Pros, Cons & Costs: Slate Roofing Tiles

By HomeAdvisor

Updated October 10, 2017

slate roofing

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— 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—  Slate roofing is 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— 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— 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 weight of slate roofing tile is 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. You don’t walk on them unless you know what you’re doing. 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. Since slate comes in lots, 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. Slate tile roofing cost per square is about $6,000 to $8,000 installed, though some estimates are a 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!

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  1. Carl Rachel, July 7:

    I have a vintage federal colonial Circa 1858. It’s original slate roof is reaching the end of the expected lifespan. Actually, it is beyond the lifespan. I am looking to replace the slate with a Da Vinci slate alternative, probably in a straight-line coursing similar to our existing original. The rough dimensions are 22ft x 30ft, with an estimated rise of 17 degrees to a hip roof peak of 5ft ridge length. As it is a hip roof, there are four faces of roofing. How can I calculate the cost of this project?

  2. David, December 17:

    Porcelain Roof Tiles- Slate colors.

    We’re the ONLY affordable slate replacement. Typical total cost- labor + Ironstone = $7 per SF or $700 per square.

  3. Ruth Burseth, March 26:

    Hi, I’m a claims adjuster where a slate tile roof was installed and interior leaks developed. We’ve investigated and determined the cause to be improper installation of the flashing in the valleys, around the chimney and at the juncture of the slate tile to a flatter TPO roof. Is it possible to remove the tile in the damaged areas, replace the flashing and then re-install the same tile?

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