The Great Slate Debate
When it comes to natural slate roofing, there are no substitutes. While there are varying degrees of slate quality, there has yet to be a synthetic product that can duplicate the look, longevity and quality of quarried slate. Having said that, there has been a surge of products on the market that promise characteristics of natural slate at a fraction of the cost. Let’s take a closer look and see how they stack up.
From a distance and to the untrained eye, yes, synthetic and natural slate look similar. But up close, even the very best synthetic products do not look like the natural stuff. Perhaps a bigger issue with synthetics is its ability to hold color. While most slate will never fade, synthetics have a reputation for losing color long before any manufacturer’s warranty has expired. If curb appeal (and real estate value) are high on your list, a synthetic product is probably not the way to go.
Most slate roof come with extended warranties and are expected to last for 100 years or more. Simply put, they are rugged and intended to withstand just about anything mother nature can throw at them. There are, however, necessary repairs on occasion caused by breakage or shedding. Older hung slate roofs incurred more cost to repair, but newer systems are much quicker and significantly reduce labor costs.
Synthetics often come with a 50 year ‘limited warranty’, which on its surface sounds pretty good. However, because the products haven’t been around that long, it is impossible to accurately gauge durability. Time will certainly tell, but the cost of replacing a synthetic slate roof may negate any up-front savings vs. the natural stuff.
This is likely the biggest pain point most homeowners have with natural slate roofs – the expense. In a traditional slate roof, each slate is nailed by hand with two copper nails. Synthetics can be nailed up with a nail gun, thus speeding up the installation. The materials for both real slate and fake slate are the same to buy in most cases, so the labor is the where the savings comes in to play.
As they say, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. You have to make a decision that is right for you and decide what is most important in your new roof.