Synthetic slate roofing is an appealing option. As is the case with nearly any industry, once the initial item is created, it is only a matter of time before competitors within the industry learn how to replicate those production methods and implement more cost-effective materials and measures to reproduce that item.
This is absolutely the truth when it comes to the roofing industry, particularly slate shingles. Those authentic slate material shingles have been the material of choice for roofing construction for a number of centuries. Synthetic slate’s popularity is evident in the U.S. and Europe in cathedrals, libraries, estate homes, and more.
Synthetic slate roofing presents vast benefits like durability and longevity, as the material can last up to 100 years.
The Cons of a Slate Shingle Roof
The downside with authentic slate shingles, however, is in the cost. The material itself is more costly just to buy. That is not taking into account the other aspects of installing a roof. Even if you know how to do this yourself, the cost of the materials alone is much higher than other methods of installing a roof. If you have to hire a contractor to do the installation, that can become a costly endeavor.
In addition to the cost, there are a few other troubling aspects of this lauded material. It is very heavy to lift for transportation and installation, meaning you have to spend more just to transport and move the slate shingles.
Lastly, slate shingles are also quite fragile, especially when cutting and nailing it. Not only that, they are particularly susceptible to cracking once they have been installed. This makes for a very costly and difficult endeavor when installing a new roof, and the repair process is equally as difficult and expensive.
Enter: Synthetic Slate Shingles
As stated above, any product that has been created goes through a process where other manufacturers develop their own version of the product, oftentimes with more cost-effective measures and materials. This is exactly the case when it comes to slate shingles.
While synthetic slate shingles are not technically slate – they are made from rubber and plastic, generally speaking—they are designed and constructed to mirror the unique, beautiful authentic slate, but without the major cost or the installation process that can leave you with a stress headache.
Best of all? Synthetic slate shingles are designed to last longer. No more cracking, no more costly and difficult repairs. Just more durable, flexible, and reliable materials that you can implement onto your roof to ensure that it stands up to the test of time for far longer.
How Are Synthetic Slate Shingles Made?
I’m sure the initial description of synthetic slate shingles makes them sound like some sort of super material. While they are not quite that, they are definitely making life easier when it comes to roof installations and repairs that were previously a very expensive endeavor.
These synthetic slate shingles are made through the process of injection molding. Petroleum-based materials are injected into these metal forms that are actually cast from authentic slate. There are certainly some brands of synthetic slate shingles that use virgin plastic or rubber in the manufacturing process. There are others that use recycled plastic or rubber, as well as cellulose fibers or mineral dust. Really, there are quite a few ways to do this, and using recycled content actually consists of using high-quality post-industrial materials; there are only a few manufacturers that incorporate recycled materials that are post-consumer.
Once the molded materials harden, you have a synthetic slate shingle made to stand up to the test of time for a far lesser cost than the shingles of their namesake.
Benefits of Synthetic Slate Shingles
The benefits of using synthetic slate shingles are numerous, and there is a good reason that they have become a popular alternative to authentic slate shingles. Among the benefits:
- Using synthetic slate shingles is considered a “green” building alternative, even those that use what is known as virgin materials. This is because just about any type of synthetic slate can end up being recycled at the end of its life for a roof.
- Synthetic slate shingles tend to be much more durable than their authentic counterparts. This is because the synthetic variations contain things like advanced ultraviolet inhibitors in order to reduce the wear that occurs from constant exposure to the sun.
- One of the best features of synthetic slate shingles is that the safety is built-in. This is because the synthetic slate generally has things called impact modifiers that are added in to help withstand storm damage. As a matter of fact, most of these are certified by Underwriters Laboratories for what is known as Class 4 impact resistance; this is the highest level when it comes to roofing materials. Most synthetic slates also tend to have some of the highest fire-resistance ratings – Class A – which means that they are effective when fighting exposure to external fires. They aren’t readily flammable, and they also do not spread fires.
- One of the most underrated aspects of using synthetic slate shingles is that they are far easier to transport and install, and they are also less expensive than most other roofing materials. At 1.25 pounds per tile, they are far lighter than any asphalt shingle, and they are about a quarter of the weight of a standard authentic slate shingle.
- Their lightweight means that even a standard roof structure is able to support these synthetic slate shingles without requiring any special reinforcement. This means that they are practical when it comes to mainstream construction in residential areas. During the installation process, the synthetic slate shingles can be cut much easier using a field utility knife and then nailed into place with a pneumatic nail gun and standard roofing nails.
When you compare the costs of using authentic slate shingles versus their synthetic counterparts, the difference is massive. There should be little wonder that homeowners are opting for synthetic shingles on their roofs; they tend to be far cheaper as well as more durable over a longer period of time.
Having to repair or replace your roof is never a good situation to find yourself in, especially when you are replacing your roof with very expensive slate shingles. However, synthetic slate repairs are affordable.
When you have a synthetic slate shingle roof, you can rest a bit easier knowing that your repairs will not cost an arm and a leg to implement.
The Downside of Synthetic Slate Shingles
Like just about anything ever, nothing is perfect, and everything has its downsides and flaws. Synthetic slate shingles are no different, as there are known issues with those, as well. Here are a few of the issues that have been reported about synthetic slate shingles:
There have been multiple instances of the product appearing faded and discolored. There have also been instances where the singles have begun to curl, though. It is important to note that, in general, most fiber-cement materials have become so unattractive. It is also worth noting that most homeowners tend to find themselves unhappy with the appearance when there is fading or discoloration.
They can also come damaged in the box. Typically, this doesn’t mean cracks or anything that obvious; it is more along the lines of the corners beginning to roll up. You can flatten these out in most cases, but it is definitely something to look out for.
