5 Different Types of Slate Roofs

Slate roof installed

If you’re planning to go with slate for your new roof, you need to know the available options. Getting to know the types of slate roofs and choosing which one is right for you is crucial. Not only will it save you from disappointment, but you also will get the most out of your huge investment.

And if you’re going to live under the same roof for more than 20 years, you have all the more reason to make a sound decision right from the start.

What is a Slate Roof?

There are valid reasons why most homeowners consider slate roofing to be the roofing of their dreams. With centuries of history behind it, slate has not only proved itself against the test of time but also evolved into several variations. But first, let’s understand what a slate roof really is.

A slate roof is a type of roofing made from natural materials – making it especially heavy. However, it’s also this characteristic that lends this roof type its strength, allowing it to toughen up against strong winds.

But a slate roof is not easy to install, requiring an experienced roofing company to handle it. Its heaviness also requires that the house’s structure be able to support its weight.

If you prefer to have a beautiful and long-lasting roof – and you have the budget for it – slate roof tiles are a good choice.

What are the Different Types of Slate Roofs?

There’s no single perfect roofing material that would satisfy the needs and wants of every person. Fortunately, the variety of slate roof choices offers homeowners the luxury to pick one that would match their preferences, whether it’s about the budget, location, or design.

1. Natural Slate

slate roof tile
Photo Credit: Pxhere

A natural slate roof is the most expensive of all the types of roof slates – but for a good reason. With proper maintenance, this traditional slate can resist fire, moisture, and pest. It also offers a wide variety of textures and unfading colors to choose from, including red, purple, black, and brown. Did you know that a natural slate roof can withstand various climates and last anywhere from 75 to 200 years?

A natural slate is made by nature and quarried from the earth. It’s actually a metamorphic rock that naturally formed over time. As such, it’s no surprise that this high-quality slate shingle could cost you from $500 to $1,700 per square. The actual amount will depend on several other factors, such as thickness, durability, and color.

Remember how a house needs the right structure to support a slate roof’s weight? Well, this is one of the materials that require it because natural slate is heavy.

2. Concrete Slate

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If you find real slate too expensive, there are other less expensive alternatives, such as concrete slate. While it doesn’t last as long, concrete roofing tiles can still last for up to 50 years. Proper installation of non-combustible concrete slate roofs can resist impact, freeze-thaw cycles, and even severe weather. The catch, though, is you need to replace the underlayment after 20 years.

Manufacturers create concrete slate by mixing cement, water, sand, oxide, and dye. It also can help you save on energy costs as it decreases the transfer of heat in the attic. However, concrete slate roofing is not without its drawback – and one of them is that it’s susceptible to moss and mildew growth between tiles.

For a concrete slate roof, the typical cost per square would be between $300 to $500 based on the pricing of two popular manufacturers – Boral Roofing and Eagle Roofing.

3. Bituminous Slate

Here’s another inexpensive alternative to using natural slate. Bitumen, the raw material used for bituminous slates, is also used in the manufacture of asphalt shingles. While they both came from the same raw material, there’s a big difference between their texture. Asphalt shingles have a rough surface, while bituminous slates are smooth.

Bituminous will help you achieve a slate design pattern and is flexible enough to be installed over domed roofs or eyebrow windows.

If you’re considering this type of slate, you should know its drawbacks. Several things can negatively impact its lifespan. For example, if you live in Northern states with brutal winters, the roof shingles may get brittle due to excessively cold temperatures. The same thing can happen if the slate shingles are constantly exposed to heat. There’s also the issue of its UV protective granules seemingly disintegrating over time, making it vulnerable to UV rays.

4. Synthetic Composite Slate

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A modern improvement in this classic roofing material, a synthetic slate roof is all about eliminating most of the issues found in a natural slate while still retaining its elegant appeal. It may not be all-natural, but it’s a greener option because it’s eco-friendly and can be fully recycled at the end of its long lifespan.

These slates are lightweight, eliminating the need for additional structural support. It also has the highest fire rating – Class A. Since it’s not flammable, it does not spread fire easily and is great to use on homes in Western wildfire-prone states. From the slate roof installation process to its upkeep, a synthetic composite slate beats all other types because it doesn’t break, crack, or shrink easily. And if you take good care of your synthetic slate roof, they can even last up to 100 years.

The cost of synthetic slate roofs usually falls in the middle, between the least expensive bituminous slates and the more expensive natural stone roof style.

