The roofs of Corrèze, with their typical materials and forms, contribute greatly to the character of the region.
The most typical forms one comes across in the area are certainly the gambrel roof and the half-hip roof (typical of the plateau areas of middle Corrèze). Other more classical forms are also present: the gable roof (the most common) or the hip-roof (on the houses of the better-off).
The roofing stones:
These rough schist slabs are also called phonolite because of the bell-like sound they produce when you hit them.
They are cut in the shape of a fish scale, 2 to 4 cm thick.
Being very heavy, they require an extremely strong roof timberwork with very thick roof boards. Roofing stones are fixed to the roof boards with nails (the oldest method), wooden pegs or with clay mortar.
To arrange these ‘scales’ on a roof is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, with each piece being placed in relationship to the others. It requires a specific know-how that some of the local artisans have managed to keep alive.
Because of its thickness, the roofing stone is remarkably resistant and has good thermic insulation properties. It lasts well over 100 years, which makes it possible to reuse old roofing stones on new or renovated buildings, although there are almost no roofing stone quarries left in France.
A scarce material, difficult to work with and therefore very expensive, the roofing stones are more and more often replaced by slates.
Like the roofing stone, it is a kind of schist flaking under the effect of decomposition.
Slates from Allassac and Travassac (in Corrèze), exploited since the 16th century, are reowned all over the département. Small, either square or fish scale-shaped, its aesthetic and technical qualities (frost-resistant, reusable…) have allowed it to withstand competition with slates from Angers or Spain. It has a different appearance, being rather thick (up to 9 mm), slightly irregular and of a grey-blue colour.
Much lighter than the roofing stone, the slate is fitted either with a nail (the slates must then have a hole) or with a hook and need virtually no maintainance. Its service life depends on the quality of the deposit and can vary from 70 to 300 years!