How Do You Know When It’s Time To Replace Your Roof?
Sometimes, it might not be as obvious of a situation as a huge patch of damaged roof to let you know that it is time to make a switch. Though this is often times when the change occurs – thanks to storm damage, most likely – it is not 100% of the case.
Since slate is one of the strongest and longest-lasting materials available for roofing – the right shingle can last as long as 200 years, depending on the environment – it might not be readily apparent when you might need to replace your slate roof.
Generally speaking, there are two types of slate roofing: soft slate and hard slate. Hard slate is considered to be one of the strongest types of roofing materials available when it comes to fire resistance and weather resilience.
Because it is a hard stone, slate won’t absorb water and won’t become warped due to exposure to moisture. Best of all, slate maintains its composition for decades. That is why it was stated above regarding the life of a slate shingle roof that they can last as long as 200 years.
The softer slate counterpart is, as is described in the name, softer and less durable two. Though it is a stone, the composition of soft slate doesn’t have the ultra-durability that hard slate does. Still, roofs with shingles made of soft slate can still have a life expectancy of 50 to 125 years if in optimal weather conditions.
Soft slate offers the same fireproof and weather-resistant qualities that the harder counterpart does; it comes down to a matter of cost as well as improved overall durability for the hard slate shingle roofs that you might see.
Look Into Your Warranty
Oftentimes, the terms of a warranty on your roof will depend on who the manufacturer is. There are some warranties that will cover the materials of the roof against any defects for decades but may only hold the contractor liable for a couple of years after the date of completion of installation. There are some manufacturers that will guarantee the materials for up to 100 years.
It is worth noting, however, that not all warranty policies will transfer over from one homeowner to the next and that some do transfer, but only one time. So if the previous property owner had the slate roof installed a decade ago and wants to sell, the next owner won’t be able to inherit that warranty.
As complicated as this whole endeavor is, that’s not the end of it. Local law can play a factor as well. Ultimately, if you are planning to purchase a home that has a slate roof, you will want to find out about the warranty and if it is transferrable to prevent any unexpected headaches from arising.
Cost of Replacing Slate Shingles With Synthetic Slate Shingles
This is where it gets a bit nerve-wracking and is not for the squeamish. The average roof in the United States is about 1,600 square feet. Each square of synthetic slate shingle can run in the neighborhood of $350-400 per square. Yes, per square.
That means that after installation costs, you are looking at $900-$1,100 per square. Incredibly, that pales in comparison to the $1,650-$3,000 per square cost of authentic slate tiles. When all is said and done, you’re looking at $14,400-17,600 for a synthetic slate shingle roof and around $26,000 for a natural slate roof of the same size.
The costs are going to be there regardless, but you are still saving anywhere from $9,000-12,000 on synthetic versus natural slate. Coupled with the durability, lightweight, and ease of installation, it is clear why so many are moving away from natural slate roofs.
Questions to Ask During the Roof Installation Process
As you can see from the section above, it is a massive investment to either have your roof replaced or to build a new roof made from any kind of slate, synthetic or natural. For the amount of money that you will need to spend, it is imperative that you have full confidence in the professionals doing the job.
The last thing that you want is to invest that kind of money into a roofing project only to have it done in a subpar manner that leaves the need for further repair or worse. Doing your homework beforehand can save you a world of headaches and hassles and ensure that you are getting the job done right for your substantial financial contribution.
Do Companies Specialize in Synthetic Slate Roofing?
Contrary to popular belief, not all roofing companies are the same. When having a slate roof installed, you want a contractor that has substantial experience in regard to the application of slate. This is especially crucial given that handling slate is a bit more difficult than other roofing materials, though this is less imperative with a synthetic slate roof.
For roofers who do not have the experience with slate roofs that are necessary, they might make a litany of easily avoidable mistakes. They need to know that you can’t walk on slate or synthetic slate shingles in the same way that you might be able to with other materials. And there are things like leaving fasteners exposed to rain and snow that can cause headaches you don’t need.
There is also one thing that a roofer should absolutely never do, and that coats a slate or synthetic slate shingle. This isn’t necessary because the slate and synthetic slate shingles are already resistant to rain, fire, snow, wind, and hail; the coating may compromise that.
Don’t let an inexperienced roofer provide sub-quality work. Finding an experienced roofer who has dealt with slate and synthetic slate roofing before is the way to go to avoid any additional costly mistakes that might drag the already expensive process out even further.
Does The Roofing Company Provide Maintenance?
This is perhaps just as important of a question to ask. You likely will live in an area where weathering will occur; rain, snow, and wind are the most common factors involved here. And when these elements get involved, you might find yourself in need of maintenance to your roof.
Selecting a roofing company that will provide maintenance is important should there be any issues. Maintenance work is generally covered under the warranty with your roofing company, but each company has different policies and warranty lengths as well as different types of issues that it will cover.
Slate and synthetic slate generally do not require maintenance because there is no warping, rusting, or attracting of mold. And they are unlikely to be damaged by a natural event, short of a tornado or earthquake. Still, the tiles can crack under select circumstances. Make sure to trim nearby branches so that they don’t fall onto your roof and cause damage to the shingles.
Though it is clearly a heavy financial investment, making the switch to synthetic slate shingles for your roof makes for a sound long-term investment. They are meant to stand up to heavy weather conditions that aren’t natural disaster levels and will hold up for far longer than you might ever need.
Still, the cost is something to take into account. Not only that, you want to make sure that you have a warranty that will cover your roof in the event of any damage because that is a huge amount of money to spend not to have any type of insurance in your corner.
After you have gone through the installation process, you can sit back and enjoy your beautiful and durable synthetic slate roof for a long, long time.