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Your New Slate Roof: Natural or Composite Slate?

When constructing or refurbishing a house, there are several decisions you’ll need to make regarding your home’s exterior. The style, design, size and colors of the exterior elements (siding, roofing, trim, shutters, stone) are all important features that need to work together – for both curb appeal and longevity. When thinking about the roof, there are several things to consider. The color is important of course, but factors such as the roof’s ability to withstand various weather conditions and its ability to help moderate the temperature inside the house also make a difference. 

Maybe you’re considering a slate roof, given slate’s inherent beauty, renown longevity and recent resurgence in popularity. Traditional slate is highly valued for its durability and elegance. There’s another option as well: composite slate. Like its authentic cousin, composite slate tiles are attractive and long lasting. They’re also budget-friendly and less challenging to install.

Natural Slate vs. Composite Slate

Appearance

One of the unique and aesthetic advantages of natural roofing slate is the subtle variation in color, shade, veining, and grain. Each tile has its own character. However, it’s not always easy to match the shades of the naturally existing material with your structure’s exterior appearance.

Manufactured slate comes in a wide range of color and texture options so it’s easier to blend the tiles with your home’s style and architecture. You can even customize the colors and textures as needed. Sometimes, synthetic slates can mimic real slate so closely, even professionals need to look twice to see the difference.

Durability

Slate roofs are valued for their longevity. Depending on the type of slate used (hard or soft) a slate roof can last from 75 to 200 years. Slate has a superior track record for being fire resistant, waterproof, mold and fungus resistant and able to withstand outdoor temperature variations. Once your slate roof is installed, you don’t have to worry about it again for a long time!

Composite slates, too, can withstand the elements. Some synthetic slate tiles may be even more durable than authentic slate, because they’ve been treated with advanced ultraviolet inhibitors to reduce wear from the sun. They’re also fire-resistant and certified for the highest level of impact and fire resistance for roofing materials. Synthetic slate roofs can last up to 100 years, and the majority of synthetic slate tiles have 50-year warranties. 

Synthetic Slate Roof

Installation and Maintenance

Natural slate is very heavy, so you and your roofing contractor need to be sure the home has the structural support necessary. Sometimes, additional reinforcement is required. While slate is a very durable and heavy material on the roof, it can be chip or crack easily. This is important when installing slate, because once it’s on, you need to be careful you don’t step on it! Installation requires specialized training so the installer can precisely cut and nail each individual tile to prevent chipping and cracking. This is part of what contributes to the high cost of slate roofs. 

Composite slate is one of the lightest roofing materials – in fact, synthetic slate tiles weigh the same as or less than asphalt tiles! They don’t require the specialized training necessary for authentic slate installation, nor specialized tools. No need for additional structural support, either, so the entire installation process is easier and less expensive as compared to natural slate.

Eco-friendly Considerations

Synthetic slate is considered a “green” building alternative. This is because all synthetic slate and installation materials can be recycled. In addition, composite roofing materials are made from recycled content such as recycled plastic, rubber, cellulose fibers, and mineral dust. Manufacturers use high-quality post-industrial waste rather than content from consumer products.

Which Way to Go?

As with most big decisions, multiple factors will play into the decision of whether to roof your home with real or synthetic slate. As you review the pros and cons of each option, keep in mind: 

  • Personal style preferences
  • Project budget
  • How long you intend to keep the house
  • Sustainability
  • Ease of installation and maintenance

No matter which way you go, you’re bound to be delighted with the look and longevity of your new “slate” roof.

Want to learn more? Contact us to get more details on EcoStar shake products. 

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