and take risks while working under your tradesman as this is the best place to make a mistake when they are there.

Finally the day will come when you are going to be asked to do things on your own and you want to make sure you have learnt enough and are competent of doing the job at hand. Another tip I would suggest is always being polite and friendly to the customers and looking after their property as this builds good habits for when you are running your own jobs in the future or perhaps running your own roofing company.