Synthetic Slate 101

phone CALL NOW! (256) 445-8835

Synthetic Slate 101

Synthetic Slate Roofing: Is it Worth the Price?

Let me save you the hassle of reading another article that doesn’t give you what you need.

After installing over 50 synthetic slate roofs, I’ve been able to come up with a guide that spares you the trouble of having to DIY your way into learning about synthetic slate roofing.  

Here’s everything you need to know about synthetic slate roofing.

What is Synthetic Slate Roofing Made Of?

This depends on the manufacturer, but generally, synthetic slate roofing is made of rubber and plastic materials.

Some manufacturers use recycled rubber and plastic, along with cellulose fibers and mineral dust. Some will use virgin rubber or plastic.

Either way, these polymer-based materials aren’t going to convince you of its strength, durability, or performance, so the next section will be able to shed more light on what you’re itching to know.

Synthetic Slate Roofing: Pros and Cons

What I Like Most About Synthetic Slate:

Easy Installation – Installing synthetic roof slate is as simple as driving nails in place. Using a pneumatic nail gun also speeds the process and makes it easier to apply to your roof. You can easily trim synthetic slate with a utility knife, making it much less of a hassle in achieving ideal measurements.

Lightweight Frame – You don’t have to worry when it comes to the roofing structure. Since the roofing materials comprise mainly of plastic and rubber, your roof’s weight load isn’t at risk.

Not vulnerable to Foot traffic – A common issue of tile roofing materials is their low resistance to foot traffic. This makes the installation much harder. A synthetic slate roof; however, is shatter-resistant.

High Impact & Fire Resistance – A synthetic slate roof comes with Class 4 impact resistance and Class A fire resistance.

UV protection – The roofing material used for synthetic slate carries UV inhibitors that add protection and reduce UV damage.

Recyclable – If your synthetic slate roof wears down, the sustainability and recyclability of its materials increase its usability, eco-friendliness, and resale value overall.

What I Don’t Like About Synthetic Slate:

Questionable Life Span – Because synthetic roof slates are still new to the market, there’s no telling how long they’ll last. Manufacturers claim this will last for 100 years with a 50-year warranty, however, there’s hardly any hard evidence showing this to be true.

Not All Synthetic Slates are Class A Fire-Resistant – This is where it gets a little inconsistent. Standard-wise, synthetic roofing slate materials are Class A fire-resistant; however, not all models come with the same Class A rating. Some are either Class B or C, depending on the model.

Differences between Synthetic Slate and Natural Slate

Seeing as how natural slate has proven itself through the test of time, synthetic slate is still in its baby steps.

Needless to say, there are major differences worth mentioning between synthetic and natural slate. After all, as tough as natural slate is, the need for innovation is an ongoing, evolutionary process.

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at 6 key differences between synthetic and natural slate.

Life Span

Natural slate tiles can last for 100 years or more, given proper maintenance. Compared to Synthetic slate tiles, 100 years is tough to compete with.

This doesn’t mean Synthetic slate tiles have a short life span. It just means there’s no hard evidence pointing to the truth of how long it can really last.

That being said, natural slate is the obvious winner in this category. A natural slate roof still stands at the pinnacle of roof longevity.

Winner: Natural Slate

Weight

A common notion surrounding slate roofs is their heavy, bulky frame. Although bulky frames go hand-in-hand with durability, there’s also a tradeoff: weight.

Natural slate materials will weigh between 5.5 lbs per square to 11 lbs per square. For a 2,000 to 3,000 square roof, for example, that’s roughly 20,000 to 30,000 lbs hanging above your head.

As a homeowner, I’d be worried. Synthetic slate roofs, on the other hand, only weigh in a quarter of the natural slate. In fact, it’s considerably lighter than asphalt shingles.

Synthetic slate tiles weigh at 1.25 lbs per square. This makes it hassle-free of any special reinforcement needed for your roof and perfectly safe for residential homes.

The lightweight frame also lowers the cost of installation. Since lightweight materials are easier to install, your roofing contractor shouldn’t see this as a problem.

Winner: Synthetic Slate

Appearance

Both natural and synthetic slate tiles provide natural appearances to any roof and home. It’s even hard to tell the difference between the two.

Synthetic slate looks a lot like real slate. Different manufacturers who provide different models of synthetic slate products also offer a wide variety of color options to choose from.

The appearance alone of real slate is a beauty on its own. In this category, it’s mostly subjective. If you’re looking for Class A visual appeal, both meet the standard.

If you prefer more roof color options though, a synthetic slate roof has a wider variety. More options will also cost you more.