5. Metal Slate

Photo Credit: Jesse James metal roofing / Canva Pro / License

Another eco-friendly and energy-efficient roofing option, the slates used for metal roofing are usually made from steel alloys, copper, and zinc. They are produced in rigid sheets and painted or coated in granules – offering protection from dents and scratches due to foot traffic, hail, or other flying debris.

The wide variety of designs and colors is one of the reasons most homeowners choose metal roofing. Unless you carefully inspect this slate tile roofing, anyone would mistake a metal slate for the real thing – especially if you choose a design that mimics the classic and elegant natural slates.

However, metal slate suffers some problems that are unique to its composition, such as excessive noise during heavy rains or hail. Its integrity can get compromised easily with excessive impact or exposure to extreme temperatures.

Pros and Cons of Slate Roofs

Some of the primary benefits of installing slate roofs over other types include the following:

  • Longevity: A properly installed and well-cared-for slate roof can last more than 100 years. It can withstand extreme temperature changes and hold its own even in stormy weather.
  • Design: If you’re going for a timeless and elegant look for your roof, installing slate roof tiles is your most optimal choice. With advances in materials these days, you can pick from a variety of colors and styles.
  • Recyclable: While natural slate comes from quarries that are not renewable, slate tiles are recyclable. This helps mitigate the environmental impact of manufacturing new slates.

Here are some of the disadvantages you’ll encounter with slate roofs:

  • Weight: The combined weight of all slate tiles is extremely heavy. While it can give you peace of mind that your roof can withstand strong winds, your home’s structure must be strong enough to support it.
  • Installation: Installing a new roof is a big home improvement project and is best delegated to experts. However, a slate roof is not that easy to install, so you need to find a local roofing contractor with extensive experience installing this type of roofing system.
  • Cost: Due to its many benefits, as well as the installation intricacies, the cost of installing this type of roof is not something to be trifled with. But even so, the advantages outweigh the price in the long run, which is why many homeowners who can afford slate choose it over other roofing materials.

Cost of a Slate Roof

Many factors can affect the cost of a slate roof, but on average, expect to shell out around $17,000. This only covers the size of your roof and the type of slate you picked.

If you include other factors like elegant design, you’re looking at up to $45,000 for high-end projects. Of course, low-end projects, such as those involving a smaller roof, will cost less. In general, the larger your roof is, the higher the cost.

Here are some of the other things that could affect the total cost of your slate roof:

  • Roof design
  • Installation cost
  • Angle of roof

Want to know more? You can check this comprehensive article about the cost of a slate roof.

How Do You Know If a Slate Roof Is Right for You?

A slate roof is not for everyone. To help you find out if this type of roof is right for you, here are some questions you need to consider:

  1. Can the structure of your house support the roof’s weight?
  2. Do you have the budget and the means to have your home retrofitted in case it’s unable to handle the weight of a slate roof?
  3. Are you planning to stay in your house for at least 30 years?
  4. Do you have the budget to see the project through?
  5. Do you prefer a roof that would last more than a lifetime and has a timeless and elegant style?

If you answered yes to all five questions, then a slate roof is your best choice. But in the end, it’s still up to what you really want.

FAQ About the Different Types of Slate Roofs

What is the biggest issue with slate roofs?

Weight is the biggest problem and an important factor homeowners should consider before installation. On average, a slate roof can weigh around 800 pounds per square foot. That’s why it’s crucial to assess the home to see if its structure can handle all the extra weight.

What are the common reasons for slate roof failure?

Some of the common reasons behind a slate roof failure usually come from improper installation. Even professional roofers can make mistakes, such as using the wrong type of flashing or using substandard roofing nails. While slate tiles are durable, they are not designed to be walked on, which means they can easily get damaged by the pressure of someone’s weight.

Do slate roofs require maintenance?

Yes, they do require maintenance but not on the same level as other roof types. In fact, annual roof maintenance and inspection should be enough to determine if there are leaks or any other issues. Foregoing this annual checkup is not a good idea as there could be underlying problems that would lead to a more expensive roof repair.

Choose the Type of Slate Roof That You and Your Home Can Handle

Knowing the different types of materials used for a slate roof is essential so you can pick one that matches your preferences and your home’s structure and style. However, this is just the beginning of a complex project. You’ll need capable and experienced professionals to help you bring the roof of your dreams to fruition.

Ready to start the ball rolling? Connect with a local roofing contractor to install the slate roof of your choice.

Main Image Credit: Monsyn / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Melanie Joseph

After discovering her passion for writing through her beauty blog, Melanie left her engineering job in California, became a writer, and never once looked back. When she isn't writing, she loves dipping in the pool, tending to the garden, or doing simple home improvement projects.