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Article Date: 13th May 2013

SSQ Slate - Will your Slate last the Distance?

Natural Slate - Roof Slate - Slate Tiles - Slate Flooring

SSQ London Marathon

Every year, I travel into the City to watch the London Marathon. The drama never fails to disappoint, as more than 35,000 people push their bodies to the limit along 26.2 miles of uncompromising tarmac.

From various vantage points, I take in both the early miles and the all-important final stretch along the crowd-lined northern bank of the River Thames, and up the Mall.

What never ceases to amaze me is how mistaken my first impressions of those runners leaving the starting pens can be.

As with natural slate, it’s impossible to be certain of the quality of the material you’re looking at on first glance. For that, you need a really robust test.

Every year, I see Lycra-clad runners bolt energetically away into the Greenwich sunshine at the starter’s horn. These are often the ones I see struggling to hold the pace by the halfway stage. Others jog quietly and steadily through the first few miles. More often than not, it’s their heads that are still held high 42 kilometres later at the finish.

Yes, appearances can be deceptive. Without the actual test of marathon day itself, I’ve found there is precious little that differentiates the capability of one runner from that of another.

Some believe the “marathon” for a slate is the CE test. This indicates that it – or to be more specific, a “subjective” sample of rock from the same quarry – has undergone a test that, by law, all natural slate must undergo.

However, the actual fact that a slate has a CE certificate gives you no information about its quality. None whatsoever.

This is because the CE test doesn’t actually have any criteria for passing or failing.

Yes, the details of the results of this EN12326 test will give you values for aspects such as flexural strength, water absorption and carbonate content. And of course, you or your supplier can take the (considerable) time to study and interpret all these and other results from the test to decide if a slate is worth specifying or not.

But this doesn’t often happen, leaving you looking at the CE mark, which by itself tells you nothing more than the test has taken place.

Having the mark is the equivalent of no more than someone’s race registration number. It doesn’t tell you about their ability to run. It doesn’t indicate what training they have done. Specifiers choose natural slate for projects where they are looking for a material that has stunning looks, but also the excellence to outlast even the building the roof is covering (or win the marathon, you could say).

To get an immediate indication of quality, you need to look for the NF mark, which will be found on only the top grades of slate such as Del Carmen. It’s a French quality standard that proves that, not only has the slate sporting it received all the CE tests, it has also been subject to further testing – and attained outstanding results in all of the categories. We use it because the British standard BS680 became outdated, and because France, as a prolific user of slate, really knows this material inside and out.

The NF 228 assessment is carried out by an independent French laboratory, which, as Kenya exports its athletes to the marathon, flies in its testers to randomly sample and test at the quarry itself. A barcode system also means you can trace every NF-marked pallet back to its precise origin – removing the question mark hovering over those brand names that can be comprised of several different sources.

In addition to these significant benefits, the beauty of entrusting the quality of your slate to NF 228 is that reputable suppliers are likely to stand behind the slate safe in the knowledge that the written guarantee will never be needed. This means if your slate fails to perform, or worse simply fails, they pay to replace it.

It’s a bit like Richard Branson personally giving an endorsement that a given runner will finish the Virgin London Marathon. And do it in a cracking time.

If you ask me, NF is the mark of the true marathon athlete.

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