How to Find a Roofing Contractor for Your Home (2023 Guide)
By Dan Simms /
In this guide on slate roofs, you’ll learn:
Most homeowners are used to seeing asphalt shingle roofs, metal roofs and even clay or tile roofs, but slate roofs are relatively rare these days. However, they’ve persisted throughout history as a popular option for residential roofing as an ecological option despite a heftier price tag.
Slate roof shingles are shingles made out of slate, which is a natural stone that’s high in mica content. The shingles are heavy but extremely durable, and they provide a natural, elegant look to any home on which they’re installed.
Slate shingles first became available in the 1800s and were most popular in America in the mid-to-late-70s. The popularity declined for a few reasons, one of which was the availability of the now-more-popular asphalt roof shingles that you see on most modern homes.
Slate is pulled from quarries, and it’s a naturally long-lasting and eco-friendly building material for roof systems. Incidentally, slate tiles are also a popular choice for flooring.
Slate roofs offer excellent protection from water, as the material itself is formed from hundreds of thin layers of mostly impermeable stone. Slate is also an excellent natural insulator that performs better than many other roofing materials, so a slate roof is a relatively eco-friendly option.1
Slate roofing shingles are also highly durable, and a slate roof can last about four times as long as an asphalt shingle roof.
The primary downsides to installing a slate roof are the price and the weight. Slate roofs are the most expensive roofing option with the exception of solar shingles. Slate is also quite heavy and can bring about or exacerbate structural issues in some homes.
The average slate roof will cost around $15 to $30 per square foot. For a typical 1,700-square-foot roof, that would come out to between $25,500 and $51,000. For comparison, a standard roof replacement cost with architectural shingles averages around $8,000.
Slate roofs are more expensive than most other types of roofs for a few reasons:
While installing a slate roof will cost you more than installing most other types, slate is also more durable and will outlast virtually any other roof material, especially since the warranty is usually long-lasting. Over time, you stand to save money on roof replacements and roof repair if you can stomach the high up-front cost of slate shingles.
Surprisingly, the installation process for slate roof shingles is similar to what you’d find with other materials — you’ll just use slate shingles instead.
Roofers use a slate punch to place holes in the slate shingle and then use roofing nails to nail the shingle to the roof decking, usually with a roofing felt or some other underlayment in between. Shingles are installed from the bottom toward the top to direct runoff appropriately.
The installation process is challenging because slate breaks and cleaves easily. An inexperienced roofer can easily destroy shingles, needlessly increasing the cost of the job.
Unfortunately, real slate roofing is not suitable for a DIY roof replacement job, even for experienced or handy homeowners. Not only is it easy to break the expensive slate shingles, but it’s also challenging to get the heavy slate up to the roof. It’s also hard to install slate, and it’s not always safe to walk on slate shingles once they’ve been placed.
We strongly recommend deferring to an experienced slate roofing contractor for your slate roof installation. Although this comes at a high cost upfront, this is your best bet for a cost-effective and safe solution in the long run.
Slate roofs still get installed today, but they are much less prevalent than they were 150 years ago mainly due to a financial constraint. Still, there are some significant benefits to installing slate roofs.
Of course, no roofing material is perfect, and slate is no exception. There are some downsides to installing a slate roof that might make you decide on another material. The most serious drawbacks include:
Below, we’ll answer some of the most common questions we see about slate roofs, their effectiveness and the average cost to install them.
Yes, slate is the most expensive roofing material, with solar shingles currently being the only exception. The average asphalt roof replacement costs around $8,000, but it’s not uncommon for the costs for a new slate roof to reach as high as $50,000 for an equivalently-sized roof replacement.
There are definitely some upsides to having a slate roof, including minimal maintenance being required, high durability, a very long lifespan and sound insulation for your home.
However, the up-front costs of installing a slate roof are much higher than they are for other materials, and the installation process is challenging, expensive and requires a specialized professional to complete the labor.
Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if the pros of having a slate roof outweigh the cons.
Most homeowners agree that the biggest downside to choosing a slate roof is the up-front cost. Slate can cost three to five times more than an asphalt roof, and sometimes the installation costs are even higher.
Another significant downside is the weight. The heavy material makes installation more challenging, and it can also pose issues for your structure.
Aside from slate, roofs are commonly made out of asphalt shingles, which are the most common roofing material. Roofs can also be made of wood shingles, clay tiles, metal, rubber, plastics, and solar shingles.