Slate Roof Tiles Pros and Cons

You have to love the look of a real slate roof on a home. Who wouldn’t? Natural slate has a strong, authentic appearance. However, while there are definite pros to having slate roof tiles, there are also some major factors to consider.

Pros of a Real Slate Tile Roof

Owners of real slate roofs appreciate the fact that natural slate tiles last and last. In some areas of the country, a real slate roof will hold up for at 100 years or more. That’s a big plus when you consider the abuse roofing takes from Mother Nature and all her storms.

Another advantage of a real slate roof is its natural resistance to fire. Unlike many other types of roofing materials on the market today, real slate can stand up to everything from wildfires to sparks from a burning barbeque. In addition to real slate being fire resistant, you’ll also find that same sought-after quality in composite slate roofing. Discover more pros to composite slate roofing HERE.

Cons of a Slate Roof

Today’s real slate is different than the slate roofing that was mined 100 or more years ago. Back then, large, hefty pieces of real slate were quarried. In today’s marketplace, the probability is that you’ll find thinner real slate being mined. The result is that the slate tiles break and chip easier. In addition, this thinner slate doesn’t last as long on a roof as it did decades ago.

Photo of damaged slate roof tilesHere’s something else to consider. Real slate roofing is not for the faint of heart … or for weaker structures. Even the thinner real slate being mined today is still very heavy. Because of its weight, slate roofing should only be installed on a home with an extremely durable rafter system underneath.

Whether you’re building a new home or replacing an existing roof, consult with your contractor before considering a real slate roof. Discuss the pros and cons of slate roofs and the need for a reinforced roofing system. It’s all about determining if your home can handle the weight of real slate roof tiles.

  • Tip #1: When talking about installing real slate roofing, walk gently. That’s because this heavy tile is actually very fragile. This means you need to consider the long-term aspects of having a slate roof. There are limitations to workers being up on your roof to repair a chimney base, install a cable dish or even do general maintenance.
  • Tip #2: If, at any point, a real slate tile is stepped on and broken, it can be tricky to find a replacement slate tile that matches the specific “lot” that it originally came from.
  • Tip #3: Along with being heavy, real slate roofs have another inherent concern: you need skilled workers to install them. With asphalt shingle or composite slate, you can pound nails right through the roof tile with little concern. However, there are different talents required to install a real slate shingle. Carefully pre-drilling holes into the slate is the answer.
  • Tip #4: Roofers skilled in slate roof installation (see RoofersCoffeeShop.com) are the only ones who should tackle real slate installations, since slate roof tiles can tend to crack or break during this process.

How Long Does a Slate Roof Last?

Real slate is actually mined (rather than man-made). This means each piece comes from the earth.

Depending on where the slate was mined (such as Vermont, Pennsylvania or New York), true slate roofing can last a century or more on a structure. Along with the impressive appearance and durability of a real slate roof, when you have this beautiful material on your home, you’re taking a stand to support the environment.

Slate Roof Maintenance

Even though a real slate roof has a long lifespan, it doesn’t mean it’s maintenance-free. Slate tile roofs require routine maintenance to repair/replace broken or cracked shingles and keep away algae growth.Damaged slate roof

The National Park Service (a division of the U.S. Department of Interiors) offers a terrific overview on “The Repair, Replacement and Maintenance of Historic Slate Roofs.” Anyone considering investing in a real slate roof should take the time to thoroughly review this informative piece. The “Maintenance” section of this article includes several good tips, including having a professional roofer use a cherry picker to truly inspect your slate roofing every five to seven years to determine if there are any problem areas.

How Much Does a Slate Roof Cost?

No “slate roof pros and cons” guide would be complete without considering the cost of a slate roof. And, just as real slate is a weighty product, it also has a hefty price tag.

Close up of slate roof

One article, on the Roofing Calculator, suggests that the high cost of a slate roof deters many homeowners. “With the installation, your total cost will be between $12.50 and $25.00 per square foot installed. The reason for such a wide pricing range is that installation/labor costs can vary widely from installer to installer. Your location and difficulty of the roof will also play a major role in determining the overall cost of the project.”

Backing up those costs, in an in-depth roofing article in RISE, journalist Frank Jossi reports that: “Synthetic slate roofs cost roughly about $9 to $12 per square foot, installed, depending on where you live. Real slate roof installations cost $22 to $43 per square foot. Compared to other conventional roofing materials, synthetic slate roofing falls in the middle, being less expensive than real slate and clay tiles but more expensive than asphalt and architectural shingles.”

