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Pros, Cons & Costs: Slate Roofing Tiles

by Matt Goering

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Roofing & Gutters

Slate roofing tile has a long and storied history, and is generally known as one of the highest quality, longest lasting roofing materials on the market. On the other hand, the high cost, difficult installation, and relative fragility of slate roofing tile means it's not ideal for everybody. In this segment of Pros, Cons, & Costs, we'll examine all sides of this timeless roofing solution.

The Pros
Slate roofing tile has some huge upsides, mostly due to the fact that it's a natural stone product, giving it a unique, beautiful appearance, and the longevity that slate is famous for. Here's a list of the most popular reasons homeowners choose to install slate roofing tiles on their home.

  • Appearance— First and foremost, homeowners are drawn to slate because of its beauty. There simply isn't a roofing material on the market that has a classier, more celebrated appearance. Furthermore, slate roofing tiles offer more choices than most homeowners realize, available in varying sizes and thicknesses, as well as a wide range of colors, including gray, green, purple, black, red, and mottled tiles that sport several colors mixed together.
  • Longevity— Joseph Jenkins of Traditional Roofing Magazine writes that slate roofs "can and should be routinely built to last at least a century. In fact, 150 years is a reasonable expectation of a roof's longevity if the roof is properly constructed." That's a big plus in an industry where many roofing systems are lucky to last 20 or 30 years before needing replacement.
  • Fire Resistance— The Durable Slate Roofing Company touts slate roofing as "one of the most fire resistant roofs that exist." Unlike many other roofing materials, slate tiles themselves are completely fire proof. That's a big advantage when it comes to preventing fires caused by air borne sparks from fireworks, wildfires, or from adjacent house fires.
  • Environmentally Friendly— According to statistics cited by The Durable Slate Roofing Company, roofing waste accounts for more than 5 percent of the total waste sent to landfills across the nation every year. Since the majority of that roofing waste can be attributed to asphalt shingle roofing that needs replacement every 20 to 30 years, it's easy to see the positive environmental impacts of installing a roof that is going to last 100 years or more.
The Cons
The most notable con when it comes to installing a slate tile roof on your home is its high cost, but we'll get to that in a minute. Other than that, the negatives of slate roofing tile that homeowners should be aware of include tough installation requirements, the fragility of slate tiles, and complications that arise in replacing damaged slate tile.

  • Poor Installation— According to Joseph Jenkins of Traditional Roofing Magazine, "the vast majority of roofing contractors, as well as general contractors, know very little about slate roofs." Unfortunately, that doesn't deter a lot of them from trying to install slate roofing tile anyway. When hiring a contractor, be sure to inquire about experience and ask for references. A well installed slate roof will last a century or more. A poorly installed one is a lot like having no roof at all.
  • Weight— The Durable Slate Roofing Company estimates the weight of slate roofing tile at anywhere between 800 and 1,500 pounds per square (100 square feet). As such, you'll need to have your residence evaluated from a structural standpoint before you install slate roofing tile on your home to make sure it can take the weight.
  • Durability— The fragility of slate roofing tile can be a big negative for homeowners, according to Chuck Ferguson of Bob Behrend's Roofing in Fort Collins, Colorado. "You don't walk on them unless you know what you're doing," he says. "You get a guy working on the A/C on your rooftop, and he'll bust down a bunch of tiles." And replacing broken tiles isn't as easy as it sounds, either. "Slate runs by lots," says Ferguson, "and each lot is different." That makes it nearly impossible to find replacement tiles that are a perfect match.
  • Slate Roofing Tile Costs
    As mentioned earlier, the cost of slate roofing tile is probably its biggest con. Ferguson estimates the cost of slate roofing tile at about $6,000 to $8,000 per square installed, though The Durable Slate Roofing Company's estimates are little more conservative, at anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 per square. That makes for a huge initial investment if you choose slate roofing tile for your home, at least five times that of more conventional materials. Of course, when you consider that slate will last five times as long when installed correctly, maybe its reputation for high cost isn't so deserved after all!

    Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.