Winner: Tie

Installation

Installation cost matters…a LOT.

If you only factor in material cost, you’re only allocating 50 to 55% of your total expenses. Slate products don’t come cheap alone and if the installation process is much harder, expect labor cost to go up.

A natural slate roof is much harder to install compared to a synthetic slate roof. Natural slate also requires sheet metal flashing as part of its installation. Although this doesn’t prove to be as difficult, adding sheet metal flashing adds to the total installation cost.

Two critical factors that affect the installation process are the shatter resistance and weight of a slate product.

Since a natural slate roof weighs heavier than a synthetic slate roof, it’s clear that synthetic slate roofing is easier to install.

Also, you don’t need to be as careful when installing a synthetic slate roof thanks to its shatter-resistance and durability against foot traffic. This is something slate roofs don’t have.

Winner: Synthetic Slate

Price

Naturally, Class A roof materials naturally demand a higher cost. The process involved to craft or manufacture certain products or materials also adds to the cost.

If product A requires twice the labor and time compared to product B, most likely product A will cost you more. If we factor miscellaneous fees like transport costs, for example, this also increases the product price.

Natural slate products are nearly 2x the price of synthetic slate products, including installation costs. A real slate roof will cost you $900 to $2,000 per square. Synthetic slate roofs though cost you $900 to $1,100 per square.

A synthetic slate product is obviously more expensive than asphalt or dimensional shingles but they’re still relatively cheap to natural slate and also provide great value.

Winner: Synthetic Slate

Sustainability

Using slate for roofing will give you massive benefits, seeing as how it can last 100 years or more. When it wears down though, it automatically becomes roof waste and can’t be re-used.

Synthetic roof slate, on the other hand, is recyclable and overall, reduces the total landfill waste of roofing materials. The sustainability of synthetic slate also adds resale value to your home if you decide to sell it.

Winner: Synthetic Slate

Performance

Against storms, hail, and high winds, both provide Class A ratings.

Temperature fluctuations though have a greater impact on Synthetic slate. Speaking of which, not all are Class A fire-resistant.

Natural slate is durable against most weather conditions, including temperature fluctuations and all models are Class A fire-resistant.

While both products provide superb performance against storms, you’ll most likely need to install an extra layer of fire retardant material to improve it close or equivalent to that of Class A fire-resistance.

Winner: Natural Slate

Before You Choose Synthetic Slate

With all the advantages and benefits that come with synthetic slate roofing, undoubtedly, it’s a great product to have for your roof.

I advise caution though and recommend you heed these guidelines below before you choose a synthetic slate product:

  1. Talk to your local roofer and ask if he has experience handling both natural and synthetic slate roofing.
  2. Check the condition of the houses that have natural and synthetic slate roofs. This will give you a better overview of each one’s performance & quality.
  3. Ask for samples of each product. This will help you make the right choice rather than just reading what you see on Google.
  4. Read customer reviews or testimonials. If you have friends or know anyone who’s installed synthetic roofing, I recommend asking them as well.

Recommended Manufacturers to Go For

You’ll find many manufacturers that offer different slate options for your roof.

If you prefer a look similar to metal shingles, CertainTeed offers slate products that align with this type. Euroshield and EcoStar lean more towards rubber types, while Brava Roof Tile, DaVinci Roofscapes, and Enviroslate lean more towards plastic and polymer types.

Is Slate Roofing the Right Option for Your Home?

Most people would tell you to consider the price, installation cost, durability, and weathering resistance.

This is all true and valid.

You’re missing one point though and that is, what type of homeowner are you?

Confused?

It’s actually quite really simple.

Are you the conservative type? Or are you someone who likes to gamble their investments?

Synthetic slate roofing hasn’t been in the market for more than 20 years. That means right now, the life span of using synthetic slate is still open to question.

Quite frankly, that also means, it’s not a guarantee. For conservative types, this may not sound appealing.

That being said, considering the 50-year warranty offered by most manufacturers, this makes it less of a risk and also proves it has a longer life span than asphalt shingles.

Whether you’re conservative or a risk-taker with your decisions, Synthetic roofing is a practical option that garners long-term savings.

Is Synthetic Worth the Price?

All in all, Synthetic Roofing is a class A product. It’s a modernized improvement of your natural slate materials and its only challenge right now is time.

You pay half the price for improved durability, especially against foot traffic, easier installation, and great weather resistance.

Synthetic roofing is also more flexible to install, thanks to its lightweight frame. For residential purposes, I’d say Synthetic roofing is worth the price.

Have you made your decision? Feel free to let me know in the comments section below!

Leave a Comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact us to get your new roof or
roof inspection today!