Do Your Slate Roofing Research

If you love the look of slate shingles, but you’re worried about the cost and weight of a natural slate roof, consider a composite roofing option. There are several manufacturers in the marketplace that create faux slate shingles with the same natural appearance as real slate.

As you consider this option, look for three key things: the thickness, widths and colors of the synthetic shake roofing.

  • Thickness: Seek out a composite slate that has the thickest possible profile. This will provide more authenticity to the slate roof appearance, more shadow lines and edges that look authentic from almost any viewing angle.
  • Multiple Widths: Just as no two pieces of natural slate shingles are the same, you should also look for synthetic slate that has a variety of widths. This creates a distinctive and varied pattern when installed, which is the appearance you normally get with natural slate roofing.
  • Natural Colors: Did you know that natural slate roofing actually comes in a variety of colors? In addition, the colors are generally named after the state where they’re found. The National Slate Association reports that slate roof tiles come in everything from Virginia Black to Vermont Purple.

If you’re considering a faux slate shingle, make sure the manufacturer has a wide variety of colors to work in seamlessly with the design of your home. Some companies can create specialty (or custom) colors to give you the specific color palette you desire for your home’s roof. Still others provide free online color visualizers. This way you can upload a photo of your home and “try on” different roofing colors to help you decide on the best color for your slate roof.

One of the easiest ways to understand the differences between real slate roofing and synthetic slate roofing is to see a comparison chart with 14 at-a-glance key areas. This easy-to-review chart shows how natural slate roofing compares to faux slate roofing, plus other synthetic slate options.

slate roof

Why Consider a Slate Roof Alternative?

People who love the look of slate shingles, but back away due to their costs and weight, find realistic options with synthetic slate products. Why? Because some smart manufacturers have actually taken into consideration the pros and cons of slate roofing and improved on what Mother Nature offers.

Here’s an example. Real slate roofs are not immune to the ravages of time, or hail. Tiny fissures make natural slate susceptible to damages caused by freeze and thaw cycles. Composite slate products don’t have these concerns. They defy the elements for decades to provide enduring quality and worry-free beauty on a roof.

In addition, synthetic slate shingles shine when it comes to helping protect a home. At DaVinci Roofscapes, we craft our slate roof tiles to achieve a Class 4 Rating for impact resistance and a Class A Rating for fire resistance. These slate tiles also resist winds up to 110mph, making them ideal for certain hurricane-prone areas.

Pros of Composite Slate Roofing

As a bonus, many insurance companies offer yearly homeowner discounts to people with synthetic slate roofing. That’s because the shingles that look like slate, but perform better than real slate shingles, can oftentimes stand up to the most severe types of weather conditions.

Made of virgin resins, UV and thermal stabilizers, as well as a highly-specialized fire retardant, our synthetic slate tiles also resist cracking, splitting, fungus and algae growth, along with insects and termites. Backed by a Lifetime Limited Materials Warranty, DaVinci slate tiles come in dozens of color options.

up close of slate roof

What Are Homeowners Saying?

There are many homeowners who have weighed the slate roof pros and cons options. Numerous people have made the decision to invest in a faux slate roof. Here’s what a few of them have to say 10 years after having a synthetic slate roof put on their homes:

“This roof has been put through the test. In June of 2019 we had winds up to 75mph. Neighbors on both sides of my house had to get new roofs. My driveway, deck and sidewalk all were at least a half-inch thick with green limbs.
“Even though the entire neighborhood looked like a war zone, my DaVinci roof was intact. To say I’m pleased with the durability of this roof over the past decade is an understatement. It not only has the perfect aesthetic appeal for my home, but it also stands up to Mother Nature again and again!”
Janice Barger – Dallas homeowner

“It’s the cycle of harsh weather that tests this faux slate roof. First there’s snow. Then there’s rain and ice. Then melting. Then immediately more snow. That’s a great amount of freeze-thaw cycling going on. There was one winter we had five feet of snow. However, this roof just takes it and asks for more!
“This was one of the smartest investments we made after purchasing our home. The DaVinci roof easily handles all our winter weather, plus the high winds we occasionally get in this rural area. We’re grateful for the authentic look of the roof plus its incredible durability.”
Rob Fanjoy – Maine homeowner

“Ten years ago we had to replace the granular bitumen coated steel tile roof on our Maui home. Because we’re so close to the ocean, the steel roof had major corrosion resulting in perforation in many spots.
“We needed an aesthetically-appealing roof that would stand up to Mother Nature. We followed the recommendation of someone who knew about DaVinci Roofscapes slate and we’ve been exceptionally pleased with the results. We’ve never had to worry about the roof and it looks as good today as when it was installed a decade ago.”
Robin Vivian – Hawaii homeowner